Wednesday, November 23, 2016

My Guest: Judith Lucci

My Guest this week is not alone. She has brought a friend of the four-footed kind with her. It's not often an author brings one of their characters to a spot on this blog. Now, where did I put those treats? Ladies and Gentlemen...

Judith Lucci

The Inspiration for Angel

I LOVE DOGS!  I have five of my own, and would have more if I could manage it. If I had my life to do over again, I’d be a veterinarian, and after I paid for groceries, I’d be a free vet so I could offer care for millions of animals whose owner can’t afford expensive vet care. There, I bet you can see it, I’m a bona fide animal lover who oftentimes love animals more than people.

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For me, there’s nothing in this world more wonderful than dogs. They love us unconditionally. They don’t need college funds or designer labels. Their adolescence is short-lived and if they get mad at you, they poo in the kitchen. So what… A simple pick-up… not a trip to the local jail or a $1,500.00 retainer for legal representation.  Dogs don’t have traffic accidents, need cars or prom gowns. They need you, your love and attention. Of course my dogs aren’t working dogs. They’re companion dogs. In my family, I work for the dogs but it doesn’t matter because they bring me love, laughter and pleasure. There’s no wonder I have a hero dog, Angel, in the Michaela McPherson crime series who is a major character.  Also of mention is that Alex Destephano, the protagonist, in my medical thriller series was recently gifted Shogun, a retired military working dog, by her law-and-order Congressman Grandfather. I’m not exactly sure what Shogun will do in the fifth book of the series because I haven’t finished it. Of course, if you’ve read any of the Alex Destephano Medical Thrillers, you know Alex has had lots of escapes from madmen and flirtations with death. The fifth book, currently titled Malicious Maleficence is scheduled for release in the spring of 2017).
Dogs are our best friends, but it’s even bigger than that. Dogs save lives. Police, military and medical dogs are major contributors to society. Contemporary dogs in military roles in the United States and United Kingdom are referred to as police dogs, military working dogs (MWD), or K-9s.  As of 2011, there were over six hundred U.S. Military dogs actively participating in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and in war zones across the world. I suspect that number has gone up based on the efficacy, efficiency and research on canines in war.
Dogs have been used by law enforcement agencies for over a hundred years.  The English used bloodhounds while searching for Jack the Ripper in 1888, and allowed canines to accompany Bobbies on patrol.  In 1899, in Ghent, Belgium, police started formally training dogs for police work.  This enhanced the popularity of dogs for police work.  By 1910, Germany had police dogs in over 600 of their largest cities.  In 1938, South London introduced two specially trained Labrador Retrievers to the Metropolitan Police Force to accompany Bobbies on patrol.

In the 1970’s dogs in law enforcement took a foothold in the United States. Canines’ are considered an integral part of the police force, and often have their own badges. From the hundreds of dog breeds, there are some that are widely known for their presence in law enforcement. The most widely trained dog for regular patrol work is the German Shepherd. Other exemplary breeds include the Labrador Retriever, Belgian Malinois, and the Dutch Shepherd. Certain breeds have been used for special purposes, such as detecting illegal drugs or explosives, and tracking fugitives or missing persons.

Dogs are also critical partners in the military as well.  All MWDs in use today are paired with a single individual after their training. This person is called a handler. While a handler usually won't stay with one dog for the length of either's career, usually a handler will stay partnered with a dog for at least a year, and sometimes much longer. The latest canine tactical vests are outfitted with cameras and durable microphones that allow dogs to relay audio and visual information to their handlers.
Dogs have played key roles in military operations since the beginning recorded history. Early dogs functioned as trackers and sentries, but now dogs are full members of the military team. Contemporary dogs in military roles are also often referred to as police dogs, K-9, or Military Working Dogs or in the United States (MWD).  A military working dog worked with Seal Team 6 on the capture of bin Laden. These dogs are unsung heroes with their ability to find missing persons, sniff out explosives (IEDs) and uncover illegal drugs.   As of 2011, 600 U.S. Military dogs were actively participating in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Medical Response Service Dogs.  While not all service dogs

possess the ability to detect a medical crisis before it happens and alert to it, that does not mean they cannot have jobs that are crucial to their handlers' safety! There are innumerable things service dogs can do to assist their disabled handlers in response to medical crises. A service dog can be trained to respond in what is often a life-saving manner, once the handler begins to experience a medical crisis. These types of service dogs are referred to as "Medical Response Dogs."

