Monday, October 17, 2011

At the 2011 Writer's Police Academy

Off to the pokey -- well, not really
Here’s the thing about being handcuffed — it produces an irresistible urge to get out of said handcuffs. For most handcuffed people, that’s not an option. Luckily for me, it was. All I had to do was ask, which I did. Quickly and nicely.

I wrote a little about my adventures in all things Law  Enforcement over at the Poisoned Pen Press blog (see Writing at the Thin Blue Line if you're interested).

Here are some photos from that weekend. It was an invaluable opportunity to marinate in the world of cops, firefighters, and rescue personnel for a little while, and I came away with an enhanced respect for the challenges of the work and the commitment of the people who choose these professions. 

 To the right, you see Officer Stan Lawhorne demonstrating the "hog-tie" maneuver on Officer Dee Jackson. She's being sweet and non-resistance -- you can tell because he's still wearing his head.

Below is a picture of the official Writer's Police Academy t-shirt. It reminds me of the one Richard Castle wears on Castle. Maybe some of his fictional star quality will rub off on me. Who knows? Regardless, it's a fantastic shirt.
My daughter, the Writer-To-Be

Officer Stan Lawhorne participates in a mock hostage-taking.

Lt. Randy Shepherd with the Sniper Team

Above is Lt. Randy Shepherd, who led a fascinating seminar on Law Enforcement Sniper techniques and procedures. He brought actual equipment and gear (that's his big gun you see) and shared how snipers move, hide, target and train. An excellent presentation that blew me away in many ways, and enriched my author's tool kit extraordinarily (I got to hold bullets!)

An Official ALS (Alternate Light Source) kit used by some official forensic investigators. Use this equipment in a typical hotel room, and you'll be traumatized, I guarantee it.
To the left you'll see a typical sniper gear set-up
 including the official "sniper Frisbee" that bored snipers toss around between hostage situations (actually, it's a camouflaged disc of plastic that is used as a base for the gun in underbrush -- but I like the Frisbee story better).

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bang Bang!

This is me getting in some research at the gun range -- I am SO ready the next time I am attacked by an unarmed two-dimensional villain. I'm blogging about the experience today at the Poisoned Pen Press blog -- find that here.

And if any of you writerly types want to join me next time, the good people at Patrick's are excellent resources. They treated me mighty fine (and were very very patient).

Monday, August 29, 2011

John Desjarlais on Writing Cross-Culture (and Cross-Gender Too)

Please join me in welcoming John Desjarlais to The Fascination Files! John's latest novel VIPER is out now (please check out The Mojito Literary Society's review of this outstanding mystery to see why I'm so enthusiastic about having him as a virtual guest). Today, John explains the intricate nature of the research involved in bringing his protagonist, Selena de la Cruz, to literary life.

I’m a college instructor in Mass Communications, Composition and Creative Writing, so research is almost second nature to me and I’m accustomed to teaching about research. However, research for academic work is different from researching for fiction. In stories, there’s no quoting and citation involved, and everything learned must be embedded in the narrative so that it doesn’t show (unless you’re James Michener, who piles it on to his fans’ delight). Once your research starts to show, readers notice and awaken from their fictional dream.

That’s what frightened me about my latest mystery novel, VIPER, featuring a Mexican-American woman as the protagonist.  How could I, an Anglo man, presume to portray a Latina for the lead?

It wasn’t just a matter of writing from a woman’s point-of-view. I had done so a few times in earlier novels, in some scenes. The scary thing was maintaining the cross-cultural aspect across an entire novel. I wanted to be sure I got all the cultural material right and I was respectful with it.

