Thursday, October 23, 2014

How to Create Psychic Characters

by Ronnie Allen

Do you want a character to just put his finger on his forehead, and pluck out the name of the person who had committed the murder? No. That won't go over well with your readers, or push your plot forward. What I will be discussing in this blog is how to delve into your character's unconscious mind, write in deep POV, and allow your character to develop his intuition. Whether it’s the killer, the cop, the forensic psychiatrist, or any character, your reader wants to know the origins of his thoughts and feelings.

Characters should not automatically become psychic for the current story. Their abilities need to be flushed out in backstory, or it won't be believable. Your characters need to have used their intuition to solve some of their personal issues prior to the story’s beginning. If you're a plotter like me, you'll be writing character bios before you begin your
novel. Include this kind of information.

When you're writing the scene in which you want to have your character use psychic ability, you need to ground yourself first. Yes, in a sense, you're developing your own intuition in order to create the same in your character. Keep your feet crossed at the ankles, do some deep breathing, and focus. Get rid of all distractions: the phone, social media, the washer and dryer beeping. Focus intently on the scene so that you see it happening before your eyes.

It's as if you're in a daydream. Put your character into that daydream. What is he seeing? What is he smelling? What is he hearing? Are what he’s seeing, smelling, and hearing actually in the scene, or are the sensual clues coming from his mind? Is he using these sensory clues to put the facts of the case together? If the sensory clues are coming from his mind, he’s using his psychic abilities or intuition. Notice, I didn’t say imagination. Imagination and intuition are two different things.
Cops call it a hunch. Women, call it women's intuition. Parents get feelings in their gut about their children, especially when they're in trouble. These are all forms of psychic intuition in different stages of development. We're all capable of it, but many of us don't want to accept it. It could be scary to get an idea about something or a forewarning that an event is going to happen when it just pops into our mind. The lack of control over these thoughts is what pushes people back into denial.

I'll talk about the two character's in my novels who are at different stages in their psychic development. In GEMINI, my debut novel, to be released by Black Opal Books in the spring, Forensic Psychiatrist, Dr. John Trenton has been psychic and clairvoyant since he was a toddler. This means he can use the five psychic senses that are mates to the mundane ones. When Trenton profiles, he does the work with the forensics, scientific and medical data, as well as with his psychic senses, and Max, his spirit guide, gives confirmation. Trenton just doesn't just sit still while the solution pops out of his brain.

In my WIP, ARIES, Detective Samantha Wright is first learning how to control her psychic ability. She's at the point where she's not trusting her intuition, and her spirit guide, Dara, makes words blurt out of her mouth unexpectedly. When she learns how to trust, she uses her newfound ability to lead her in the right direction in order to solve a cold case.

Both Dr. Trenton and Samantha Wright use their psychic intuition to assist in deciphering leads, and in analyzing the data. Having a character use their psychic abilities does not cut down their work or minimize your plot. On the contrary. Your characters become more enriched and dimensional, and can do more.

Ronnie Allen is a NYC transplant to rural Central Florida. In addition to her thirty-three year teaching career in NYC, she has had a practice in New York as a Holistic Health practitioner. Ronnie holds certifications in many alternative therapies and a Ph.D. in Parapsychic Sciences from the American Institute of Holistic Theology. Presently, she is writing the “Sign Behind The Crime” series, which includes within the plots, psychic, metaphysical, alternative therapy- and let’s not omit, spicy romantic, elements. Ronnie is a member of RWA and ITW. Her web site is, where you could read her blogs and learn more about GEMINI and ARIES.

GEMINI is a present day psychological thriller set in NYC and rural Central Florida. Forensic Psychiatrist, Dr. John Trenton works in a NYC hospital for the criminally insane and with the NYPD as a profiler. When stripper-by-night, school-psychologist-by-day Barbara Montgomery is dumped in his lap for a seventy-two hour observation period, he discovers during his testing, that she is a psychopathic, predatory murderer. She escapes from custody, wreaking havoc in NYC, and massacres Trenton’s NYPD team. Her threat becomes even more intimate when she sneaks down to Florida and attempts to kill his wife and unborn child. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What It Takes

