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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Showing posts with label ThrillWriting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ThrillWriting. Show all posts

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/  

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Poignant Essay on Eating Disorders with Olivia Vetrano

English: Centaurea sphaerocephala flower
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Dear ThrillWriters,

I want you to write it right. I want you to understand different perspectives. To this end, I try to bring you a broad array of information that can help you do your best job in not just entertaining but touching your readers. 

Today, I m sharing an excerpt from a talented young writer's blog.

Olivia Vetrano has been our guest before when she did an interview with me about writing characters with mental health disorders. You can read it HERE.

She wrote this piece so poignantly that I wanted to bring it, and her blog, to your attention.

From TheDisorderedDreamer.blogspot.com:

An Open Letter To My Eating Disorder
Dear Eating Disorder,

I miss you.

Which is terrible to say. So much so that I would never allow those words to fall from my lips as they so easily fall from my fingertips.

And that’s not fair.

None of it is.

But then again, I was the one who raised you. I didn’t know it at the time, I was just a child. And a child shouldn’t try to foster anyone. It’s backwards. I couldn’t see it was wrong back then. You were just as innocent as I was and we kept each other company. You were someone I could turn to and I was someone you could trust to keep you a secret; locked away in a dark, warm place.

But then I grew up, and you grew malicious.

I’ll never forget the days you tested your newfound voice. You were speaking for yourself, and I was too stunned to fight back.

So I gave in.

You had never let me down before, maybe you knew what you were doing.

You take the lead, I’m right behind you.

Please continue reading this essay HERE

Twitter: @oliviavetrano
instagram: @oliviarosevetrano

BLOG - The Disordered Dreamer




Sunday, February 26, 2017

Oh, the Places We Will Go! Info for Writers with Sue Coletta

English: Wine barrels at the storage room at T...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Our guest is Sue Coletta - I love keeping up with Sue on Facebook because she's a writer after my own heart - unless you experience it, it's hard to write it right. 

The other day on Facebook, I read one of Sue's posts to my husband because he could so identify with Sue's hubby. Can you tell the story about the chair for us ThrillWriters?

Sue - 
My husband and I had just watched a movie. He got up to brush his teeth and came back into the living room to find me curled in a ball on the seat of the recliner. He asked, "What are you doing?" I said, "Do you think I could fit inside a suitcase?" His response was, "Dead or alive?" Which cracked me up. 

What went through my head was, earlier in the night we'd watched a true crime show. I'm addicted to Discovery ID. And this killer stashed a girl in the suitcase and wheeled her out the lobby of a hotel. I loved the idea.
I was thinking of using it in a story. But before I did I wanted to make sure it was plausible. Hence, why I curled up.

Fiona - 
Only a writer's husband would come back with "dead or alive?"

Once I was at a conference where they were supposed to have a setup that included the bugs and smell of a dead body. My car broke down in the rain. I was on the phone with Hubby at 6 am sobbing that I was going to miss it. "I'm so upset, I so wanted to smell the dead body," I hiccoughed into the phone. "I know you did, baby, and I want that for you too." It takes a special someone to love a writer.

Sue -
Hahahaha! Sounds like something we'd say to each other.

Fiona - 
Let's take a step back. Tell us about you and your writing life. How does your education/past employment feed your prose. What genre do you you write?

Sue - 
I write psychological thrillers mainly, though some of my books are also mysteries. Past experience always plays a hand at what we write, don't you think? During my lifetime I've walked with notorious biker gangs, lawyers, cops, and the average Joe. All of which help me with create believable characters. My past work as a salon owner doesn't play a role, but my work as a paralegal has definitely helped with my research.

Fiona - 
Now I'd disagree with the salon part - you get to sit with different people and get to know them in a way few of us do - when they are feeling vulnerable about their appearance.

You have another story - you were trying out barrels. Can you tell us the story of why? And give us  feedback so we don't have to try it ourselves?

Sue -
I'd just gotten the edits back for CLEAVED, the sequel to MARRED, and when I re-read the opening chapter, I noticed something was missing. The opening starts with a character trapped inside an oil drum. On further inspection, I realized I had no real life situation I could pull from, which made the writing matter-of-fact rather than emotional. When this happens, I need to experience what the character is going through in order to write her, so I asked my husband if we had any oil drums. 

We had a 30 gallon drum, our neighbor had a 55 gallon, like in the chapter. Excitement built in my chest, and I said, "Is it empty? I need to get in there." Fifteen minutes later, I was climbing inside the 30 gallon drum. Which caused a problem right off. You can't just step in and squat. It's too narrow. I needed to tuck and squat, if that makes sense. 