Lacking experience as a Latina, I immersed myself in the experiences of Latin women vicariously in many ways. There are many new books in circulation by Latinas about coming to terms with Old-World expectations placed upon women while trying to fit into New-World American society. I read most of them and took careful notes, as with any other research I had to do for VIPER (DEA undercover operations, police interrogations, snake handling, Aztec religion and so on). I subscribed to Latina magazine for fashion, beauty, relationship and lifestyle issues. I paid attention to any news related to this community, especially immigration issues. I browsed Latinas’ blogs and web sites to see what everyone talked about, especially with regard to living with a bi-cultural identity. They said just what the Dad says in the movie Selena: “We've gotta be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans both at the same time. It's exhausting!"

I had stacks of cards that I browsed through obsessively to remind myself of small details that were of possible use, as in this description of the character:

Selena slipped into the faux leopard slingbacks and examined the fall of her pinstriped pantsuit leg over them in the hallway mirror when the doorbell chimed promptly at 1500 hours. She brushed away a little excess of powder from the corner of her sienna eyes and primped her mouth, the lip liner two shades darker than the magenta gloss to match her caramel complexion. Always dress so you will not be mistaken for the help, mija, she heard her mother saying. But no make-up could ever soften the Aztec hatchet of a nose buried in the middle of her face.

This combines research from Latina magazine and an interview with a Latina about her relationship with her mother.

Or consider this memory from Selena’s Chicago neighborhood (btw, she drives a 1969 Dodge Charger – something else I had to research):

     When Selena wheeled the Charger onto 18th Street in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, the throaty rumble of the big engine turned the heads of young men in tilted White Sox caps. In the air, Norteño bands playing plaintive corridos on button accordions competed with the thump-thump of quebradita, a blend of North Mexican banda and Aztec punk rockers singing in Spanglish. Like Julia Alvarez once said in a poem, Selena felt her Spanish blood beating.
She crossed herself and kissed her thumb and forefinger held together when she passed Saint Adalbert’s Elementary in the shadow of the church’s skyline-dominating steeple. In the sixth grade, Sister Mary Beatrice -- who every kid called Sister Mary BattleAxe -- caught Selena speaking Spanish in the back row. She was asking Gloria García for an eraser. Sister pulled Selena by the ear into the corner.
“You’re in America now,” the Polish nun had reprimanded, her milky finger in Selena’s mocha face. “We speak English here. If you want to be an American, speak American. If you want to speak Spanish, then go back to Mexico.”
Selena asked if there was a difference between speaking English and speaking American.
Sister Beatrice kept her after school for talking back.
Ay, you don’t talk back,” her mother chided her when she got home. Mamí’s high Zapotec cheekbones colored like the red hot lava of Mount Popocatépetl and the obsidian-black bun on top of her head, Selena could have sworn, was spinning.
Muchachitas bien criadas, girls brought up well, don’t mouth off,” her mother said, wringing the dishtowel. “Do you want to called habladora? A big mouth that talks too much? Is that what you want?”
Mamí, all I did was ask a question.”
En boca cerrada no entran moscas,” her mother said, tapping her lips with a finger. Flies cannot enter a closed mouth. “You must be quiet, and keep your eyes low in respeto, like La Virgen de Guadalupe.”

There’s so much here that I can’t recall all the places I drew from. Let’s see: Google maps gave me a view of the Pilsen neighborhood, an Internet search gave me the proverbs (‘dichos,’ very important in Mexican culture) and interviews – mostly – gave me the other childhood details. General research made me realize how important Our Lady of Guadalupe is to the Mexican community, and, in fact, She is a minor character – sort of – in the story.
Research always opens new possibilities for a story, and for me, it helped me create a believable Mexican-American woman.  When one of my Latina readers told me, “I am SO into Selena!”, I knew I’d done my research right.

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 Haunted by the loss of her brother to drugs and a botched raid that ended her career with the DEA, insurance agent Selena De La Cruz hoped to start afresh in rural Illinois. But her gung-ho former boss needs her back to hunt “The Snake,” a dealer she helped arrest who is out of prison and systematically killing anyone who ever crossed him. His ‘hit list’, appended to a Catholic Church’s All Souls Day ‘Book of the Deceased,’ shows Selena’s name last. Working against time, prejudice and the suspicions of her own Latino community, Selena races to find The Snake before he reaches her name while a girl visionary claims a “Blue Lady” announces each killing in turn. Is it Our Lady of Guadalupe as many in the Mexican community believe, or is it, as others believe, the Aztec goddess of Death?