Some skills that medical response dogs can be trained to perform include, but are not limited to, seeking out another individual when their handlers are experiencing a medical crisis and need help, positioning their handlers in a manner that will keep them safe during a seizure, retrieving emergency medication, dialing 911 on phones equipped for use by service dogs and a wide variety of unique skills that not only give the gift of independence, but can also mean the difference between life and death for their handlers.

In the Michaela McPherson crime series, Angel is a highly trained, experienced police canine. Angel is Mic’s retired police canine partner. The pair served together for several years before Angel was retired - with honors - from the Richmond Police department after he took a bullet and saved Michaela’s life. What’s important to note, is Angel’s heroic behavior didn’t change after his retirement. He remains a hero even in his retirement which you can read about in The Case of Dr. Dude and The Case of the Dead Dowager. Some might argue Angel is the best character… I’m not sure.

Reviews about Angel from The Case of Dr. Dude

The combination of Michaela, the Countess and the police (oh, and the retired police dog, Angel) is a wonderfully satisfying mix where they all come at the problem from their own distinct individual angles. I look forward to the next one.”

“Dottie is quite the gutsy character! Love her!!! Dr. Dude is a weird dude for sure. Angel, what can you say about a sweet, protective doggie? He just made the story that much better!”

Early Reviews about Angel from The Case of theDead Dowager

I love Michaela and Dottie… they are both such original and real characters and Angel, well, retired police dog Angel is just the bomb and the star of the show.”

“Loved it. Reminds me a bit of Miss Marple, but boy, I just love Angel…”

The Case of the Dead Dowager comes out on Kindle December 2 and can be preordered for .99

Many thanks for reading and have a great Holiday Season and Happy Reading


Dr. Judith Lucci is an Amazon bestselling author who writes what she knows. She is the author of the Alex Destephano Medical Thriller Series and the soon to be released Michaela McPherson, Private Eye, a series centered on a retired homicide detective from Richmond, Virginia who really can’t retire.

“Before I wrote fiction, I was an academic writer who published research, theoretical works, text books and just about anything a clinician or college professor needed to publish to survive in the ivory tower. The differences in academic writing and writing fiction are dramatic. Writing what I know propels me to pull from my clinical experiences, some good, some not and use popular fiction as a means to teach and advocate for others. My books have three purposes, to engage the reader, to entertain them and to educate about healthcare and perhaps, the darker side of hospital life. 

"I am a nurse and hold graduate and doctoral degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia. I have always been a reader and a writer and I love it. I am a member of the Virginia Writers Club, The Gulf Coast Writers Association, The Shenandoah Valley Writers and Sisters in Crime.

"When I’m not writing I’m probably teaching or painting on silk, canvas or watercolor. I am a multi-media artist with five dogs."

Books and Author Links:

Thank you, Judith, for a fascinating peek at the world behind one of your characters from your Michaela McPherson series. Readers, I was privileged ro read an advanced reader copy of The Case of the Dead Dowager and, believe me, you are not going to want to miss this one! Dottie, Mic and Angel face off against one of the most insidious and spine-chilling foes every created in modern fiction. Pre-order your copy today on Amazon.

Eric @

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

My Guest: Keith Dixon

My Guest this week is an award-winning author of excellent CRIME THRILLERS who will be talking us through the Dark Art of crafting that one element without which no decent thriller works. This is Secret Sauce indeed! Ladies and Gentlemen...

