The Challenges of Writing a Crossover & Book Birthday!

Jordan Dane
@JordanDane

Not many things are more satisfying than finishing a book, seeing the final touches of cover copy and cover, and letting your baby go “into the wild.” Today is the release day for REDEMPTION FOR AVERY – part of the new Susan Stoker –  Special Forces series with Amazon Kindle Worlds.

Ryker Townsend FBI profiler series - novella (31,000 words) $1.99 ebook, July 21, 2016 release

$1.99 ebook – July 21, 2016 release

The challenges of this 31,000 word novella centered on crossing my Ryker Townsend FBI Profiler series into Susan’s Navy SEAL world, using one of her novels (Protecting Summer) and a key character, Sam “Mozart” Reed, from that book.

Challenges:
1.) Blending two worlds – My dark crime fiction world had to blend seamlessly into Susan’s romance action/adventure world of the military. That meant I had to bump up my romance and also deal with two very different kind of men. Ryker Townsend is an isolated loner by necessity, an intellectual with a mind like a computer, and hardly described as an alpha male. Navy SEAL Mozart Reed is definitely alpha male with a disciplined military demeanor and a fascinating puzzle. I wanted to create a situation to force these two different men into an investigation.

2.) Paying homage to Mozart & Susan’s World – I did my research on Susan’s writing and read the book that dealt the most with Mozart’s past, the way I would force these two worlds together. In Mozart’s childhood, when he was only 15, his younger sister was abducted and brutally murdered by a serial killer. Well, that’s right up my alley and that backstory worked well with my FBI profiler series.

3.) Portraying Someone Else’s Character While Doing Justice to Your Own – SEAL Mozart Reed is a strong character, fully capable of being a hero of his own book. But I had to be sure my character, Ryker Townsend, held his own with an ebb and flow to their dynamics. Each man became key and could easily dominate the story, but the blending of these two dynamic forces became a joy. I wrote them like Butch and Sundance.

4.) Getting the Facts Right – Sometimes a preceding book is a little vague on the facts, by design. An author may choose to write vague details about a character’s backstory or leave out scenes for the sake of plot. I was lucky to have Susan’s brain to pick. I’d send her a message and she’d write me back right away. I swear she lives online. I’d ask questions about where the body was finally buried or embellished on an unwritten scene, but I didn’t want rewrite her previous novel without paying respect to her original work. She was very gracious and we both poured through pages to make sure I could add details not contemplated in her originating novel. She also had books that came after and we compared timelines to be sure I didn’t leave out a baby, for example. When my project was done, she read REDEMPTION FOR AVERY and we tweaked a couple of nuances to make it the best collaboration we could. Susan Stoker is a very generous author.

Here is the synopsis of REDEMPTION FOR AVERY:

When he sleeps, the hunt begins.

FBI Profiler Ryker Townsend is a rising star in Quantico’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, but his dark secret could cost him his career. When he sleeps, he has visions of his next case. He sees through the eyes of the dead, the last images imprinted on their retinas. His nightmares are riddled with clues he must decipher to hunt humanity’s Great White Shark—the serial killer.

While he’s investigating the shocking slaughter of a seventeen-year-old girl at Big Bear Lake, the tormented soul of another dead child appears to him in broad daylight. Twelve-year-old Avery Reed reaches out to Ryker—a disheveled and haunted girl, unable to speak—held earthbound out of love for her grief-stricken brother, Sam. Avery’s presence draws Ryker into a sinister conspiracy and she has a desperate message for her brother, if she can make Ryker understand.

Navy SEAL Sam ‘Mozart’ Reed has been haunted by the brutal death of his little sister Avery when he was only fifteen-years old. He vowed to seek and destroy the killer who splintered his family, wiping out everything he’d ever known. Nineteen years later, his darkest wish came true when he found Hurst, her alleged killer, and stopped him from murdering one last time. But when Mozart learns the FBI has reopened Avery’s case, he fears the worst. His SEAL team may have ended the carnage of a serial killer years ago, but for the first time, Mozart has doubts that Hurst had been the man who took Avery’s life. A heartless predator is still butchering young girls. Mozart’s worst nightmare is back with a cruel vengeance.