By Barry Lancet

Barry Lancet wrote this article for "The Thrill Begins" in October of last year. Since then, he's published his second novel in the Jim Brodie series, TOKYO KILL. It's my delight to repost his popular blog, "What It Takes." 
                                        ~Marjorie Brody (no relation to Jim Brodie)

It took me ages to write JAPANTOWN.
So many times I could have stopped. So many times friends and family expected me to stop. Occasionally someone advised me to stop.  But I persisted and it paid off—Simon & Schuster published it, J. J. Abrams optioned it, and foreign rights sales are rising nicely.  
Someone came up to me the other day and said, “Boy, are you ever lucky.”  
I smiled and said thank you.   When I had a free moment, I thought about the comment.  Yes, I’ve been lucky.  And I’m grateful and humbled.  But it took so much more than luck.   
Hitting a Brick Wall
The barriers I faced may be one for the record books.  
Let’s start with this:  I’ve lived in Tokyo for more than twenty-five years.  When I began to write, my day job tied me down sixty to seventy hours a week, Monday through Saturday, without counting the one-hour commute each way.  
To say I was busy was an understatement.  For one thing, I was doing this in Tokyo.  For a Japanese company.  With a wife and two kids.  In any language, this translates as “no free time.”  
For another, I came home exhausted six nights a week.  Sometimes I brought work back with me.  My office routine was so demanding that early-morning or late-night writing sessions were not options.  Family time filled in the few hours of unscheduled time that remained.  
It soon became apparent that I had no time whatsoever to write other than the two days a week I ate lunch alone.  But two hours a week will not get a novel written.  I had to find time so I poured over my schedule.  
There was none to spare.  
The First Step
Eventually, it dawned on me that I would have to make time.  
So I limited my lunch outings with friends and colleges to two a week and then one.  That gave me four lunches to write.  Occasionally I was forced to drop this back to three, but for the most part it held.  Time gained: two hours a week.  
But it still wasn’t enough.  
I became more efficient at work.  I cut out all unnecessary “water cooler time.”  I delegated some lesser chores to other in-house staff and to competent freelancers.  Yes, it took extra time to train them at first, so in the initial stages I actually lost time.  But slowly, I chipped away at my office workload.  I began to finish earlier some nights, cutting off as much as an hour, then ninety minutes.  Eventually, I was able to consistently save sixty to ninety minutes, six days a week.  Time gained: six to nine hours a week. 
But it still wasn’t enough.  
I cut back on late-night outings with friends and colleagues.  I said no when I wanted to say yes.  I set strict time limits for myself when setting up work-related meetings.  No more leisurely three-hour huddles when one would do.  This belt-tightening freed up another three or four hours a week.  
Yet it still wasn’t enough.  
Digging Deeper
All the while I was writing.  My story grew.  Characters were born.  Chapters started to take shape.  
But I desperately needed more time.  I poured over my schedule once more. Every minute of the day was accounted for.  Then my eyes fell on the line that said “daily commute.”  This took an hour each way.  Fifteen minutes on foot, then forty-five minutes on the train—standing shoulder to shoulder squeezed in with all the other commuters.  I spent the time reading.   Was it possible to turn the rush-hour crush into working time?   I decided to give it shot.  
So the first week I packed my laptop.   When a seat opened up halfway through the commute two or three days a week, I whipped out my computer, fired it up, opened my files, found my place, then had ten minutes to work before the train pulled into the station and I had to reverse the process.  Lugging the portable around every day for an additional twenty or thirty minutes a week of writing time was not a solution. 
Deeper Still
I was stymied.  Then I thought, clipboard.  I printed out some manuscript pages and affixed them to a clipboard bought for my newest foray.  As soon as I was on the train, I pulled out the board and began editing, rewriting, and adding new passages.  
The train swayed.  I held the board with my left hand, the commuter strap with my right.  More than once I bumped into a neighbor when I released the strap to write something and the train hit a rough patch.  One time the clipboard flew into the lap of the passenger seated in front of me, startling him and most likely making his first cup of caffeine at the office redundant.  
This was going to require a coordinated effort on many levels.  
I dug in.  Day after day, I wrote.  Each night I reviewed my efforts and dutifully discarded them.  They were all unusable.  I couldn’t find a rhythm.  I couldn’t concentrate with the crush, the noise, the jerking motion of the train.  Not only wasn’t I producing but I’d also lost my commute reading time, which I’d always enjoyed.  
But I persisted.  Eventually, I learned how to stand with the clipboard in a balanced manner, with both hands free.  I learned to sway with the train.  I learned where the rough patches of track were.  Toward the end of the third week I wrote one new passage that read passably well that evening and again the next morning.  By the following week I finished two acceptable rewrites.  
The learning curve took two months to complete, after which I was able to produce work every single day.  I’d found a mental and physical balance and learned to tune out all exterior factors.  My overall production soared.  With the extra lunch hours, the saved meeting times, the shorter daily workloads, and my commuter output, JAPANTOWN began to take shape.  I finished a full first draft, then a second.  Then a third.  Then a complete overhaul because I grew dissatisfied with the pacing.  
Then one day it was done.  
Because I’d found time where before I’d seen none.  
Yes, I’ve been lucky.  But it takes more.  What it takes is the desire to unearth what you’re lacking—whether it’s time, confidence, better skills, more knowledge, a combination of these, or something else entirely.  
So identify what you need, track it down, then plow ahead without looking back.  
That’s what it takes. 
* * *
Five bodies.  One clue.  Not a trace of the killer.
San Francisco antique dealer Jim Brodie recently inherited a stake in his father's Tokyo-based private investigation firm, which means the single father of six-year-old Jenny is living a bi-coastal life, traveling to Japan to acquire art and artifacts for his store and consulting on Brodie Security's caseload at home and abroad.
One night, an entire family is gunned down in San Francisco's bustling Japantown neighborhood, and Brodie is called on by the SFPD to decipher the lone clue left at the crime scene: a single Japanese character printed on a slip of paper, drenched in blood.
Brodie can't read the clue either. But he may have seen it before—at the scene of his wife's death in a house fire four years ago.
With his array of Asian connections and fluency in Japanese, Brodie sets out to solve a seemingly perfect crime and at the same time learn whether his wife's tragic death was more than just an accident.  
What he unearths shocks him.  Wishing to turn back but knowing the only way is forward, he focuses on the deadly secret that threatens not only his life—but also the lives of his entire circle of family and friends.  
Author photo by Ben Simmons