Visit John Desjarlais at

VIPER is available at Amazon and through Sophia Institute Press.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Vroom Vroom!

Please join me as I go on and on about all things Ferrari over at the Poisoned Pen Press blog. I'll be posting there on the 10th of every month about guns and Confederates and Atlanta and -- oh yes -- Ferraris. (That's me behind the wheel of the F430 coupe, by the way. It's not black like Trey's, but he'd like it almost as much).

You can find the blog here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

I Heart Lars -- Sweaty Iron Age Stud Muffin

My friend Susanna Ives -- who writes historical novels set in Regency and Victorian England -- posted a fascinating (and hysterically funny) account of married life in Iron Age Denmark. If you've always wanted to learn more about smelting, peat bog sacrifice, and heck oxen, then this description of life with a hot pre-Viking guy should be your cup of . . . whatever it was they drank then, which I'm pretty sure they drank out of skulls.

And look at the art! No coyness there. These people knew how to make things clear. The carved pig Ives displays is also pretty nice. I can see something like that in my living room.

Find the post at the following link on the Carina Press Historical Author blog: Romancing The Past: Hot Iron Age Lovin'

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


This photograph captures one of the things I love most about Atlanta -- its up-ness. I have yet to experience another city so jostling, so elbow-to-elbow with its own image, with its head tilted to look into the high blue. I don't know the name of this building. It's right beside the Fox Theatre, just off of Peachtree. But on this spring day, with this limitless sky, it seemed as if it thought it just might make it to the top if it could just s-t-r-e-t-c-h another inch. That's Atlanta to me. Always after that extra inch.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Three Questions with Douglas Corleone

After reading NIGHT ON FIRE, I asked Douglas Corleone if he'd be willing to answer a few questions about himself, his book, his protagonist, and what's next for him on the literary horizon. He graciously agreed. So here you go, ladies and gentlemen -- three fastballs right over the plate for Mr. Corleone.

1. I've read in other interviews that Kevin Corvelli shares some personality traits with you, only on a more out-sized level. Care to elaborate?

When I set out to write my debut novel ONE MAN'S PARADISE, I wanted a lawyer-protagonist who was not only flawed, but very aware of his flaws -- and honest about them in his interactions with other characters and with readers.  Suffice it to say, I didn't have to look very far for a criminal defense attorney with flaws -- I saw one in the mirror every morning.  So my own insecurities, phobias, vices, and yes, arrogance, became Kevin's, the only difference being that heroes (and anti-heroes) need to be larger than life, so I exacerbated my own flaws for the sake of the story.  (Some people might suggest that I played them down, but I would disagree).  I also provided Kevin with what I think are my strengths - a quick wit, a touch of charm, and a deep-seated desire to do what's right.  Kevin's every bit as conflicted as I am, but like me, he has a desire to sort through his psyche and improve what needs improving.  That should take us through the next 30 or 40 books.    
2. If you could sit down with yourself when you first started writing this series and offer as-yet-unpublished you some words of wisdom, what would you share?

I'd tell him to put down the pen and run back to the courtroom as quickly as possible.  I'm kidding (somewhat), of course.  But I would definitely fill him in on the realities of today's publishing industry.  I'd make sure he knew that the lion's share of promotion would fall squarely on his shoulders, and that anemic book sales could end his career before it started.  I'd prepare him for critics and remind him about the demographics of today's fiction readers.  I'd teach him about branding, and emphasize the difficulty he might face switching genres.  If he asked whether all the hard work, all the waiting and rejection, would be worth it...I'd tell him, yes. I'd tell him that patience and persistence are key.  And that hearing good things from readers about his work will melt his heart and ultimately make the whole damn process worthwhile.       