INVITATION:
To celebrate the launch of Susan Stoker’s Special Forces series with Amazon Kindle Worlds, we are having a Facebook Party on July 23 at this link:

https://www.facebook.com/events/604059626438678/

I’ll be online 3:30-4pm EST. There will be lots of giveaways all day with other authors joining the party.

FOR DISCUSSION:
1.) Have you ever crossed over one of your worlds with another? Did this crossover involve another author’s work?

2.) How do you celebrate YOUR book birthdays?

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A New Series & Book Giveaway

Jordan Dane
@JordanDane

I am very happy to have my dear friend, Desiree Holt, on TKZ. With over 200 books under her belt, USA Today called her “the Nora Roberts of erotic romance.” She’s a multi-award winner, critically acclaimed author of all things romance and action/adventure, and she has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning National TV Show (an amazing feature that had me giggling) and in The Village Voice, The Daily Beast, USA Today, The (London) Daily Mail, The New Delhi Times and numerous other national and international publications. She is a very generous person and always inspires me to keep the faith and the fun in my writing. I love her dearly and am proud to be a contributing author to her new Amazon Kindle Worlds series. A great combination of romantic suspense and action/adventure. She’s giving me the freedom to put my Jordan Dane spin on her Omega Team world and I’m having a blast! Take it away, Desiree.

Desiree Holt

Thanks so much for the opportunity to guest blog with you today.

My first love, both in reading and movies/television has always been suspense/action adventure. So when I finally discovered the lure of romance, it was a natural for me to combine everything. In recent times I had drifted slightly away from that but now I am back to romantic suspense/action adventure with a vengeance

I’ve had the opportunity to interview at length two men who definitely could be part of The Omega Team. When I lived in Texas they were, at different times, my firearms instructors, one a former Delta Force and one a former Force Recon Marine. They willingly gave of their time so I could get every detail of my stories exactly right. Any mistakes I have made as I wrote other series are truly my own. Their knowledge—and my copious notes—stood me in good stead as I attacked this new project.
I was very excited when Amazon invited me to create a World specifically for their Kindle Worlds. I love the essence of these stories and the men and women who are the silent heroes.

As I dug into creating the series, based around a private security agency, I realized just how valuable people like this can be. There are places where the government cannot take a role, where men and women have to operate in the shadows to successfully accomplish their mission and no word of it can leak. Every agent is either former military or formerly in some branch of the police, from local departments to the FBI.

The first three stories, laying the basis for this world—The Omega Team—have already been released to give people a taste of what is to come. The Kindle World of The Omega Team will officially launch February 16 with a select group of authors, including my special friend Jordan Dane.

So what is The Omega Team?

In this age of danger and conflict, when security is a high priority, a new entity is born. Whatever your needs, they will protect you. They are The Omega Team.

Grey Holden was raised to believe in honor and duty and the dedication of men to fighting evil. Both his father and grandfather taught him the tradition of the Omega Male, men who carry a resourcefulness, cunning and strength to get a job done with their own skill. They take great pride in what they do without it manifesting as “ego.” They differ from the typical Alpha Male who MUST absolutely be perceived by his peers as the toughest, most popular, and smartest. An Omega Male cares little for this recognition…but knows that he is all those things and more. It’s what made him a good soldier and what makes him a good security and covert agent. Athena Madero fits perfectly into his world. They meet when separately they are trying to prove that a wealthy and high profile political figure is actually The Snake, a shadowy arms dealer whose weapons armed the insurgents that Grey was fighting in Afghanistan.

They form The Omega Team, an agency that takes on even the most dangerous cases. They draw as members of the team former military such as Delta Force, SEALs, Force Recon Marines, Coast Guard, Night Stalkers and others, law enforcement and private security who have the same code of conduct and dedication they do. They will also work with similar agencies on joint ventures. Headquartered in Tampa, Florida, they accept assignments all over the world, no matter how dangerous.

