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.

Amazon Link

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 fiancĂ© 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 @