Picture it like this. My hands are on the outside rim. I hike my knees to my chest, then slide in already curled up. That was a tight fit, too! The first thing that struck me was the enormous pressure on my lungs. Pain shot to my ankles, knees, and neck from the odd angles of being stuffed inside. The darkness got to me too. It's pitch black. I couldn't see a thing, which made my heart race even more. My mind swirled with things like, "How much oxygen do I have? What if I can't escape?" Even though I knew my husband was outside the barrel. It doesn't matter. When you're in that situation your body reacts no matter how you try to reason with yourself. 

I stayed for a while in there, too, to see if I could regulate my breathing, but I wasn't able to fully recover natural breathing. In fact, the longer I stayed, the more pressure there was on my lungs. I was able to move my arms, but nothing else. 

When I traded the 30 gallon for a 55 gallon it felt like Club Med. LOL But soon, my body responded in the same way...pain in the ankles, knees, and neck, tightness (to put it mildly) in my chest. I even asked for husband to duct tape the top closed to see how hard I'd have to push to escape. Turns out, it was fairly easy, because the duct tape didn't stick to steel that well, but at least I could experience how she'd try to escape...by using her hands and the back or side of her face. Basically, if she tried to straighten she'd put enough pressure on the lid for it to pop loose. Unless of course the killer clasped the metal bung. Then she'd be screwed. Something to keep in mind.

Fiona - 
Okay just reading those last sentences, my body freaked out. 

Duct tape is often in movies and books - but writers, it doesn't do the job read about it here in Duct Tape 101 and Duct tape 102.

Sue, how were you when you got back out? How long before you, for example, could run or fight? Were your limbs asleep?

Sue - 
They weren't fully asleep, but definitely tingly, on their way to falling asleep. Also, I scraped my back sliding into the first barrel. Forgot to mention that. Once I was out, my breathing did not return to normal. It took a while to recover, actually. I'd say a good ten to fifteen minutes for the pressure to release from my lungs. The pain in my neck lasted all day, sort of like when you wake with a stiff neck from sleeping wrong. My ankles and knees weren't too bad after ten minutes or so, but if I had to run for my life afterward, I'd definitely have a hard time.

Fiona - 
Now I'm wondering about your psychological well being. How did the experience affect your decision making? How long did it take for you to feel relief from the stress? And did you have nightmares about small spaces that night?

Sue - 
LOL I'm fine, truly. I do these type of things all the time. Decision making while inside the drum gets skewed. I'm guessing it's a combination of things...oxygen deprivation combined with panic. I felt relieved immediately upon escape, but that pressure on my lungs still played with my head. No nightmares, thankfully. 

I did, however, write a much better scene. Score!

Fiona - 
Here on ThrillWriting, we always ask about the story behind your favorite scar 

Sue - 
Hmm...interesting question. I have a few scars to choose from, but I'll go with my eyelid scars because I almost died in that accident. It was a brutally hot and humid summer evening, around 8 p.m. At the time I had a 2 hour and 10 min. commute each way to work. The air conditioner died. I hadn't been sleeping well due to a bad break up. I'd worked 10 hours and was only 5 miles from my house when I drifted off, totaled 4 cars, and woke with my face in the windshield. 

Someone had rushed from their house (the guy whose new porsche I totaled) and removed me, laid me back with towels wrapped around my face. I didn't know it then, but when he pulled my face out of the glass my eyebrow and lashes stayed behind. The doctors told me I'd never regrow either the brow or the lashes. They did plastic surgery to repair the eyelid and side of my nose, and they picked out as much glass as they could from my eyes, but I picked out more glass for weeks afterward. 

Anyway, little by little I noticed tiny hairs growing. The doctors couldn't believe. After a couple months, I had a full eyebrow and lashes. I'm now in medical journals.

Fiona - 
Holy smokes!

Well, I have to say today we talked about things that set my nerves on end. 

Can you tell us a bit about one of your books?

Sue - 
In honor of publisher's b'day bash, MARRED is on sale for 99c (Kindle version). 


When a serial killer breaks into the home of bestselling author, Sage Quintano, she barely escapes with her life. Her husband, Niko, a homicide detective, insists they move to rural New Hampshire, where he accepts a position as Grafton County Sheriff. Sage buries secrets from that night—secrets she swears to take to her deathbed.

Three years of anguish and painful memories pass, and a grisly murder case lands on Niko’s desk. A strange caller torments Sage—she can’t outrun the past.

When Sage’s twin sister suddenly goes missing, Sage searches Niko’s case files and discovers similarities to the Boston killer. A sadistic psychopath is preying on innocent women, marring their bodies in unspeakable ways. And now, he has her sister.