They work in the shadows, riding the raw edge of danger. Their passion for their work is as hot as their passion for the men and women they love. When all else fails, they are there for you—The Omega Team.

And a little taste to tempt you for the first three books:

Romance Author Desiree Holt

Romance Author Desiree Holt

Raw Edge of Danger
Grey Holden was on a mission to find the source of illegal arms. The death of his best friend on a compromised mission left him filled with anger and dedicated to bringing down whoever was responsible. Athena Madero had her own mission, to take down a major politician who had been preying on young girls. She hated him enough to quit her job as a cop and go on her own hunt for evidence. When she and Grey crossed paths, chemistry sparked and suddenly, unexpectedly, shockingly, there was a lot more between them than searching for evidence and pinning down a traitor. In a split second, they were riding the raw edge of danger. Together.

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Mission Control
Krista (Kris) Gauthier and Mason Rowell are like oil and water from the moment they meet. He never expected the team from Mission Control, the security agency made up of former military, to send a woman to lead the team he hired to fix his problem: find out who is helping smugglers cross his land from the border. Their antagonism is only heightened by the sexual attraction that keeps blazing out of control. Neither of them is happy about the fact they keep falling into bed together and Mason, who values his unattached existence, can’t wait for the team to be finished and Kris to be gone. But when the bad guys are identified and caught and Kris is wounded in the process, the thought of losing her nearly destroys him, and makes him take another look at their relationship.

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Lethal Design
Someone is putting a kink in Shannon McRae’s very orderly life. The video games she designs aren’t about electronic battles or gory crimes. Her projects include team building exercises for executives. It’s bad enough she’s plagued by possessions moved out of place, flat tires, strangers following her at night. But most importantly, someone is messing with her current project, corrupting the file so she has to rework it over and over. When activities escalate, Athena Madero decides it’s a case for the top security and protection agency, The Omega Team, which she owns with her partner with Grey Holden. Owen Cormier has been isolated emotionally most of his adult life. Twelve years fighting wars haven’t made him warm and fuzzy. Then he discovers his new client is the one night stand he could never get out of his mind. When the case is over, will he just be able to walk away?

FOR DISCUSSION:

So what do you think of private security agencies? The subject has been debated every since they first appeared on the scene. Do you think they serve a useful purpose? If so, why?

GIVEAWAY: I hope you will leave a comment to enter. Winners will be picked randomly. First place winner will receive digital copies of all three books. Second place winner will receive an Omega Team coffee mug.

Desiree Holt Giveaway

Desiree Holt Giveaway

Desiree Holt
www.desireeholt.com
desireeholt@desireeholt.com

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First Page Critique – A Rose to Love


Here is today’s first page critique – ‘A Rose to Love’

My comments and feedback follow.


    “So, what’s she like?” Will asked as he took a sugar packet and stirred it into his coffee. They were sitting in a booth in the Coffee House next door to their private detective agency.
    Jesse, tapping on his laptop keyboard, barely looked up. “What’s who like?”
    “You know.” Will narrowed his eyes and leaned forward in the booth. “The woman who’s moving into the apartment upstairs. What’s her name again? And doesn’t she move in today?”
    Jesse took a sip of his coffee before replying. “Guinevere Russo and yes. She should be here any time now.”
    “So, what’s she like?” Will raised his eyebrows meaningfully.
    “I don’t know. I haven’t met her. I only did a background check on her.”
    “I thought that was the whole point of a background check.” Will had learned long ago to never doubt Jesse’s thoroughness. Because of his expertise, their clientele included several lawyers, various businesses and even the police departments in and around Chicago. Not only was Jesse expert at background checks, he was amazing at finding people who didn’t want to be found. 
    Jesse sighed and looked up from his laptop. “Yes, but sometimes, even with the best and deepest background checks, there are surprises.” In their detective agency, Jesse handled the ‘cyber-investigations’ and Will did the more ‘hands-on’ field work. His expertise was in noticing details about people and at crime scenes. They were a good team. Jesse helped Will to become more savvy on the Internet and Will got Jesse out of the office for surveillance work, on-site crime scene investigation, and other jobs that required two sets of eyes.  
    “Nah, you’re too good.” Will dismissed Jesse’s reservations. The man even did some work for the FBI and CIA. Will doubted there would be too many surprises. His partner was just very cautious. “So, is she pretty?”
    Jesse’s eyes widened and then he frowned. Will couldn’t tell if he had touched a nerve or if the man was distracted by whatever he was doing on his laptop. He tapped at his computer some more before replying. “No, she’s not pretty, not like Hollywood pretty. She’s …” He looked up at the ceiling then back at his laptop. “She’s beautiful, but that doesn’t mean much.”
    In all the years he had known Jesse, Will had never heard him describe a woman as beautiful. This should be interesting. 


