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!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My Guest: Robert Wilson

My Guest this week is a bestselling, award-winning author who has even had some of his books picked up for TV series. He's here, however, to talk about something far more provocative...  Ladies and Gentlemen...

Robert Wilson

Where are we now?

The world is in the process of an extraordinary upheaval. We are living, perhaps, in a period of greater uncertainty than at any time since the end of WW2 and the onset of The Cold War. Never was the world economy so precarious as more and more people question the neoliberalist ideas that have informed the basis of global economic strategy. Never was the world in such a state of inequality. Never has politics been so divisive and people so divided. Never have we felt so threatened by implacable terrorists and the insoluble problem of climate change. Never were there so many world powers capable of destabilizing global peace. This should be an era for great crime and thriller literature.

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Great work comes from digging deep to describe a new world where a different, pervasive attitude is prevailing. John Le Carré memorably achieved this in ‘The Spy Who Came in From the Cold’ where he managed to depict not only the protagonist’s struggle in dire circumstances, but also a new global battle hidden from us all.

The publishing industry was different then. Put simply: there was no internet. Publishers were small companies producing books they wanted readers to read. They were supported by reviewers who drew readers to new books in the culture pages of newspapers read by significant numbers. They sold to bookshops that knew the titles, authors and their readers and could recommend.
Most of that has disappeared. Publishers are now huge conglomerates with accountants and shareholders who demand profits. Editorial teams no longer decide on what books will be published, but rather pitch their titles to sales and marketing who judge whether they’ll sell in the market place. They have no mid list, just best sellers and rookies. The few reviewers that remain in the diminishing culture pages cover the books that follow the trend so that their newspapers can maintain their dwindling readers. Readers have so many avenues through the internet to find out about new books that it’s impossible to quantify their effect. 75% of sales are made through Amazon who hoard all the information about their buyers, so that publishers can do little but follow trend. Fashions become imbedded and are much more difficult to break as we’ve seen from the present wave of ‘psychological thrillers’ prompted by the success of ‘Gone Girl’. The self-publishers are numerous, have no quality filters and sell their books at rock bottom prices. Amazon are only concerned by numbers, not caring if a thousand writers sell three books each or one writer sells three thousand. Bookshops are heavily demarcated and have little relationship with their customers. Everybody is following and nobody is leading.
This is the industry with which writers now have to engage.

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Six years ago, talking to a friend and her intelligent, 28 year old, high-achieving daughter, I was recalling times in the 80s, working in London, when all I wanted to do was read. I would get up early, read on the way to work, read in breaks and get back home to read. I was reading in order to get to grips with the strange world in which I was living. Books like ‘Illywhacker’, ‘London Fields’, ‘Schindler’s List’, ‘The Bonfire of the Vanities’, ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’, ‘The Confederacy of Dunces’ and ‘The Book of Evidence’ had done that for me. I asked the daughter, a Londoner at the time, whether the same had happened to her. Her mother said: ‘Am I going to tell him or are you?’ The answer was that it had happened to her and the last book that had done it was the latest Harry Potter. Puzzled, I asked her why? She told me she’d wanted to escape from her complicated, stressful life back into the simple pleasures of her childhood. She wasn’t alone. I was talking to a sophisticated, intelligent and well-off reader in his fifties who recently told me that he, too, reads ‘to escape’. Not Harry Potter but crime novels like Craig Johnson’s series featuring the wryly amusing Walt Longmire in the culturally unfamiliar surroundings of the wilds of Absaroka County in Wyoming.
I’d always wanted to be a travel writer. I’d travelled a lot, had strong descriptive powers and thought that this was the road for me until the travel writing industry collapsed in the late 80s early 90s. I turned to crime as a way of using the settings and my experiences to describe and understand the countries in which I was living in the context of a rapidly changing world. As my first book was published in 1995 the Fantasy wave was on the rise. By the end of the 90s children were into Harry Potter, teenagers were wrestling with vampires and the world seemed to want to revisit Middle Earth. We are still in the grip of that colossal trend.

My point here is that those of you who are thinking that the best way to bring readers on board is to attempt to explain the complex, uncertain world in which we are now living, as John Le Carré did back in 1963, then think again.

Unless, that is, the current change induces such a level of discomfort that readers feel they’re in need of new tools for this brave new world.


Robert Wilson has written thirteen novels: four West African noir, two WW2 Lisbon, four psychological crime novels set in Seville, and three international thrillers featuring kidnap consultant, Charles Boxer. A Small Death in Lisbon, won the 1999 CWA Gold Dagger. The first two Seville books were filmed by Sky Atlantic in 2012. The first Boxer book, Capital Punishment, was nominated for the 2013 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.Stealing People is out in paperback now.