Barry Lancet moved from California to Tokyo in his twenties, where he has lived for more than two decades.  He spent twenty-five years working for one of the country’s largest publishers, developing books on dozens of Japanese subjects from art to Zen—all in English and all distributed in the United States, Europe, and the rest of the world.  
His unique position gave him access to many inner circles in cultural, business, and traditional fields most outsiders are never granted.  Early in his tenure in the Japanese capital, he was hauled in by the police for a non-criminal infraction and interrogated for three hours, one of the most heated psychological encounters he had faced in Japan to that point.  The run-in fascinated him and sparked the idea for a thriller based on his growing number of unusual experiences in Japan.  He is now at work on his next book featuring Jim Brodie.  
JAPANTOWN, his debut novel, has been optioned by J. J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions, in conjunction with Warner Bros.  For more information, please visit  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Birds of Different Feathers: Flying Towards Your Own Publication Path

As a Reader, I want to read your written story. And here's what I want to tell you as an Author: Don't be intimidated by the millions of books out there, the varied ways someone becomes published or even how other authors market themselves. Learn from other authors, respect them but find your own way by researching what process fits your personality best.

Over the past few years, I have become more aware of how unique and personal each person's path is, whether they are published traditionally, indie or self. These experiences are fascinating and encouraging especially as the world of publishing changes.

 As time goes on, certain other changes will need to be made as well. For example, I hope one day that Writers Conferences will place less emphasis on agents and in turn, focus more on editing and revising...very important tenants in having Your body of work truly brought to life. I also look forward to Conferences and Award Committees opening themselves up to Indie and Small Press published books as candidates and their respective authors as speakers and panelists. Here's the thing: We are All Writers and our stories are magical in terms of connecting us to Readers, most of whom don't care how we are published. They just want a well-written and engaging story, to dedicate precious hours out of their lives for a book they have Chosen to read. So in short, I will tell you about my own experience.