         My comments:


    First of all, I’m proceeding on the assumption (based on both the title and this first page) that this is a work of romantic suspense. 

    My initial feeling, reading this first page, was that it was the start of a pretty clear (and possibly all too predictable) ‘set-up’ for a romance. Although I thought the style worked well – the sentences are lucid and the back story introduced succinctly and successfully – there wasn’t much in the way of real suspense. Not enough at least to get me intrigued from the get go. The fact that Jesse was a background checker extraordinaire who had never described a woman as beautiful wasn’t quite enough – at least for me. 

    The strength of this as a first page, however, is definitely in the writing style (I liked the fact it was clear and cleanly written). However, I needed more ambiguity and tension to feel compelled by the story. To me this page read more like a romance and less like a mystery/thriller/suspense novel. The fact that Will and Jesse own a private detective agency suggests that this book will involve both romance and suspense – so I think a first page needs to balance both elements to succeed. I also was a little confused as to why they felt the need to do a thorough background check on the person  moving into the upstairs apartment – sounded like overkill unless there’s something more to the story than on the page. 

    It could be that the author needs to start the book off at a different point in time – perhaps when Jesse first sees Guinevere Russo and suspects there’s something that the background check missed. We need something that shocks, disrupts or at least throws us off guard as readers. We need to be shown, not told, that there’s something intriguing as well as beautiful about the new tenant upstairs. As Jim is always saying, the explanations can come later…

    BTW- One little nitpicking quibble – Coffee House should only be capitalized if this is actually its name – otherwise just coffee house… 

    So TKZers what’s your feedback on this as a first page?
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    5 Keys Steps to Adding Depth to Your Fictional Relationships

    Jordan Dane
    @JordanDane


    

    My Australian cover for Indigo Awakening


    In Indigo Awakening (Book #1 in my “The Hunted” series for Harlequin Teen)—there is a love triangle that is layers deep. I’m a sucker for love triangles, but I wanted the one in Indigo Awakening to be a little more than a girl’s attraction to two very different boys. At the apex of this triangle is a very strong girl, Kendra Walker, the leader of an underground movement of Indigo children and feelings run high when beliefs and ideologies are tested.

    Lucas Darby is psychic and becomes mentally linked to a girl he hears in his head after he escapes from a mental hospital. Kendra thinks she has made contact with another lost Indigo, but after she realizes that Lucas is a powerful Crystal child, she sees the future she always dreamed would be possible. And for Lucas to connect with the “hive mind” for the first time, the link is intoxicating and seductive. Kendra is older than Lucas, but for him their connection is as intimate as making love for the first time. It changes everything for both of them. Since Lucas is evolving into a Crystal child, the next evolution of mankind, Kendra is motivated to be with him so she can be a part of a new, more powerful movement. She is a modern day Joan of Arc on a mission to save the Indigos, but someone else is her rock when it comes to protecting her Indigo children.

    Another boy, Rafael Santana, has helped Kendra build a safe underground oasis for the homeless Indigos. Rafe has feelings for Kendra that he’s never shared with her, but he’s also driven to protect Benny, a 10-year old boy he loves like a little brother. This conflict will drive how he reacts when Kendra’s Indigo revolution threatens the home he wants for Benny. After she focuses her attention on Lucas, Rafe becomes jealous, but in his quiet way he deals with it until the conflict between the Indigos and the Believers blows up, the fanatical church zealots who hunt Indigo kids to stop the next evolution of man. Rafael’s love for Benny collides with his loyalty for Kendra and changes everything.