3. Any other writing projects in the works? Any tantalizing clues for your readers about what's next for Corvelli and company?

Next April, the third Kevin Corvelli novel, tentatively titled CHOICE OF EVILS, will be published by St. Martin's Minotaur.  In CHOICE OF EVILS, Kevin is retained by the governor of Hawaii when the FBI suspects the governor of hiring an international assassin known as The Pharmacist to murder his pregnant mistress.  Kevin and his crew have to conduct their own investigation while ensuring that the FBI's suspicions don't interfere with the governor's bid for reelection.  Meanwhile, Kevin's most loyal client, Turi Ahina, is accused of gunning down an off-duty cop on a dark street in Pearl City days after Turi agrees to provide the DEA information on the ruthless drug kingpin Orlando Masonet. Did Turi actually shoot and kill the cop in self-defense?  To find out, Kevin must plumb the depths of police corruption and ultimately unearth some of the city's deepest, darkest, and dirtiest secrets.
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DOUGLAS CORLEONE is the author of the Kevin Corvelli crime series published by St. Martin's Minotaur.  His debut novel ONE MAN'S PARADISE won the 2009 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award.  A former New York City criminal defense attorney, Douglas Corleone now resides in the Hawaiian Islands with his wife and son.  NIGHT ON FIRE is his second novel.

You can find NIGHT ON FIRE at your local bookstore or through (find a buying link here). You can read more about Douglas Corleone and this award-winning crime series at

Monday, April 25, 2011

Arson Investigation by Doug Corleone, Author of NIGHT ON FIRE

Please welcome Hawaii author Doug Corleone to my virtual conversation spot today! Doug is the author of the Kevin Corvelli crime series, the second book of which -- NIGHT ON FIRE -- is debuting today (woot!) He's here to share the intriguing and deadly facts about the destructive side of playing with fire.

Also, please check out my accompanying review of the book, which appeared yesterday on The Mojito Literary Society. You can find that here.


Part of the thrill of writing crime fiction is in the research. As a writer of legal thrillers, I have the opportunity to research everything from police procedure through the judicial process. In writing my novels I get to play cop, criminal, prosecutor, defense attorney, judge and jury. So, it’s no wonder that in developing the plot for my second novel in the Kevin Corvelli crime series, I took into consideration what I most wanted to learn about. Ever since seeing the film Backdraft, arson investigation has fascinated me. Fire is such a destructive force that it’s a wonder any evidence remains behind. In researching arson investigation for NIGHT ON FIRE, I went behind the scenes and learned how the experts determine how a fire started, how it spread, and how they ultimately go about identifying suspects.

According to FBI statistics, approximately one-third of all fires that occur in the United States are the result of arson, meaning they were intentionally set. There are a variety of motives: insurance money, revenge, to conceal another crime. Setting fires is convenient for criminals. It’s easy to start a fire, and as you might expect, the success rate of convicting arsonists is extremely low. Because fire is indeed such a destructive property that destroys its own clues, fire investigators must work very quickly to learn what they can by the evidence the fire left behind.

After questioning witnesses, fire investigators immediately examine the exterior of the structure, then proceed inside to search for the point of origin. The point of origin is where the fire started; it’s where investigators find the most damage, likely where the fire burned hottest and longest. In order to determine the point of origin, fire investigators must know how fire behaves. Flame, heat , and gases rise away from the point of origin. This creates a V-shaped burn pattern, which indicates where the fire started. Once fire investigators identify that V-shaped burn pattern, they search for clues as to the cause of the fire.