My debut novel came to me in a dream around four years ago, as cliche as that might sound. I woke up, wrote down the image I saw: an elegant, deceptive man in a Venetian bird mask and thus was born, Thomas Carpenter. After finishing the novel a year later, I spent another year having it beta read and edited...crucial processes in peeling away the superfluous layers. I was fortunate to come across a lovely author in the industry who was willing to offer me some advice on police procedurals...very educational. After more editing and "cutting my darlings" in many chapters, I was done.

My debut novel, THE FEATHERS, is what I would consider a literary thriller along with a supernatural/paranormal essence. After reaching out to agents, I received many rejections (albeit nice ones). I had heard stories of authors waiting around for years to obtain an agent and become published. I simply didn't want to go that route and decided to switch gears and move towards an Indie Press. My press is an imprint of a wonderful bookstore in Portsmouth, NH and they have been Lovely in terms of allowing me a "say so" from beginning to end. I was able to choose the cover (art created by a dear friend just for my character) and how the inside of the book would be displayed. I might not be distributed in every bookstore across the country but hiring a PR person has enabled me in terms of reaching out to book clubs, indie book stores and book signings. Word of Mouth has also played a Very important role and again, I can only thank my amazing readers for this. I am currently working on the next novel, the second book in my series. It, too, will be a literary/paranormal/thriller.

The publishing world is in is as varied as the many authors and their books out there waiting and wanting to be read.

Readers are our life blood. Knowing that they are reading and enjoying my debut novel means the world to me. Respect other authors, grow your readership and always hold sacred that bond you share with a Reader. It makes the whole journey worthwhile no matter how you're published.

Cynthia Lott is a Writer, Researcher, Vegetarian, and loves hearing life stories over a glass of good wine. She is also a member of Sisters in Crime, Inc., Atlanta Writers Club, Inc., and International Thriller Writers, Inc. THE FEATHERS is her debut novel.

Thomas Carpenter - dead for 100 years - returns in 1978 to avenge his murder. He proves a challenge for a New Orleans novice detective Brenda Shapira and her senior partner, Roy Agnew. When 35-year-old Shapira discovers the first victim in the historic Garden District, the beginning of 1978 will be anything but ordinary. As she unravels this long ago mystery steeped in New Orleans history and the Yellow Fever epidemic, Brenda realizes that she may be Carpenter's next victim.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

October Debut Authors

It's the first Thursday in October, which means debut releases. Please take a look and let’s celebrate their success!

Mark Bacon - Death in Nostalgia City (Black Opal Books) October 1, 2014

Ex-cop Lyle Deming is on edge.  That’s been his default setting for years, but his new job, driving a cab in a theme park, promises to cure his chronic anxieties.  Nostalgia City is the ultimate resort for anyone who wants to visit the past.  A meticulous recreation of an entire small town from the early 1970s, it’s complete with period, cars, music, clothes, shops, restaurants, hotels--the works.

The relaxed, theme-park atmosphere is just what Lyle needs--until rides are sabotaged and tourists killed.  Then park founder, billionaire “Max” Maxwell, drafts Lyle into investigating—unofficially.   As the violence escalates and employees get rattled, Lyle gets help.  Kate Sorensen, the park’s PR director--and former college basketball player--becomes another incognito investigator.  Except that she’s 6’ 2½” and drop-dead gorgeous.  So much for incognito.

Together, Lyle and Kate unravel a conspiracy of corporate greed and murder.

Ethan Reid – The Undying – (Simon 451 ~ Simon & Schuster) October 7, 2014

In this riveting apocalyptic thriller for fans of The Passage and The Walking Dead, a mysterious event plunges Paris into darkness and a young American must lead her friends to safety—and escape the ravenous “undying” who now roam the crumbling city.

Jeanie and Ben arrive in Paris just in time for a festive New Year’s Eve celebration with local friends. They eat and drink and carry on until suddenly, at midnight, all the lights go out. Everywhere they look, buildings and streets are dark, as though the legendary Parisian revelry has somehow short circuited the entire city. 

By the next morning, all hell has broken loose. Fireballs rain down from the sky, the temperatures are rising, and people run screaming through the streets. Whatever has happened in Paris—rumors are of a comet striking the earth—Jeanie and Ben have no way of knowing how far it has spread, or how much worse it will get. As they attempt to flee the burning Latin Quarter—a harrowing journey that takes them across the city, descending deep into the catacombs, and eventually to a makeshift barracks at the Louvre Museum—Jeanie knows the worst is yet to come. So far, only she has witnessed pale, vampiric survivors who seem to exert a powerful hold on her whenever she catches them in her sights.