    Kendra must choose how far she is willing to go to save her Indigo family—the one she has and the one she’s dreamed about. Lucas, the powerful Crystal child, represents the future she had always hoped for, but Rafael is the heart and soul of the past she started with him—the boy who made her dream possible.

    Key steps to adding depth to your fictional relationships:

     
    1.) Give a strong character vulnerabilities that conflict with what they might want and force them to choose. There are consequences to actions. Someone’s gotta lose, even in love.

    2.) Give them choices that test their emotions. Their choices shouldn’t be easy. For example, make them choose between their personal happiness or the greater good. This is classic and always relatable.

    3.) Pair them with opposite types of characters to enhance the conflict potential. Opposites attract for a reason. Fireworks, baby.

    4.) Create internal conflicts or flaws that make them struggle with their external goals and the goals of the character(s) you’ve paired them with. Conflict is key to any great story. But add depth to your character by layering the conflict inside them first.

    5.) Give them a noble cause that is a roadblock to their personal happiness or someone else’s. What would they do? Not every character would make the same decision.


    For Discussion for Readers and Writers:

    1.) What are some additional points you would add to this list?

    2.) What are some of your favorite literary or film love triangles? Please share your thoughts on why they resonated with you.

    “Dane’s first offering in her new series, The Hunted, is sensational. Indigo Awakening has strong characters and a wild and intense story, matched only by the emotions it will generate within you. Readers will love this book and eagerly await the next adventure. Fantastic! A keeper.”
    4.5 Stars (out of 5)
    —Romantic Times Book Review Magazine

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    Blending Sex and Suspense

    Nancy J. Cohen

    How do you fit romance into a non-stop thriller? These genres are not mutually exclusive. Look at your movies for examples. Romancing the Stone with Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas, and The Librarian: Quest for the Spear with Noah Wyle and Sonya Walger are two of my favorites. What recent thrillers have you seen where a romantic relationship is involved? How did the film get this across to viewers?

    Here’s how to start with your own story: Give your characters internal and external conflicts to keep them apart. The external conflict is the disaster that will happen if the villain succeeds. The internal conflict is the reason why your protagonists hesitate to get involved in a relationship. Maybe the heroine was hurt by a former lover and is afraid of getting burned again. Or she has a fierce need for independence. Why? What happened in her past to produce this need? Maybe your hero doesn’t want a wife because his own parents went through a bitter divorce, and secretly he feels unworthy of being loved. Or maybe he feels that his dangerous lifestyle wouldn’t suit a family. Keep asking questions to deepen your people’s motivations.

    Your characters will be immediately attracted to each other through physical chemistry. This pulls them together while the inner conflicts tear them apart. Soon the benefits of a relationship begin to outweigh the risks. Perhaps they have to work together to rescue a hostage or to escape the bad guys. As the story progresses, they become emotionally closer as they progress through the stages of intimacy. In a thriller, this might happen at a faster pace than other genres. But even thrillers need down times from the tension.

    Here’s an abbreviated version of the stages of intimacy:

    1. Physical awareness: Your characters notice each other with heightened sensitivity.
    2. Intrusion of thoughts: Your character begins thinking about this other person often.
    3. Touching: First, it may be an arm around the shoulder, lifting a chin, touching an elbow. They come closer until the desire to kiss is almost palpable. Rising sexual tension is the key here, not so much the consummate act. Your couple can have a stolen moment when they’re being chased by the villain and are forced into close proximity, for example. Even if it’s a momentary diversion, you’re advancing the level of awareness.
    4. Kissing
    5. Touching in more intimate places
    6. Coupling: Focus on the emotional reactions of your characters. Avoid clinical terms or use them sparingly. This is lovemaking, not just sex. For it to be romantic, think “slow seduction”, not “slam bam, thank you ma’am”, unless the scene or characters warrant this behavior. If a sex scene doesn’t fit into the story’s pacing, leave it out. Or maybe all they have time for is a quickie. In that case, let’s see the emotional aftermath. Maybe the hero acts out his concern for the heroine’s safety after they’ve been together.