Investigators must rule out accidents by checking all possible causes, such as electrical systems and gas pipes. Once all accidental causes are ruled out, the area becomes a crime scene, and steps must be taken to protect it from contamination. Then they begin searching for clues, sometimes with the help of an arson dog. Whether human or canine, the investigator is searching for evidence of any accelerant used. An accelerant is a chemical such as gasoline or charcoal starter fluid that can speed up the fire. Sometimes investigators find trailers – materials placed near the accelerant to spread the fire. A trailer may be a trail of the accelerant itself, or it may be a trail of gasoline-soaked towels, long twists of newspaper, or gunpowder. Investigators also search for an ignition – something such as a match or lit cigarette that may have been used to ignite the fire.

In NIGHT ON FIRE, investigators discover all of the above, and all of it points to Kevin Corvelli’s client, a stunning but troubled young newlywed named Erin Simms. Erin’s new husband died in the fire. Erin had both motive and opportunity to kill him…and she has a history of setting fires.

In researching arson investigation for NIGHT ON FIRE, I found the following books helpful: Practical Fire and Arson Investigation, Second Edition by David R. Redsicker and John J. O’Connor (CRC Press 1997); Explosives and Arson Investigation by Jean Otto Ford (Mason Crest 2006); Arson by Gail B. Stewart (Thomson Gale 2006); Heat: Fire CSI and the War on Arson and Murder by Peter Michaels (Adrenaline Classics 2003); and Arson Investigation: The Step-by-Step Procedure, Second Edition by Thomas J. Bouquard (Charles C. Thomas 2004).
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DOUGLAS CORLEONE is the author of the Kevin Corvelli crime series published by St. Martin's Minotaur.  His debut novel ONE MAN'S PARADISE won the 2009 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award.  A former New York City criminal defense attorney, Douglas Corleone now resides in the Hawaiian Islands with his wife and son.  NIGHT ON FIRE is his second novel.

You can find NIGHT ON FIRE at your local bookstore or through (find a buying link here). You can read more about Douglas Corleone and this award-winning crime series at

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"No Interviews, Please": A Guest Post by Stephen Brayton

Please join me today in welcoming Echelon Press author Stephen Brayton to The Fascination Files. His novel NIGHT SHADOWS debuted on February 15th, and since Stephen in now in the full court PR press, his words on interviews are quite appropriate.

No Interviews, Please

A while ago, one of my friends directed me to a particular blog where an author conceded to do a guest post. He started by saying how he didn't grant interviews anymore because he'd become successful enough to not want to do them and didn't want to answer the same questions asked so many times in previous interviews. He went on to defend his position and argue against his being forgotten by the public, then proceeded to give an interesting discussion regarding brick and mortar stores and tangible books, and eBooks. How he would still succeed in regards to competition with the 'big name' authors.

As I say, I found his discussion credible, but everything branched from his opening statements about not doing further interviews but how he made an exception to write this particular guest blog.

I read the post and made a few comments, including how saddened I felt to see an author refuse to give interviews. Now before everybody jumps all over me with arguments, let me explain my views. I may be a newly published author and learning the ropes of publishing and marketing. I'm sure some of the 'big name' authors shy away from interviews and, yes, they are in a position to pick and choose. To each his own.

As frequent readers of my blog know, I have posted a series of author interviews. In 2009 and 2010, I contacted many authors, beginning with the Echelon Press authors, introduced myself, and asked if they would mind answering a few questions for the series Around the Globe With... Yes, some of the questions are ones others have asked, although I have tried to be light-hearted and humorous. All but one author (not from Echelon Press) agreed and sent me their answers. I've put them in a folder and have pulled them out from time to time and posted them.

I felt, as a new author and editor for Echelon Press, I wanted to do my part to promote authors and their books. I mentioned I wanted to start with Echelon Press authors because it seemed only natural to first help my company succeed in my own little way. Except for a few exceptions, I'm working my way through those from EP, then I'll post others'.