These cunning, ravenous beings will come to be known as les moribund—the undying—and their numbers increase by the hour. When fate places a newborn boy in her care, Jeanie will stop at nothing to keep the infant safe and get out of Paris—even if it means facing off against the moribund and leaving Ben—and any hope of rescue—behind.

Steve P Vincent – The Foundation (Momentum) September 11 2014

He who holds the pen holds the power.

When a corrupt think tank, The Foundation for a New America, enlists a Taiwanese terrorist to bomb a World Trade Organization conference, the US and China are put on the path to war.

Star journalist Jack Emery is pulled into a story far more dangerous than he could have imagined. Because the Foundation's deputy director, the ruthless Michelle Dominique, recognizes that whoever controls the message controls the world. And she will take control, no matter the price.

Enter Jack's boss, Ernest McDowell, owner and chairman of the largest media empire on the planet. In the midst of political upheaval, EMCorp is about to become the final play in the Foundation's plan. When Dominique traps the EMCorp owner in her web, Jack's the only one left to expose the conspiracy before it's too late.

As the world powers smash each other against the anvil of Taiwan, Jack will risk everything to battle the Foundation and prevent them from taking control amid the devastation of a global war.

John White – Prodigious Savant (Black Opal Books) 10/11/2014

According to Dr. Darold A. Treffert of the University of Wisconsin, there are fewer than one hundred reported cases of prodigious savants in the world. Those few who possess the savant syndrome all have an island of brilliance that allows them to excel in some remarkable talent. Unfortunately, they all share various developmental disabilities.

Burlington, Vermont, 1962. Seventeen-year-old Gavin Weaver survives a dreadful explosion, six hours of brain surgery, and thirty days in a coma, to awake possessing not just one savant talent, but several, including art, music, mathematics, and memory, and all without suffering any of the usual mental disabilities associated with head trauma.

The odds are slim Gavin will survive both the internal and external conflicts that keep him from the one thing he wants most, the girl he’s loved since childhood.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


by Jon Land

Crafting solid fiction these days, especially thrillers, inevitably means relying on facts. But STRONG DARKNESS, the sixth entry in my Caitlin Strong Texas Ranger series, has several crucial plot points drawn from the newspaper instead of purely my imagination. Let’s begin from where the book’s concept came.

Did you know that the Chinese built America’s 4G wireless network?

Hey, don’t feel stupid; I didn’t know it either, but they did. It was constructed by a Chinese-owned company called Shinzen based, coincidentally, in Plano, Texas. The night I saw that story on 60 Minutes, STRONG DARKNESS was born with the prototypical What if? question; in this case what if a powerful Chinese billionaire wins the contract to build the 5G network as part of a plot to seek vengeance against the United States? No way I could have pulled that off in fiction if it didn’t have an actual basis in fact, no way. But it did, lending the book added relevance and establishing the kind of credibility that’s crucial for a thriller to succeed. When somebody says, “You can’t make this stuff up,” they might as well be talking about that.

So why does Li Zhen, the book’s villain, hate America so much? Glad you asked! And to answer that question I went back into the past, incorporating a historical subplot based in 1883 when Chinese laborers were greatly responsible for expanding rail lines through Texas. That historical subplot features Caitlin’s great-grandfather, William Ray Strong, also a Texas Ranger, tracking the Old West’s first serial killer whose victims are all young Chinese women. But something else happened in that railroad camp somehow linked to Li Zhen’s motivation for revenge. Fiction from fact again, in other words, even before I decided to team the fictional William Ray Strong with the very real infamous hanging judge Roy Bean (who actually only hung a single man, but that’s another story).

And I didn’t stop there. The modern day, and very real, scourge of human trafficking plays a major role in STRONG DARKNESS through one of the major characters who was a victim of it herself. She’s after her own vengeance and that brings her across the path of Caitlin Strong. One of my favorite moments in the book is a simple phone call between the two of them, because it highlights Caitlin’s flaws and the darkness in her own past. But that scene is so effective because the pain feels real and to a very large degree it is. Fact into fiction again.