Keith Dixon

Criminal Behaviour

“Where do you get your ideas from?” … is a question that no one has ever asked me.

Which is a shame, because the answer is quite interesting.
As a writer of crime novels I could say that my stories are ‘torn from the headlines’, and in most ways that has been true. It’s often been the case, however, that far from being excitingly modern, the headlines have been several years old. For example, the story of The Bleak is of a group of scientists working under a criminal mastermind to poison thousands of people. This idea derived initially from the story of the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo, which released Sarin gas into the Tokyo underground in the mid-nineties. Similarly, the back-story of Lorenzo Strano in The Strange Girl was told to me by a former police commander who’d witnessed a similar situation years ago in her own workplace.

What’s interesting (well to me, anyway) about the manner in which the ideas then germinate is that the villain usually arrives very quickly, growing out of the research, not just my imagination. If you have a series hero, as I did with Sam Dyke, the fun part is then pitting him and his known qualities against the bad guys or girls in the narrative.
However, in my latest book, Storey: A Crime Novel, I had a new central character to introduce and I’d decided to involve two villains in the unfolding of the tale. This was in part because I’d decided to write in a different style, one influenced by the great American crime novelist, Elmore Leonard. Leonard was famous for his amazing dialogue and also for the fact that sometimes his ‘heroes’ were barely on the side of justice. Often they were petty criminals or people who were neither particularly good nor bad, but ordinary. So I wanted to create a hero who was essentially decent but self-sufficient enough not to be worried about mixing with villains. Thus Storey became an ex-policeman, someone who was honourable and on the side of the law, but capable of talking to crooks on their own terms, knowing what they were like.

Starting my research, I began by reading the local newspapers from Coventry, where the action was set. What soon struck me was that the bad guys usually worked in small gangs and their villainy was often mundane, if sometimes cruel: drugs, robbery of betting shops and the like, selling counterfeit wares. The gangs usually comprised 4-6 people who weren’t very bright, had known each other a long time, and had been brought up in tough conditions. Sometimes firearms were used in their villainy, but often they weren’t – though this was changing.
I decided on a gang leader early on—someone with intelligence and forcefulness, but without high ambition. Later in the book he’d meet someone who was a world-class villain so my man had to be lowly enough to be impressed or cowed by the super-crook. As I started to invent him, these were some of the notes I made:

  •  Need to set him off, show him in action, so needs a crew
  •  Then have fun individualising the crew
  •   Have had very intelligent villains in previous books, time for someone perhaps more realistic – someone trying to just get along, then gets involved in more than he anticipated.
  •  Also want to show him aware of his role as ‘leader’, needing to discipline gang members but also nurture them.
  • Then there are gang tensions – up-and-coming or ambitious members wanting more than the leader is providing.

So as I wrote, the character of the leader evolved in relation to the people around him, as well as in relation to his function in the plot.

The leader is called Cliff Elliott and he has three crew members: Dutch, Tarzan and Gary. Part of the fun of being a writer is watching characters create themselves as they talk – so while I had their names and general physical traits, I knew very little about them as people until they began to interact with one another. Elmore Leonard (whose nickname was ‘Dutch’, incidentally, a little in-joke) said he used to write ‘in the voice’ of his characters until he knew who they were and how they’d react. Then he’d start writing the book proper. I don’t have that discipline, but I know that characters come alive when they begin to talk, so you need to be alert to how they reveal themselves, and what their conversation says about their past as well as their current mind-set.

For example, I discovered as I wrote that Cliff slept a lot in the afternoon and did his thinking alone in his room, not with the men. That wasn’t something I anticipated, it arose out of the interaction between the men as the storyline took place. This meant he was often detached from his crew and this consequently fomented antagonism.
The other crook is a con-woman who is based on a real character, a Scottish woman who tricked her so-called fiancé out of many thousands of pounds and led to the suicide of the man’s mother and sister. I wanted to explore this woman’s behaviour to see where it came from, so had Storey tangle with her as well as Cliff Elliott. I wrote frequently from within her point-of-view, and it was interesting to see the world from the perspective of someone who was relatively intelligent but bitter. And definitely cunning.