Thank you Robert, for an interesting post. As my own fans will already know, one of my own formative influences is Charles Dickens, a master of wrapping stinging social comment in to entertaining tales. They will also know that I strive to do this with my own novels - entertain while taking pot-shots at all kinds of issues. One of my favourites, again as my readers are aware, is the abuse of electronic surveillance in our present society, but everything from money-laundering by Vatican banks, through questioning what information our governments have the right to withhold, to the criminal side of the Internet have all come under my critical pen whilst entertaining with my tales.

What do you think? Do readers need new tools in our frenetic times? Opinions in the comments below, please. I'll figure out a prize for the best one.

Eric @

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

11 Superstars you should be reading

Since the beginning of the year I have been proud to host ELEVEN outstanding writers from a multitude of genres here. This is another chance for you to read their articles and pick up their books. Just click on the title of the article to be taken to their post in a new tab.

Brandt Legg

Seumas Gallacher

Judith Lucci

Barb Taub

Joseph Lewis

Sarah Jane Butfield

Dianne Harman

and to finish off, one from me:

Eric J. Gates

Readers – the Bane or theBountiful?

Thank you once again to all of the Guests who interrupted their busy schedules to share pearls of writing wisdom with us all. Best wishes to all of you.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

My Guest: Dianne Harman

My Guest this week is a seasoned writer with some practical tips for the aspiring. Ladies and Gentlemen...

Dianne Harman

So You Want to Write a Book!

People often tell me they want to write a book, but they don’t know what they’d write about. They want to know where I get the ideas for my books. How do I make them happen?

Believe me, the subject matter is all around you. What about that flower that’s growing up between the bricks you just walked on? Fantasy – did a large bird drop the seed while on a special mission from the king of birds to save the mouse from the trap the mean ogre set in his yard? 

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What about your crazy great-uncle who still talks about taking notes at a business meeting and then having several of the firm’s partners jump out of the office window when Wall Street crashed on Black Tuesday in 1929? Weave a story around that – maybe the before and after of the families of the partners or even how it affected him.

What about the young woman you saw at the supermarket this morning? She had a baby anchored on her hip and a tot in the child seat of the grocery cart. Normal enough, but what was that in her basket? A case of beer? So, who’s she buying it for? Her husband? Her lover? Herself? Seriously? At eight in the morning? Yeah, there’s definitely a story there.

And so it goes. Almost everything in every moment of every day can be woven into a story. Recently a friend came over for a glass of wine after work. She told me how she and her husband were disagreeing over something and he’d made the comment, “You’re a piece of work, but I guess you’re my piece of work.” Although it wasn’t the basis for a book, it could have been, but it’s now in a conversation that takes place in one of my soon-to-be published books.

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My husband and I were recently invited to Cuba by a fishing guide my husband has fished with for years. Since Cuba was getting ready to open up to direct travel from Americans, the guide was anxious to see if he could be one of the Americans allowed to be a fishing guide in Cuba. We went to Cayo Largo, an island off the coast of Cuba. 

The first day we were there the guide’s contact invited my husband and several of the guide’s guests to their fishing office on the island. I went with them and saw a door brightly painted with three kinds of fish on it. I asked our guide’s contact what that represented. He told me if a guest caught a tarpon, a bonefish, and a permit, all in the same day, the person was entitled to be member of the Grand Slam Club. That became the basis for 'Murder in Cuba' – egos and money intent on being the number one guide and the power of the Grand Slam Club.

A recent book of mine, 'Murdered by Words', is very loosely based on memories of going to college at a small Midwest school and the people who lived in the small town. The protagonist, Kat Denham, is widowed and makes career choices that lead to her editors’s death and fear for her own life. One thing just led to another, but what really prompted it was remembering how important the country club was to people in that small town. It became a focal point of the book.

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'Murdered by Country Music' came about simply because I was at a physical therapist’s office having a little work done on my lower back. While I was being treated, I overheard a conversation between a couple of the therapists regarding two music festivals that were going to be taking place near Palm Springs, California, in a few months. They were talking about mollies, Fireball whiskey, and just being part of the experience. I’d heard of the festivals, but had no idea what mollies and Fireball whiskey were. Thus began my education into the world of music festivals. We don’t live too far from Palm Springs, so my husband and I went there for the weekend to see if I could get a sense of the music festivals. That was the seed of the book. Although it’s a complete figment of my imagination, it came about because of the conversation I’d overheard.

So what’s the purpose of telling you about these books and things that are noticed? Ideas for books are everywhere. They’re in almost every conversation you hear, everything you experience, and everything you see. It’s up to you to give them life. In the words of the advertiser Nike, 

Just Do It! Write that book!

Dianne lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband, Tom, and her boxer dog, Kelly. When she's not writing, you can find her cooking or playing in the yard with Kelly.

She's the author of four cozy mystery series, Cedar Bay, Liz Lucas, High Desert, and Midwest, as well as the suspense series, Coyote. If you'd like to sample her books, please go to and get free books.

When not finding interesting ways to murder people, Dianne can be located here:

Twitter:  @DianneDHarman

Thank you, Dianne, for that great advice. Come on people, this practical post is definitely one to bookmark!