I also chose to open the book with a thinly disguised version of the Westboro Baptist Church picketing a young veteran’s funeral. I did that simply to give Caitlin somebody to bulldoze into a drainage ditch (Hey, it beats shooting them!) But the scene played so well, and resounded so smartly, I decided to bring the evil preacher back for a well-placed encore later in the book and, again, the emotional resonance comes from the fact behind the fiction.

Want more? How about the Deep Web, cell phone technology, voting machines, the Cloud—whoa, I’m on the edge of my seat just thinking about what I wrote and I’m predicting you’ll have the same experience when you read it.

Now, that’s a fact.

What's your favorite example(s) of fact meeting fiction in a thriller? I'd love to hear from you. And, feel free to pick at least one from your own work!

Jon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of 37 novels, including the critically acclaimed series featuring female Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong: STRONG ENOUGH TO DIE, STRONG JUSTICE, STRONG AT THE BREAK, STRONG VENGEANCE and STRONG RAIN FALLING which won both the 2013 USA Best Book Award and the 2014 International Book Award in the Mystery/Suspense category. Jon lives in Providence, Rhode Island and can be found on the Web at

Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong takes on a vengeful Chinese billionaire with a plot to murder tens of millions of Americans.

"Once again Jon Land outdoes himself! In BLACK SCORPION, the story of the charismatic Tyrant (introduced in The Seven Sins) unfolds across a wider canvass, revealing the breadth of Land's talent at storytelling and sheer bravado plotting. It's the exact sort of story I love: combining historical mysteries with ripped-from-the-headlines authenticity. If you've never read Jon Land before, do so now. Start with this book, and you'll know why I'm such a huge fan!"
--James Rollins, New York Times bestseller of THE 6th EXTINCTION

Thursday, September 18, 2014

5 Tips to Keep the Momentum of Thrillerfest Alive

by Ursula Ringham

It’s been two months since I attended ITW’s Thrillerfest. I’m back to my regular work routine in high tech and life with my kids and husband. So, is the energy and excitement of Thrillerfest gone? Not even close. Here are 5 tips to keep the momentum of Thrillerfest alive.

1-Download the sessions
What keeps me motivated to continue writing is all that I learned at Thrillerfest. Two of my favorite sessions were Creating Memorable Characters with Robert Dugoni and Themes and Symbolism with Steven James. I recommend downloading several Thrillerfest sessions because you’ll learn something new that will definitely improve your writing.

2-Review Feedback
If you attended Pitchfest or Master Craftfest you probably received some honest feedback about your book. Go back and review the comments. Maybe an agent told you to improve your pitch? Maybe the plot or some characters need to be reworked? William Bernhart told me to “Make your book bigger. There must be something of consequence. And you need to enlarge the stakes.” This advice has dramatically improved my storyline. Although you might not like the feedback, take the time to review it as I’m sure there is something to be learned.

3-Set Goals
If I did not set goals, I would never have completed my first novel nor attended Thrillerfest. So what are my goals now? Complete book #2 by end of 2014. I also want to attend Thrillerfest 2015 as it will motivate me to start book #3. And to stay connected with my new author peeps, I want to attend more writer conferences. I’m thinking about Bouchercon in November. Setting goals will make you accountable but also help you succeed.

Thrillerfest is filled with people from all walks of life: aspiring writers, self published, ridiculously famous, debut, and fans. The moment I stepped foot in that first session with the FBI, I realized I had found my tribe. A tribe that gets me, understands my need to write and wants to help me succeed. And I use social media to stay connected to this new network of writer friends. If you met writers at Thrillerfest, keep in touch with them and build out your network. You never know where a connection might take you…because we’re all in this together.

5-Pay It Forward
I attended the annual ITW member meeting during Thrillerfest. What a great organization of writers, run mostly by volunteers. I offered to lend my social media skills from my day job. And now I am on ITW’s Career School Committee. By staying engaged and helping others, I feel like I am paying it forward for the next generation of writers as I continue on my quest for success. If you possess a skill that can help fellow thriller writes, I encourage you to get involved.