The way the book evolved proved to me again that I need to plan, to know what the characters are going to actually do. But it also showed me that there’s lots of fun involved in the writing process itself, as characters reveal who they are. This is what writers mean when they say characters begin to take over … as soon as they act or speak they reveal something about how their brains work and you, the author, have a sudden insight into who they are. This then colours their interpretation of what happens to them as the plot evolves – not necessarily what happens but how they think about it. Their understanding of their situation is what interests me as an author.

And of course the shooting and fighting …

Keith Dixon was born in Yorkshire and grew up in the Midlands. He’s been writing since he was thirteen years old in a number of different genres: thriller, espionage, science fiction, literary. He’s the author of seven novels in the Sam Dyke Investigations series, the first in a new crime series, Storey, and two other non-crime works, as well as two collections of blog posts on the craft of writing. 

When he’s not writing he enjoys reading, learning the guitar, watching movies and binge-inhaling great TV series. He’s currently spending more time in France than is probably good for him. 


Thank you, Keith, for a useful and practical peek behind the curtain at the genesis process for that most essential of crime thriller ingredients, the villain. I wish you well with the new novel. (Readers: as a dedicated Sam Dyke fan, I have already bought and read Storey and it more than lives up to its promise. Highly recommended, so don't miss it!).

Eric @

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

My Guest: Seumas Gallacher

My Guest this week is a familiar visitor to this blog, well, he's got to hang out somewhere I suppose, and he's also a serial... writer, and that's the very subject he's going to broach today. Ladies and Gentlemen, the inimitable...

Seumas Gallacher

…this writing gig can be
a really series business…

…eight years or so ago a bunch of fictional characters decided to become squatters in my head… Jack Calder and the team from International Security Partners (ISP) just simply moved in, set up house, and have remained resolutely unevictable ever since… there have been times when the noise ‘upstairs’ amongst what’s left of my wee grey cells has caused me serial insomnia… but by and large, I’ve grown accustomed to their cerebral presence… and I must confess, along the way over the eight years, through Master Calder and the troupe, I’ve learned some stuff…
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…I’ve learned to stand up tall and call myself a writer… and I tell everybody else who wants to listen, ‘If yeez write at all, then yeez are a writer’… none of yer ‘aspiring writer’ nonsense…

 …I’ve learned patience… a hitherto unknown trait… sequential efforts in producing wee crime fiction masterpieces have instilled the realisation that a book takes whatever time it decides to get it finished… trying to rush to ‘The End’ is 99.999999% likely to detract from the quality of yer WURK

…I’ve learned that, just as in real life, (whatever that is), characters grow from book to book when yeez produce a series… development of their ‘isms’ is gradual… blurting their entire life stories into two or three paragraphs is not conducive to reader enjoyment…

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…I’ve learned that books don’t sell themselves… the present-day scribe is obliged to be a part of the modern WURLD, including the SOSYAL NETWURKS… and it’s no use being active for just a couple of weeks before each launch yeez bring to the marketplace… building the relationships on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and whatever else yeez fancy as yer eChannels of choice is a constant must… and it begins even before yer first literary baby sees the light of an Amazon Kindle day…

…I’ve learned that whatever the old adage says that ‘yeez can’t tell a book by its cover’, unless yeez invest in excellent (not good, but excellent) artwork for yer books’ covers, yeez are putting yerselves at a disadvantage versus all the other promotional and advertising din out there…

…I’ve learned that sharing with the rest of the global diaspora of authors has unbounded benefits… an inexhaustible source of real pals exist on the web… they help with getting the news out about yer novels, and likewise, there’s real joy in introducing their books to a broader market…