In my promoting of NIGHT SHADOWS, I sought out various blogs and author sites, introduced myself, and requested consideration for a guest blog or interview. I was allowed to appear on many sites and let me tell you, I felt honored with each one. Was I asked some standard questions? Sure. But I took the time to answer each of them a little differently than the previous. I sincerely thank every author or blogger who accepted my interviews and guest blogs. On the dates my interviews were posted, I promoted that particular author's site. I thank every single person who bought my book and who are looking forward to Beta, available in July.

I never want to forget my friends, family, and fans, because you are why I succeed. I can write the best novel in the world, and I can somehow get a publisher to accept it, but if nobody buys it, what was the point of it all?

Am I looking for a little ego stroking, a bunch of compliments, and possibly some women giving me their phone numbers? Of course. But I will always be grateful.

Sure, I dream of being a 'big name' author one day. I would love to be successful enough to pick and choose my interviews and appearances, but I hope I never reach a time where I'm jaded enough to refuse to give an autograph to a fan, don't take a few moments to talk to the people who buy my books, or reject an interview question because it's been asked of me scores of times. People want to know my answer, that's why they ask. New writers crop up all the time and they're looking for guidance. There are vast numbers of potential fans I have yet to reach.

If I ever do fall into that mind set where I'm refusing to grant interviews or someone thinks I'm acting condescending because someone fires an oft asked question at me, or I push someone away from an autograph because I don't feel like giving one, then I grant permission for that person to smack me upside the head (gently, please, I bruise easily) and remind me of this post.

Thank you.

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Stephen Brayton is the author of NIGHT SHADOWS, out now from Echelon Press (click here for purchasing info) and BETA, debuting July 2011, also from Echelon Press. Visit his website at or check out his blog at

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

From the Desert to the Snowpocalypse

So these are the extremes that bookended my very first stops on the wildly erratic couple of weeks that have followed the publication of The Dangerous Edge of Things.

My first stop was Scottsdale, Arizona, the Wild West, land of saguaro cactus and the black-tailed jackrabbit. The temperature hovered in the mid-seventies during the day, punctuated with clear sweet sunlight, and then dropped into the cozy fifties at night, under black skies so full of stars it looked like someone had thrown rhinestones up there.

That's what's called an organ pipe cactus over there (assuming my notes are correct -- there are cacti named after everything on land and sea: sharkfin agaves and jumping chollas and fishhook cactuses).

Sand and rocks everywhere. I brought back a pretty piece of rough chrysocolla from a gem shop. The turquoise looked lovely, but the real turquoise was very expensive and the cheap turquoise was probably dyed howlite. So I just admired it from afar.

Four days back in the 'Boro, and then off to Chicago, the Snow-decked City (I know what it's really called, but take a gander at the photo to the right -- that hunk of snowplow mountain blocked most of the wind. Except for that one night when the wind smelled like frozen iron and was so cold and liquid it poured right down into my thermal underwear . . . and for the first time in my life, I understood what COLD meant.

There's little visual reference to help you understand the massiveness of this snowbank. It's taller than you, that's for sure, even if you're a basketball player.

And oh yeah. I sold some books, drank some bubbly, met some dear fantastic people. But you know how it is -- in the end, we all talk about the weather.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Please join me in welcoming guest Nancy J. Cohen to The Fascination Files -- she's here to tell you all about world-building, an endeavor that has served her well as a writer of sci fi/futuristic romance. Read the excerpt she's provided and see what I mean.

By Nancy J. Cohen

A particular recipe for research is required when writing a sci fi or futuristic romance. About 3/4 cup of imagination starts the story rolling. Add in 1/8 cup of scientific accuracy and 1/8 cup of futuristic terminology. Mix it all together and let the tale flow forth.

Where's the best place to find the ingredients?