    When all seems to be going well, throw a wrench into the relationship. Perhaps it appears as though the heroine betrayed the hero. Or he walks out on her because he fears his own vulnerability. Finally, they both change and compromise to resolve their differences by the story’s end.

    Keep in mind that I’m writing this advice from a female viewpoint. Also, I write romance in addition to mysteries, so I have the mindset for that genre.

    I used to read spy stories and men’s adventure in my younger days. Those were guy novels with a woman of the week. None of those relationships were meant to last. I suppose this is what makes the difference. If you don’t care about your two characters ending up together, then the woman may merely serve as a sex object. And that might not endear you to your female readers (who happen to buy more books than men).

    As for series, people read ongoing series for the characters and want to see them grow and change. Giving us relationships we care about is what will encourarge readers to buy your next book. So think about your purpose before going into the story. Where do you want these two people to go? Why can’t they get there? What do they have to overcome in order to be together? And if they don’t end up as a couple, then what purpose does their relationship serve?

    Here’s an example from Warrior Rogue, my next release. The hero and heroine have just met when they’re involved in a mid-air terrorist attack aboard their private business jet. This is from the heroine’s viewpoint. They’ve landed on a beach on a remote Pacific island.

    “Come on, we can’t waste time.” Paz signaled to her from the open hatchway.

    She staggered toward him. Peering outside, she was glad to note they didn’t need the emergency chute. They could easily jump the short distance to the ground. Holding her long skirt, she leaped after Paz onto the beach.

    He caught her in his muscular arms and gently eased her down. His tousled hair, determined jaw, and ocean blue eyes had never looked better.

    “Thank you. You saved our lives.” On impulse, Jen rose on her tiptoes and kissed him.

    She’d only meant it to be a brief expression of gratitude, but Paz’s gaze intensified. He swept her into his arms and gave her a passionate kiss that left her breathless.

    “We’re safe now.” He broke away with a regretful expression. “At least, for the moment. But we shouldn’t linger.”

    “For the moment? What does that mean?” The memory of those ugly men who’d attacked them returned with full force. “You know who assaulted us, don’t you? When are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

    “Let’s summon help first. I need to put my comm unit back together. If we can hook it into a local network, you can call your people.”

    “I have my cell phone.” She patted her purse.

    His hand clamped onto her arm. “We should scout around. Our landing probably attracted attention, and we don’t want the wrong people to find us.”

    Note how their level of intimacy advances in this short scene. If you’re writing from the male viewpoint, when Paz catches Jen, he could get a whiff of her scent.

    So how do you work romance into your fast-paced thriller?

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    The Male Perspective

    I’m hosting a panel at an upcoming conference on Romantic Elements in F&SF: The Male Perspective. What does this mean? The conference coordinator has in mind a talk on how men and women each approach romantic male characters.

    I can tell you my response as a woman writer. In romance fiction, we use two viewpoints, male and female. We are aware that males think differently than females but we also want our romance heroes to be sensitive guys. So while he may start out noticing the heroine’s physical attributes, he also has to be attracted to her on a deeper level.

    Since men aren’t always as well connected with their emotions as women, he won’t recognize this deeper attraction yet. And even when he does acknowledge his feelings for her, he may not be able to speak them aloud.

    As a romance hero, there has to be an inner torment or conflict that keeps him from making a commitment. He has to come to some revelation and change his attitude by the end of the book. The female lead goes through her own emotional journey. Whether the setting is in outer space, a futuristic time period, modern day, or the past, these defining characteristics remain as genre conventions.

    From the male writer’s viewpoint, how does your hero behave toward an attractive woman? Do you bring his emotional responses into play or does he just focus on how he’s hot to get her into his bed?

    Love scenes, in both hero and heroine’s viewpoints, are written by female writers (excluding the erotica genre) more on an emotional level than a clinical act. Here’s where I expect a divergence from the male writer. Is your focus different? How about the aftermath of sex? Does your hero reflect on what it meant to him or does he jump into the next action scene?