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...I’ve learned that writing a series is not as easy as yeez think… for this scribbler, it’s important not to fall into the trap of ‘formula story-writing’… readers demand fresh narratives and thoughtful writing each time they pick up a different title with your name on it as the author… even the readers’ fondness for familiar characters will fade quickly if the twists and turns in the plot become predictable… I’ve learned to surprise myself in that respect, which is more likely to please my readership…

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…I’ve learned other important things… to enjoy what I write… no needless deadlines… savouring the crafting and sculpting of the latest book… to get immersed in a positive way with the blogging… to make time for my author pals on the web… to support new writers, especially self-published, by downloading at least one such new writer each week… to write reviews for these books… these are the life blood of any author, but even more so for those starting out…

…and I’ve learned to say ‘Thank You’ to great guys like That Other Man, Eric Gates for hosting me so frequently and for helping boost my sales through his tireless efforts to help others… thanks gazillions…

…see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!


SEUMAS GALLACHER escaped from the world of finance eight years ago, after a career spanning three continents and five decades and started to write crime fiction as a pastime.

His first four crime-thrillers, in what has become the 'Jack Calder' series, THE VIOLIN MAN'S LEGACY, VENGEANCE WEARS BLACK, SAVAGE PAYBACK and KILLER CITY have blown his mind with more than 90,000 e-link downloads to date. The fifth in the series, DEADLY IMPASSE, was launched in September 2016. When he reaches the 100,000 sales/downloads mark he may indulge an extra Fried Mars Bar to celebrate.

When Seumas isn't pounding out heart-stopping crime thrillers, or appearing as a Guest here, he can be found on his entertaining blog

Thank you, Seumas, for allowing us to see how all the hard work that goes into providing readers with great, fast-paced novels such as your Jack Calder series (I read the latest recently and it's the best yet - readers, don't miss it!) can also show an old dog like yourself a new trick or two. Best wishes for the new book.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

My Guest: Fiona Quinn

My Guest this week is a little under the weather...  in fact, we all are, as are the characters in the novels we read, and she's going to show us some clever ways authors can use this to immerse readers into scenes on the page. Ladies and Gentlemen...

Fiona Quinn

How’s the Weather? 
In Your Novel, 
It Makes a Difference.

Last weekend, I was out in the woods on an Evacuation Team with Search and Rescue. It was ninety degrees (32º C). Things had cooled down quite a bit from the last time I was out on a manhunt; that day it had been over a hundred (39º C) with a wall of humidity.

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Since I write Romantic Suspense/thrillers, I always try to note my experiences so I can bring my written words to life. In the case of searching for someone in the woods, weather matters. And I want to make the broader point that weather matters in all of our writing scenes.

Let’s start with my evac event as an example. In order to go into the woods, rescuers need to dress out; that is, we’re required to wear certain clothing to maintain our safety: boots, wool socks, long pants, long sleeved shirt, eye protection, helmet, heavy leather gloves. I was covered from head to toe except for the three or so inches between my glasses and my shirt collar. On top of that, I carried a rescue pack and equipment like rappelling webbing, a backboard, and a litter, as well as first aid bag, water for the victim and food. Water weighs a lot. Especially the amounts carried in for the heat. Ninety degrees. Remember that.

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In ninety-degree weather, a rescuer can quickly need rescuing. Rescuers are human beings, too. While often portrayed as heroic and never being aware of things like heat, Mother Nature really isn’t that kind. In ninety-degree heat, with or without the extra equipment, in that clothing, your character will be sopping wet with sweat. The sweat will make the dirt on the skin muddy. It will bring the bugs a-buzzing. It will make the character thirsty, tired, and probably a bit irritable. It will make the clothing cling uncomfortably to the skin, will increase the friction on the feet, forming blisters. Physical exertion in that weather will increase the need for water. Increase the chance of heat stroke. Use the weather to increase the misery of your character (nothing should be going well for them anyway.) 

