Archive for March, 2014

Bold Strokes Books Authors

Bold Strokes Books table at the Rainbow Book Fair

I Googled Connect Author Reader and received over 81,000,000 hits, with most of them touting social media. This weekend I attended the Rainbow Book Fair in New York with fellow Bold Strokes Books authors, and we met lots of our readers in person. Perhaps we didn’t receive as many hits as a FaceBook post, but I’d bet the connections we made will go deeper than any electronic post could.


In a March 20 New York Times Sunday Book Review, Harlan Coben: By the Book, Coben said, “I’m not big on the term ‘genre’, though that complaint may sound self-serving. I look at it not as a “genre” but as a form, like a haiku or sonata, where you can still have large themes and move people with language and story, and play with their expectations. Certain forms are wonderful because they compel you to tell a story and not get too lost in your own genius. This is often a healthy thing for a novelist.”

The Power of MythThe form that many thriller writers use to “stay on course” comes from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces, which was synthesized by Christopher Vogel into the very readable The Writer’s Journey.  At least I do.

Campbell identified seventeen stages of the hero’s journey, which Vogel distilled into twelve. They are:

  1. Ordinary World: This step refers to the hero’s normal life at the start of the story, before the adventure begins.
  2. Call to Adventure: The hero is faced with something that makes him begin his adventure. This might be a problem or a challenge he needs to overcome.
  3. Refusal of the Call: The hero attempts to refuse the adventure because he is afraid.
  4. Meeting with the Mentor: The hero encounters someone who can give him advice and ready him for the journey ahead.
  5. Crossing the First Threshold: The hero leaves his ordinary world for the first time and crosses the threshold into adventure.
  6. Tests, Allies, Enemies: The hero learns the rules of his new world. During this time, he endures tests of strength of will, meets friends, and comes face to face with foes.
  7. Approach: Setbacks occur, sometimes causing the hero to try a new approach or adopt new ideas.
  8. Ordeal: The hero experiences a major hurdle or obstacle, such as a life or death crisis.
  9. Reward: After surviving death, the hero earns his reward or accomplishes his goal.
  10. The Road Back: The hero begins his journey back to his ordinary life.
  11. Resurrection Hero – The hero faces a final test where everything is at stake and he must use everything he has learned.
  12. Return with Elixir:  The hero brings his knowledge or the “elixir” back to the ordinary world, where he applies it to help all who remain there.

I’ll be periodically reviewing these stages. But I must warn you:  I don’t always follow Campbell’s path.  (Why don’t I? Well, as Campbell once said, “If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”

Loosing control of free will is probably very thriller readers nightmare. Below is a link to science writer Ed Yong’s Ted talk. It’s seriously funny. And scary, too. You won’t be disappointed.

Ed Yong on Ted Talks

Ed Yong on Ted Talks

We humans set a premium on our own free will and independence … and yet there’s a shadowy influence we might not be considering. As science writer Ed Yong explains in this fascinating, hilarious and disturbing talk, parasites have perfected the art of manipulation to an incredible degree. So are they influencing us? It’s more than likely.

Alex and Quinn resting

Fights. Rivalry. Jealousy. You can go on and on, but it all boils down to conflict. It’s unavoidable in life, but desirable in novels. You wouldn’t have a book without conflict, or at least one worth reading.

There are all kinds of conflicts in literature. Every character has some kind of dilemma to overcome. Some have internal conflicts. Personal angst, Moral dilemmas, that sort of thing. And while internal conflict is an important part of thrillers, there’s also external conflict.

Roughhousing hounds, Alex and Quinn

Roughhousing hounds, Alex and Quinn

My dogs are perfect examples of a couple of characters who love to engage in external conflict, if only for play. Like characters in a thriller, their conflicts are physical and evident, no matter if they’re fighting for a ball or a treat. The same is true for external conflicts in thrillers. We clearly see them. The hero fights the bad guy’s quest for global domination. Or the protagonist has an argument with his spouse or co-worker.
Conflict is the stuff that crowds our character’s emotional lives and acts as a barrier to keep them from attaining what they want.

my hounds

Alex and Quinn resting

Of course I’m over simplifying. In novels — like in real life — people battle both kinds of conflicts simultaneously. But in real life, conflict don’t always end. In thrillers, it must get resolved by the end of the book. It’s something my dogs remind me of everyday. Their fights and squabbles, whether large or small, get resolved by the time they go to bed. And thank goodness for that.


Please check out my guest blog on the Crime Writers’ Chronicle:

3-10 to yumaYuma, Arizona during the 1960s seems like the perfect setting for a Western. Located about twenty miles from the Mexican border, the town’s call to fame was the Territorial Prison. But it closed in 1904, and agriculture became the economic powerhouse. The township, with a population of about 25,000, was now modern. It even had a new dog track to encourage economic growth. Yet growing up in Yuma during that time, I longed to experience a Hollywood adventure where I could be a cowboy and overcome insurmountable odds. Because in every good Western, the good guy wins, the villain is punished, and life becomes better. Read More…



photo by renee mcgurk

Despite the stereotypes, crime doesn’t always happen on a dark, stormy night. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, only 3 out of 10 crimes happen between 6 p.m. and midnight.

And crime doesn’t always happen in the city, either. My crime novels have taken place in the Adirondack Mountains or the Catskills, and someone recently asked me why I’m attracted to rural areas. My answer came quickly. Crime is less prevalent in rural areas, so it’s more shocking. But the statistics from the National Center for Victims of Crime proved me wrong. There is only a nominal difference in the crime rates.

“The rate of violent crime known to law enforcement within metropolitan areas is 428.3 per 100,000 persons. The rate of violent crime per 100,000 persons in cities outside metropolitan areas is 399.7.”


“Metropolitan cities had a murder and nonnegligent manslaughter rate known to law enforcement of 5.0 per 100,000 persons. Cities outside metropolitan areas had a murder and nonnegligent manslaughter rate of 3.6 per 100,000 persons while non-metropolitan counties had a rate of 3.2 per 100,000 persons.”

Perhaps Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said it best in the Sherlock Holmes book, The Copper Beeches: “It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.”

Because of Her

Posted: March 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

Claire makes some poignant comments.