    Does gender as well as genre make a difference? For example, in thrillers and perhaps also urban fantasy, the characters have less time to reflect on emotional issues. How does the writer deal with the action hero’s romantic relationship in this case?

    Do you feel a female writer has a different sensibility when writing male characters than a man?
    Does your hero have a romantic relationship with anyone in particular?
    Do his views regarding the female protagonist change through the story or the series?
    How do you approach sex scenes: open or closed doors?
    Is your hero an Alpha type (strong and stoic) or a Beta hero (sensitive, in touch with his feelings), or a bit of both?

    How do you approach the male viewpoint in a romantic relationship?

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    REAL LIFE AND FICTION: On-Site Research at Its Best

    By Kathleen Pickeringhttp://www.kathleenpickering.com/

    For this author, conducting on-site research on a work of fiction to hone the story into a living, breathing event is one of the most exciting aspects of writing.

    Now, I know this isn’t always possible for a writer, but when it is, oh, I don’t know, can you say, tax write-off? It is a lucky day when one can take a trip for his/her profession and find business is a pleasure.

    EOL_SMFor example, when I wrote ECHOES OF LOVE, a paranormal romance hopping from Manhattan to London, I just had to fly to England. After all, the last thing I wanted was for a local Brit to let me know my facts were wrong. Major story killer!

    I wrote a pick-pocket scene when my character, Melissa, stepped off the curb in Hastings. Now, you or I would have thought stepping from a curb would be a normal, every day event. However, the curbs on the main street in Hastings are a foot high! Melissa would have fallen, not stepped. Had I not been there to discover this little fact, I could have hurt my character and my credibility!

    Also, how was I to sneak Melissa past the closed oak doors and rock walls of Battle Abbey to crash a concert in the dead of night, if I had not done so myself? (Oops! Did I say that?)
    Battle abbeyTruth be told, I did sneak in! I and a cohort (Jane had no idea I was getting her into mischief!) found a path leading through the woods to the high cliff behind the Abbey. This cliff overlooked the valley where the Battle of Hastings was fought. And to my surprise, not only did I discover a real-life gypsy wagon camped in the valley (which I promptly used in the story) but, I found the rear of the Abbey un-walled and easily penetrable. All of this worked beautifully into Melissa’s adventure.

    On another occasion, my husband, some friends and I took a trip to the Bahamas which resulted in the contemporary romance I just sold to Harlequin (WHERE IT BEGAN – Jan. 2012). Nice familySailing the waters, snorkeling the reefs and meeting a strange and unsavory local resident helped craft the book. The story ideas just kept coming!

    My craving for facts sent me to San Francisco for MYTHOLOGICAL SAM-THE CALL, then brought me to New York City last September and just recently under the guise of attending Thriller Fest—oh, wait, I did attend for a day! Cruising The Big Apple, I found places, artifacts and images such as these to weave into the second book in progress in the Mythological Sam series, THE SHIFT. I’m not even going to tell you (yet) how I’m using these photos!

    subway platformshadow man1McSorleys newstransformerstalker

    JOHN MCSORLEYsnakewoman

    102.86crowds[1]church

    Ahh. The joy of writing and research all wrapped up in real life. So, tell me. I know you can’t go kill someone, really. (Murderer-celebrities excluded.) What works best for you when researching your novels?

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    Romance of the Grand Canyon

    by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

    Still on the road and up to the start of week three of my family’s two month national park odyssey. We’re camping at the north rim of the Grand Canyon and I am hoping, as I had to schedule this blog post ahead of time, that the romance of the view remains (though with kids in tow the prospect of romance is always pretty remote!) I have only ever been to the south rim so it is an exciting prospect to be on the less travelled side of the park, although I am still concerned about how I can ensure neither one of my children actually fall into the canyon (at 5 they are daredevils…) But my question for today is all about romance…what in your view is the best kiss in crime fiction?