Television & Movies
The Star Trek universe is a widely accepted cultural phenomenon in the United States. Get familiar with the terminology. Words such as phasers, transporters, and photon torpedoes should roll off your tongue like water. These are part of the genre conventions and need no explanation. Watch classic sci fi shows for the same reasons. You’ll become familiar with the landscape.
Reference Books
Look for movie sourcebooks, video game guides, sci fi film technical manuals, and computer game magazines. These can be springboards for your own ideas when you're stumbling for authentic sounding technobabble.
Comics/Graphic Novels/Role Playing Games/Video Games
These genres have a wealth of sci fi materials. You might find something inspirational.
Newspapers & Magazines
Articles on futuristic technology can give you useful ideas for your own imaginary world. Or take a current issue and extrapolate what might happen in the future. Overpopulation? Create a world where birthing is strictly controlled. Or have overpopulation so rampant that no one has a moment of privacy. Pollution? Have your people wear gas masks to filter out the poisons in the air. Bigotry? Have two species warring with each other for so long that they’ve forgotten the original quarrel. Endless possibilities present themselves when you look at our world today.
Myths and Folktales
These can provide the basis for your story, as Norse mythology does for my paranormal trilogy.


After you've lined up your source materials, how do you create your particular universe? It's easiest to base a planetary culture on one of our own, either past or present. For example, I based the Souk culture in CIRCLE OF LIGHT and MOONLIGHT RHAPSODY loosely on the ancient Turks, so pashas rule and keep harems on their home planet.

In SILVER SERENADE, my latest release, interplanetary travel is commonplace and conflicts are based on the same problems we have now: lust for power, greed, etc. My heroine, an assassin, teams up with the hero, a convicted criminal, to catch a terrorist leader. However, Silver wants the man dead and Jace needs him alive as a witness in his defense. Who will win out when they catch the bad guy? While the story is character based, it takes place on other planets. So we start out with two sympathetic characters who each have their own goals, motivation, and conflict, and then we put them into outer space where their adventures take place.

The universe you create must remain consistent. Consider the type of government, ecology, religion, geology, cultural practices, education, communications, etc. when building your world. Regarding technology, for example, are your people at a pre-tech level where they use horses for travel, where a carriage ride takes days to visit a relative, and where messages are drafted by hand? Or does your society have interstellar comm networks and warp drives? Consider adding a glossary and other bonus features like I did for SILVER SERENADE in describing the weapons and warships.

As you write your story, twist the terminology to suit your imaginary world. Sprinkle in enough futuristic sounding words and your story will ring with a sense of reality, but don't overwhelm the reader with them. If you're having trouble creating new words, use the dictionary and look up word origins for whatever you had in mind. Then come up with a new twist on an old term. Or try the thesaurus for a likely synonym. Regarding character names, make them different but pronounceable. Be careful not to use American slang and phrases, or you'll jar the reader.

Settings are important in building your world. Use the five senses to bring these places alive for your reader. If you deploy a foreign-sounding word, put it in a context the reader understands so it makes sense. i.e. “A ruella crawled up her arm, its eight legs tickling her skin. She didn’t dare move as the deadly creature paused, twitched its small black body, then proceeded on a heading toward her chin.” Does that make you cringe? You may not have heard of a ruella before but you get the picture.

Research particular topics the same way you would for a contemporary novel. For example, in MOONLIGHT RHAPSODY, my heroine possesses a singing voice that mesmerizes men like one of the mythical sirens. I interviewed a former member of the New York City Opera to learn the proper terms for vocal exercises. In CIRCLE OF LIGHT, I perused an article in National Geographic on volcanoes for a scene on a volcanic planet. STARLIGHT CHILD includes an amphibious species, so I researched frogs. Make sure whatever you create is plausible or at least sounds like it could be real.

Futuristics are tremendous fun to write. Your imagination can soar to great heights, and anything is possible. You have more freedom than almost any other genre. Just remember that the story is first and foremost a romance. Everything we've talked about here is background and should remain so. Don't get so caught up in your imaginary world that you forget about the people you've put there. As a writer, you need to focus on the emotional reactions between your characters. Engage the reader’s interest, and then hijack them with you to your imaginary world.