Think about all of the wonderful ways you can describe the event once you take into account the weather: heat, cold, rain, drought, wind – it’s all plotting fodder.

The weather gives a writer plenty of ways to add beats into conversations instead of tags. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term 'beat', what I mean is that I would give environmental information or physical activity to the scene. It’s very important to resituate a reader, reminding them what’s going on. “Did you bring enough webbing?” (instead of saying, “she asked.”) Stella shielded her eyes from the sudden glare of sunlight as they moved into the clearing. This last example reminds us she’s in the woods. Here’s an example with orienting to time of day and the weather without saying, “It was four o’clock.”

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The sun struck Gloria in the eye as she pushed into the clearing. They’d only have a few more hours of daylight. The last thing she wanted was to be stuck in the woods overnight in her sweat saturated clothes and with no fire making equipment. This was a disaster in the making. With the storm moving in and the temperatures dropping so fast, how could they possibly keep the victim safe when they hadn’t prepared to protect themselves from hypothermia?

See how I also used the weather to predict a horrible outcome? That’s a hook that encourages readers to keep reading to see if that is what happened and how the characters handled the new mini-crisis. Or how they thwarted that crisis from arising in the first place.

More ways to use the weather to help your plot:

*         In the weather, you must dress your character. Clothing choices tell a lot about a character’s aesthetics and personality.

*         How they deal with feeling physically uncomfortable tells a great deal about a character’s personality. Do they grumble in their head? Do they bitch about it and want someone to solve the problem for them? Do they make themselves comfortable despite those around them? All very telling.

*         In the weather you have personal preference that gives minor information. For two of my kids, it can never be hot enough. Hundred degree days, and they feel nicely warm. One of my kids wants to move to Alaska so she will finally be cold enough. Weather is a source of conflict. If one character is cranking the air-conditioning to feel comfort while the other is turning blue and chattering, you have a dynamic that many people can relate to.

*        Weather adds to the ambiance
o        Maybe it sets the scene: Are your lovers walking through a warm summer rain and stopping in a gazebo to wait it out? They can finally take a moment and discuss how deeply they’ve fallen in love, now that the rain made them stop in an isolated place.
o        Mirrors the emotion: Is the countryside bleakly painted in winter greys and browns? Does it look as devastated as your character feels?
o      Mocks the character: It’s spring: the flowers are beautiful; couples are falling in love everywhere, and Joe just got jilted by Sadie – oh the irony of it being the season of love and your heroes heart got thrown to the ground and trampled.

If you’re a writer, I hope you’ll take advantage of the weather to help give your prose a visceral reality. Use it as the colors for painting your backdrop. Use it as a way of conveying character details. Use it to make all hell break loose and put your characters in difficult situations. Use it to best engage your readers, because we all have experienced how weather affects us.

If you’re a reader, I hope you enjoy how subtle things are written into the storyline to help you immerse yourself into the imaginary world, helping you to leave reality behind for a short time. Look for the weather next time you’re reading a book.

As my pilot friends say, Blue skies!

Canadian born, Fiona Quinn is now rooted in the Old Dominion outside of D.C. with her husband and four children. There, she homeschools, pops chocolates, devours books, and taps continuously on her laptop. Fiona is the author of the bestselling Lynx Series, with Book One, 'Weakest Lynx', a Kindle Scout book, the author of the Amazon bestseller 'Mine', and 'Chaos Is Come Again', and is the creative force behind the popular blog ThrillWriting. She also is a contributor to Virginia Is for Mysteries,
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Thank you, Fiona. If, like me, you are a die-hard fan of Fiona's Lexi Sobado character, you may want to know there's a little gem of a Lynx tale in a new short story anthology, 'Crooked Tales', where Lexi and a a few familiar friends go on a mini-mission - and the weather forms an important part of the tale too!