    For me the answer is easy, Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane in Gaudy Night, not because it is particularly passionate but because the lead up to it was so terrific (the Latin that Dorothy L. Sayers throws in is annoying but I forgive her the pretension). I love having the tension build across books and to reach a satisfying ending, such as that in the Wimsey series. Many other series find that the kiss spells disaster as sexual tension fizzles from then on.

    So what is your vote for the best kiss in crime fiction??

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    The Thrill of Sex with Cordite in the Air

    James Scott Bell

    If you read Kathryn’s post earlier in the week, you know that an uptick on hits to this blog can been traced to past posts about sex scenes, cordite smell and thriller writing.

    So I have shamelessly put all three in the title, and thank you very much for stopping by.

    Now, to make this relevant and not “bait and switch” (perhaps another popular topic?) I offer you the following three opinions:

    Sex

    I realize there are certain types of lit where the “obligatory sex scene” (OSS) is expected. Erotica, some category romance, Barry Eisler books. But people know what they’re getting.

    In other fare, the OSS is a bit 1975. Back then it seemed every movie had to have that sex scene, whether it made plot sense or not (e.g., Three Days of the Condor).

    I’m against obligatory anything. If it doesn’t make story sense, don’t include it.

    As far as explicit description, that may be showing its age, too. Renditions of body parts, ebbing, flowing, heaving, oceans, rivers, volcanoes, tigers, flames, conflagrations, arching backs, majestic canyons, verdant meadows of ecstasy, dewy vales of enchantment, flying and falling, flora and fauna and just about anything else involving motion, loss of breath, water metaphors and sweat seem, well, spent (oops, there’s another one).

    You know what works better? The reader’s imagination. If you “close the door” but engage the imagination, it’s often more effective than what you describe in words. Rhett carrying Scarlett up the stairs—do you need words to know exactly what happens?

    One of the best sex scenes ever written is in Madame Bovary, the carriage ride with Emma and Leon (Part 3, Chapter 1 if you’re interested). All the description is from the driver’s POV, who cannot see into the carriage. Read it and see if you can do better with body parts and a thesaurus.

    Now, I do appreciate well written sexual tension. That’s a major theme in great fiction, especially noir and crime. So were the great 40’s novels and films any less potent for not showing us what we know went on in the bedroom?

    Smell

    This is an underused sense in fiction, but quite powerful. Novelists are usually pretty good with sight and sound. But smell adds an extra something.

    Rebecca McClanahan, in her fine book Word Painting, says, “Of the five senses, smell is the one with the best memory.” It can create a mood quickly, vividly. Stephen King is a master at the use of smell to do “double duty” – that is, it describes and adds something to the story, be it tone or characterization.

    In his story “All That You Love Will Be Carried Away,” King has a middle aged salesman checking into yet another budget motel. His room, of course, has a certain look and smell, “the mingling of some harsh cleaning fluid and mildew on the shower curtain.”

    It is truly a smell that describes this guy’s life.

    Use smell properly in your fiction and it won’t stink.

    Thrills

    For the writers here at Kill Zone, it’s all supposed to add up to thrills. We have various techniques at our disposal for this, but we also know that clunky writing can pull you right out of our stories.

    Like this recent movie I watched. I’m not going to name it, because I don’t like to run down the other fella’s product. Here’s what happened. A brilliant detective is playing cat and mouse with a couple of killers who love the game. In the climactic scene, said detective has figured it out, and shows up at a remote location, gun drawn, telling the two killers to hold it! One killer has a gun, the other watches. Detective tells the one with the gun, who is on the brink of shooting someone, to put the gun down and walk over. So killer follows directions and puts the gun down . . . right where killer #2 can easily grab it!

    Which he does. Not a cool move for the brilliant detective. But it was put in there so the rest of the scene could play out in thrilling fashion.

    Only the thrill was gone, because the detective was so dumb.

    And so we labor, day after day, to write our books in a way that will thrill you and bring you into the action, without doing something dumb. We try. And when you tell us you like what we’ve done, via email or otherwise, it makes our day.

    Sex. Smell. Thrills. How have you seen them used or abused in fiction?

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