So, there you have it. Five tips to keep the momentum of Thrillerfest 2014 alive. Where will I be when Thrillerfest 2015 rolls around? Who knows. All I can say is that attending Thrillerfest gave me the confidence and the support to move forward with my writing. And the thrill of it all has just begun.

Ursula Ringham was born and raised in Palo Alto, California with a family immersed in real estate development and local politics. She has been on the inside of some of the Valley's biggest tech companies including Apple and Adobe. For over a decade, she worked in Developer Relations helping start-ups and strategic accounts bring products to market. Today, Ursula stays actively engaged in the high tech industry helping software giant SAP build better brand identity. Her love for writing began when she was 13 years old and entered a short story contest. Ursula lives in San Jose, CA with her husband and two children. Visit her at

In Silicon Valley, product ideas are stolen every day. Hundreds of millions of dollars of intellectual property and countless hours of R&D lost in a millisecond. A high risk, high reward business, but is it worth risking your life? Young, ambitious Kate Crawford is about to make it as one of Silicon’s Valley overnight millionaires. She has her hands in a secret product that will catapult software company Obsidian to rock star status on the eve of its IPO. A week before the public offering, Kate realizes her company might be involved in illegal activity that could jeopardize the launch of the new product but also her life. With millions of dollars on the line, will Kate untangle the web of lies surrounding her career or will she become another casualty in a conspiracy that lies at the root of her very existence?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Writing with a Day Job

by Lori Rader-Day

Now that I’ve launched my first novel, The Black Hour, I have one thing to say to aspiring novelists.
Don’t quit your day job.
Before you start howling, give me a chance.
The hard truth in publishing is that hardly anyone makes a living from writing. That’s the bad news. There’s plenty of good news, though, including that a job and writing don’t have to be mutually exclusive endeavors. In fact, I think a day job can be a helpful complement to the writing life.

Want a job done? Give it to a busy person.
Look, there’s no question I’d like to have more time to write. But you’ve heard the adage about who gets the job done, right? If you want to write a book, you have to add it to your to-do list and then get it to-done. People who accept that kind of challenge more often are better equipped to check things, even writing books, off their list.

One word: Deadlines.
A long, languid day of writing sounds great right now, but have you ever tried it? Our squirrelly attention spans are probably only good for a few hours of writing a day, which is why even when you have all day to write, you probably don’t. I write during my lunch hours. One hour. That plan doesn’t always work, but when it does, the rest of my day is better.

Spend money to make money.
Time to be honest. One of the reasons I think day-jobbing and book-flinging work together is because I use one to pay for the other. Going to conferences, putting out bookmarks and other marketing items, hiring a publicist—you don’t have to do all or even any of them. But you have to market yourself somehow, and that requires investment. Your investment.

A different kind of support system.
There’s no question that being a full-time writer is the romantic dream. But when that dream hits a rocky spot—a lukewarm review, creative blockage, a low-energy day where you start to question every decision you’ve ever made—having a paycheck is reassuring. You don’t have to write. You don’t have to— but you want to! And then you’re back in the game, your head on straight. Writing with a day job is stressful, but I suspect it’s less stressful than, say, trying to pay the mortgage with a late royalty check.

Day jobs as inspiration?
The Black Hour would not exist without the day job I had while I wrote it. As much as spinning tales from up in your writer’s garret sounds like an introvert’s dream…how inspiring is the inside of a writer’s garret? A day job forces you out into the world, either literally or figuratively, and puts you into contact with life. All of it can turn into words on the page, as long as you’re paying attention.
As a writer, that’s your true job: paying attention. Can you do that while you work, pick up the kids, run to the store, all while your hair is on fire? The speed at which your life is moving isn’t always under your control, but we all have the same 24 hours. Just this one day. Pay close attention, before another one passes you by.

Lori Rader-Day is the author of the mystery The Black Hour (Seventh Street Books, 2014). Born and raised in central Indiana, she now lives in Chicago with her husband and dog. Her fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Time Out Chicago , and others. Her next book, the mystery Little Pretty Things, will be published by Seventh Street Books in 2015. Visit her at

For sociology professor Amelia Emmet, violence was a research topic—until a student she’d never met shot her. He also shot himself. Now he’s dead and she’s stuck with a cane and one question she can’t let go: Why her? All she wants is for life to get back to normal. Better than normal, actually, since life was messy before she was shot. Then graduate student Nathaniel Barber offers to help her track down some answers. He’s got a crush and his own agenda—plans to make her his killer dissertation topic. Together and at cross-purposes, Amelia and Nathaniel stumble toward a truth that will explain the attack and take them both through the darkest hours of their lives.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

September Debut Authors

It's the first Thursday in September, which means debut releases. Please take a look and let’s celebrate their success!