Cryptic clues. Hidden messages. Is the killer hinting at his identity? Or is he trying to lure Sage into a deadly trap to end his reign of terror with a matching set of corpses?

Fiona
Thank you!

If you all want to keep in touch with Sue, here are some links.

website: http://www.suecoletta.com/
Twitter: www.twitter.com/SueColetta1
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SueColetta1

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Talk About a Plot Twist! Jury information with Judge Hopkins


Today our guest is the Honorable Judge Hopkins.
Judge, would you introduce yourself to everyone?

Judge Hopkins-
My name is Bill Hopkins and I have been in the legal profession since 1971. I have been a civil attorney, criminal defense attorney, prosecutor, administrative law judge, and trial court judge, all in the state of Missouri.


Fiona - 
This article is "Jury Nullification in Criminal Trials" which is not something I've ever heard of before. But you're going to walk us through this new way of twisting our plots. I'm just going to let you have free rein.

Judge Hopkins -
Doug Linder wrote an article about jury nullification, which I recommend to you. It’s found HERE


“Jury nullification” is a fancy legal term for what happens when a jury doesn’t buy the prosecutor’s reason for the state’s case even though the defendant is truly guilty of a crime. In other words, the jury cancels the effect of a law that they don’t like. The law may be in their minds immoral or unfair or wrongly applied to the defendant (the one on trial).

Now, as a writer, you could develop a thousand or more plots just on the information set out above. For example: 
Is there a defendant who admits to killing his ailing wife who was suffering from terminal cancer and was in pain so extreme that no drug could alleviate it? A jury may have a great deal of sympathy for the surviving husband. The jury lets him go although he is definitely guilty of murder. But, wait! A month after the trial, a juror finds out that the “grieving husband” had his wife take out a million dollar life insurance policy when she was healthy. The insurance carrier has paid off. Now the defendant is going to Belize with his sweetie who he’d been seeing long before his wife got sick. The informed juror convinces all the other jurors to help him kill the grieving husband. The Case of the Informed Juror. Sounds like an Agatha Christie plot. Or maybe Perry Mason.

Linder, in the article cited above, asks if juries have the right to nullify. Juries clearly have the power to nullify. But that doesn’t mean they have the right to nullify. If the jury in a criminal case finds a defendant not guilty (which, by the way is not the same as “innocent”) then the state can never prosecute the defendant again. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution states (in part) that no person shall “...be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb....” The state is allowed to try a defendant only once.

Today, courts not only don’t want to tell juries that they can nullify (or cancel) a criminal law they don’t like, they are often actively discouraged to nullify. In Missouri, for example, jury nullification is not allowed. Things could be different in whatever jurisdiction you’re writing about. Checking with the state bar in the capitol would be the best way to find information about legal questions where you live.

Judges in Missouri instruct jurors that it is their duty to apply the law as it is given to them, whether they agree with the law or not. And, I suspect, it would be reversible error for a defense lawyer in my state to use jury nullification in a closing argument for a client.

The Case of the Unwelcome Snitch. Another plot might be that a jury really wants to free a person who is clearly guilty. One of the jurors who wants to send the defendant to prison, sneaks a note to the judge, explaining that the jury’s deliberations are wandering into forbidden territory. There’s a hung jury and later the snitch is found dead behind the courthouse, beaten to death with the judge’s gavel. That’s kind of flimsy, but you get my drift.

Linder reports that many legal scholars “have suggested that it is unfair to have a defendant's fate depend upon whether he is lucky enough to have a jury that knows it has the power to nullify.”

I won’t comment whether I think jury nullification is fair or unfair. However, I know that judges worry that courtrooms will become hotbeds of anarchy if jurors are told they have the power (but not necessarily the right or duty) to nullify a law. Judges also worry that jurors do not have the legal training to decide what the law is or isn’t. Jurors should decide facts only and apply the law that the jury instructions give them, whether they agree with the law or not. That’s what most judges (I suspect) believe today.

As I said, this is an article about criminal trials. Today, in America, there is very little control over prosecutors, who, in some ways, have more power than judges do. I was a prosecutor once. I could’ve announced in the newspapers that I was investigating Suzy Saintly Citizen for smuggling dope from Canada. There would be a flurry of news. Then I could say, “Sorry. There’s not enough evidence to charge Suzy Saintly Citizen for this serious crime.” If I were a deceitful prosecutor and knew she had never so much as stepped on a crack in an attempt to break her mother’s back when she was in kindergarten, I have now ruined her reputation. Nothing could be done to me as a prosecutor. Note that everything I said to the newspaper was true: (1) I’m investigating a leading citizen of the town, and (2) I’ve decided that there’s not enough evidence to charge her. 

Another plot: The Case of the Slimy Prosecutor.