Here’s an excerpt from SILVER SERENADE to show you how I set a scene in an otherworldly place:

Jace pushed open the double swinging doors to the saloon, his throat dry from the arid air in the ramshackle port town. Smoke from hakah pipes reached him along with a noisy din and the smell of grog. Spacers crowded the dimly lit interior, roughnecks who sported bristled jaws, muscled torsos, and loaded armament belts.
At his side, Silver touched his arm. “Do you see Gruber?
I can barely see my own hand. Let’s go to the bar. He’ll find us.” He hoped their disguises worked. If Gruber’s memory still failed him, the arms dealer wouldn’t remember what they looked like on Stacktown. When they’d contacted him, Gruber had reluctantly agreed to introduce them to Tyrone Bluth as potential recruits. But Jace worried whether they’d be recognized despite their dyed hair and false identities.
I’ll have a Stentorian ale,” he ordered, addressing the one-eyed bartender who needed to see a toothbrush once in his life. “Raven, what about you?” he asked Silver, who’d taken the code name after her new hair color.
She wore her thick tresses hanging loose down her back. If that wasn’t enough to draw male attention, her creamy flesh spilled out of a leather bustier that enhanced her generous assets. More than one roving glance aimed in her direction before assessing her companion.
The same,” she said in a tough-girl voice, sliding onto an empty stool and folding her legs for ample view. Posing as a sharpshooter, she adjusted the rifle slung over her shoulder. It wasn’t an idle boast. She’d explained how as a child, her dad had taught her to shoot sonic pellets at the knobbies eating their grain crops. They couldn’t get too close or the knobbies would feast on them instead.
Hey, sister,” said the large fellow on the next stool over. “Looking for some action?” He gave a gap-toothed grin.
Get lost.” Silver chugged her ale, turning her back on the guy. “I already got a man.”
Don’t look too manly to me. Bet his dick is the size of my little finger.” He wheezed with laughter while others joined in.
Jace stood straight. “Is that an insult?”
Mebbe. Wanna do somethin’ about it?” A knife appeared in the thug’s hand...

Can you visualize this scene? Smell the ale, breathe in the smoke? Can you sense the danger for my heroes if their cover is blown? If so, I’ve done my job.

Putting your lovers into a futuristic setting launches them into a world of excitement, passion, adventure, and danger. Add those ingredients to the ones discussed above and you'll have a recipe that's out of this world.

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Come Visit!

I'm guest blogging today at Nancy's Notes from Florida -- which is providing a nice respite before I head for the frozen wilds of Chicago. I'm discussing the finer points of short story writing. There is also talk of elephant jokes.

Come say hi:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Death Devils and Star-Crossed Lovers

For those of you interested in what mystery writing and tarot reading have in common, join me at the Dames of Dialogue where I'm guest blogging on Death, Devils and Star-Crossed Lovers. You can find it here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lookie here, y'all, I'm GIVING STUFF AWAY!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Dangerous Edge of Things (Paperback) by Tina Whittle

The Dangerous Edge of Things

by Tina Whittle

Giveaway ends February 28, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Hello, Goodbye, Hello!

2010 was a banner year for me -- it was the year I received word from Poisoned Pen Press that they were interested in publishing my mystery novel (!!!). It had a really goofy title that my editor instantly rejected because it had the word "blood" in it. "You can't use that word anymore without people thinking it's a vampire novel," she said. She suggested the current title --  The Dangerous Edge of Things -- a quotation from a poem by Robert Browning:
Our interest's on the dangerous edge of things.
The honest thief, the tender murderer,
The superstitious atheist.
In 2011, my goals are to finish up as-yet-unnamed Book #2 in the series that Book #1 began, and to stretch a little out of my comfort zone as I prepare for all the book signings and other author events that have me quaking in my boots. And to be grateful. Can't forget that one. Always and ever grateful for all my wonderful friends and fellow writers. Awesome to the awesomest degree, every single one.