Rob Brunet - Stinking Rich (Down & Out Books) September 8, 2014

What could possibly go wrong when the backwoods Libidos Motorcycle Club hires a high school dropout to tend a barn full of high-grade marijuana? Plenty, it turns out. In a world where indoor plumbing’s optional and each local wacko is more twisted than the last, drug money draws reprobates like moths to a lantern. From loveable losers to gnarly thugs and law-and-order wannabes, every last one of them has an angle—their best shot at being stinking rich. And with their own warped ideas about right, wrong, and retribution, the Libidos aren’t far behind

Matt Cook - Sabotage (Forge Books) September 9, 2014

An extortionist commandeers a weapons technology that could irreversibly alter the international balance of power. Nothing is known about him, other than his alias: “Viking.” Pitted against terrorist conspirators in a bidding war for the technology, the responsible U.S. defense corporation can’t touch him as long as he controls a hijacked cruise ship in the North Atlantic.

The key to bringing the Viking down may lie in the disappearance of Stanford professor Malcolm Clare, celebrated aviator, entrepreneur, and aerospace engineer. Searching for Clare is doctoral candidate Austin Hardy, who seeks out the man’s daughter, Victoria—an icy brunette with a secret that sweeps them to Saint Petersburg. Aided by a team of graduate students on campus, the pair must devise Trojan horses and outfox an assassin in order to unravel the Viking’s scheme.

Austin and Victoria are not alone in their efforts. Former Air Force combat weatherman Jake Rove, one of three thousand passengers held hostage aboard the luxury liner, is determined to weaken the ship’s hijackers: He must evade detection, dive by night, and communicate intelligence to the Stanford team as they struggle to prevent international disaster and economic collapse in the United States.

Both on U.S. soil and thousands of miles away, the story roars into action at supersonic speed as Austin and Victoria race to uncover the Viking’s trail of deception, betrayal . . . and sabotage.

L.R. Nicolello - Dead Don’t Lie (Harlequin HQN) September 1, 2014

You can run from the past…but you can never truly hide…
Detective Evelyn Davis delves deep into the minds of monsters for a living. She's the best psychological profiler in the Seattle P.D., with a talent that comes from heartbreaking experience. When Evelyn was just eighteen, she received word of her family's murder in the form of a horrifying video. Fifteen years later, tracking down other psychopaths is the only thing that brings her some peace.
But now two local families have been wiped out. Though the chilling crime scenes suggest murder-suicides, Evelyn believes a serial killer is at work. So does Special Agent Marcus Moretti, whose easy charm and fiercely protective instincts are breaking down all her defenses. Evelyn needs to put aside her emotional attachment to find the madman stalking her city—but with each discovery, this case becomes more personal. She's starting to suspect the killer wants her—and he is edging closer with every step, ready to make Evelyn pay a devastating price….

David Swatling - Calvin’s Head (Bold Strokes Books) September 15, 2014

Life in Amsterdam isn’t all windmills and tulips when you’re homeless. Jason Dekker lives in a jeep with his dog, Calvin, on the outskirts of the city. A thesis on Van Gogh brought him to the Netherlands and the love of Dutch artist Willy Hart convinced him to stay. But Willy is gone and Dekker is on the brink of a total meltdown. On a sunny summer morning in the park, Calvin sniffs out the victim of a grisly murder. Dekker sees the opportunity for a risky strategy that might solve their problems. Unfortunately, it puts them directly in the sights of the calculating stone-cold killer, Gadget. Their paths are destined to collide, but nothing goes according to plan when they end up together in an attic sex-dungeon. Identities shift and events careen out of control, much to the bewilderment of one ever-watchful canine. Oscar Wilde wrote that each man kills the thing he loves. He didn’t mean it literally. Or did he?