Linder’s article concludes: “[J]ury nullification provides an important mechanism for feedback. Jurors sometimes use nullification to send messages to prosecutors about...what they see as harassing or abusive prosecutions. Jury nullification prevents our criminal justice system from becoming too rigid—it provides some play in the joints for justice, if jurors use their power wisely.”

I could go along with that. A good book on criminal law that every crime writer should have is by Leslie Budewitz:

Full disclosure: I am in the book!


Fiona - 
So fun!

Thank you so much for this information. Would you please take a minute and tell us about your latest book?

Judge Hopkins -
My latest book DISHONEST CORPSE was out last year: 



The ebook versions of my first two books (COURTING MURDER and RIVER MOURN) are FREE from Amazon. Courting Murder.

Fiona- 
Free books? Woohoo!!!

Thanks for joining us. Happy reading and writing!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Relationship Deal Breakers: Things to Keep In Mind When Constructing Characters

Author: Bagande
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Relationship deal breakers: traits that ruin the chances right out of the gate


This article is based on the study conducted by:
1. Peter K. Jonason1
2. Justin R. Garcia2
3. Gregory D. Webster3
4. Norman P. Li4
5. Helen E. Fisher5
1. 1Western Sydney University, Australia
2. 2Indiana University Bloomington, USA
3. 3University of Florida, Gainesville, USA
4. 4Singapore Management University, Singapore
5. 5Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA



Awesome! Your hero has met the one. It was a magical heartwarming encounter. He turned and bumped into her, and she spilled scalding hot coffee down both of their fronts. It was a shared moment of excruciating pain and quick undressing. But she took his number! Sure, it was with the understanding that he'd need to pay her dry cleaning  and medical bills. But it was a foot in the door!


What characteristics could you give your would-be love interest that would assure the reader that the hook up will never happen?

Well, it turns out that the NUMBER ONE - "no thank you" quality is...

 A MESSY unkept appearance - Described as a "disheveled or unclean appearance," according to 71% of women/63% of men. Clean them up before you send them out on the street. If you think that your heroine's showing up all grimey from digging in the garden with that cute little  smudge of dirt on her upturned nose is going to catch the studmuffin you've conjured up, deep down your readers (for the most part) aren't buying it. 

LAZY -Seventy-two percent of women/60 percent of men


NEEDY -
That damsel in distress isn't pulling out the knight in shining armor qualities of your hero. 57% of men would take a pass. Women? Yeah, they need a man who can take care of his own issues. 69% are heading out the door.


Poor Sense of HUMOR - It's a major mrph for relationships. 58% of women/50% percent of men say no to humorless partners. So make them funny, even if they met clinging to the side of a cliff, desperately kicking their feet trying to save themselves.


LONG DISTANCE Relationships.
Now this is relative. Living ten miles away in a city like Boston or LA can mean an hour commute to get there for dinner. In Texas, ten miles means they live in your backyard. 47% of women/51% of men won't get into a relationship where their love interest lives too far away.

BAD SEX - 
Here's an interesting one. Only 44% of men thought bad sex should end the relationship. 50% of women would call it quits. I'm going to leave that one there - but this kind of turns things on its head for me. I would have thought that number would be MUCH higher and possibly reversed. But it looks like women aren't willing to put up with men who are bad in the sack.

INSECURITY - 
47% of women/33% percent of men would let this relationship go by the wayside. Insecurity in most relationships is draining as the other needs constant petting and reassurance.

TECH-OBSESSED
Another interesting one. What a gender difference. 41% women would call it quits. 25% of men. Look how low that number is for guys - Take the inverse that means 75% of men are A-OK with your character binge watching Netflix all day.

LOW LIBIDO
27% women/39% men would break up if their partner had a low sex drive. So if you put this with the category for bad in bed, you could see how someone with a low sex drive, but who did well when things heated up, might still have a shot at this relationship.

 INCREDIBLY STUBBORN
34% of women/32% of men 

CHATTY
20% of women/26% of men find being chatty worse than TOO QUIET  where only 17% of women/11% of men would find this a deal breaker.

BLUNTNESS
No thank you says 17% of women/11% of men.

I DON'T WANT KIDS
The "I don't want kids" phrase will shut the door on a relationship for 15% of women/13% of men.

HAVE KIDS
12% of women/14% of men prefer their partner not have children already.

TOO BUFF
Yeah, there is such a thing. And it's a problem for 10% of women and 7% of men. Conversely, "NOT ATHLETIC" is an issue for only 6% of women - but still 7% of men. So build your characters somewhere on the interior of that spectrum.

Here's to your characters finding their heart's desires and living happily ever after!

Cheers,
Fiona