Friday, November 21, 2008

Christmas Gifts that Last

When I was a child, there was nothing that would please me more than a new book. It didn't have to be expensive. Paperbacks were fine. The treasure was between the covers--that delicious transportation to a different time and place, a chance to try on someone else's life for a bit, to experience things I'd be too afraid to try for real. If I enjoyed the story, I'd read it again in quick succession, just for the joy of it.

So now that there's a recession on and money is tight, why wouldn' t I decide to give books as gifts? If you take the time to match the book to the recipient, it speaks volumes (pun intended) about how much the person means to you.

Forget the pricey gadgets. Leave the goofy holiday sweaters on the hangers where they belong. Give someone the gift of a whole world for under $10.

You just can't beat that.

Check out my DG's Picks page for books I've enjoyed.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Placing a Chase Scene

Chase scenes are a staple of fiction. Bad guys chasing the good guys. Good guys trying to catch the bad guys. You can count on at least one chase scene in any adventure flick. In an Indiana Jones movie, you'll lose count of them. But in writing HUSH, my first suspense novel, I wasn't going just for the thrill of the chase.
I was shooting for terror.
My hearing-impaired heroine, Megan, is caught in a game of cat-and-mouse with a killer who planned to shove her in front of a subway train. She flees from one train to the next, through the underground of Boston, shoving her way through flocks of people who are oblivious to the wolf in their midst.
Read the start of the chase from Sam Carbone, the assassin's point of view.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Frankenstein's monster--How to Love your Villain

For my first suspense novel, HUSH, I created a seriously creepy villain. A hero is only as strong as his adversary, so I wanted to give my story a villain so diabolical, he was a match for two heroes!

Meet Sam Carbone. Sam is, like Adolf Hitler, a frustrated artist. A superb draftsman, his reproductions of old master works are nearly impossible to tell from the originals. But that's just the trouble. Sam is incapable of being original himself.

Except in the experimental medium of murder. When it comes to the delicate art of the engineered accident, Sam is Picasso, Rembrandt and Monet all rolled into one. He's inventive, meticulous, and utterly without pity.

In the opening of HUSH, Sam's is the first head the story unfolds in. Like Alfred Hitchcock, who sometimes forces his audience into the killer's POV, I wanted my readers to know Sam from the beginning. You see, in Sam's own story, he is the tortured hero. He is motivated by his goal just as strongly as any protagonist. Unfortunately, his goal of being recognized as a serious artist is not going to be realized. Especially since the models for his work are all dead, dead, dead.

If only the New England Institute of Art had recognized his talent . . . The world might have had one more mediocre artist, but it would also have had one less serial killer.

For a peek inside the mind of a psychopathic assassin, visit . Sam will be glad to see you.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Redeeming a Cheating Spouse

In HUSH, my heroine, Megan, divorced her husband, Jake, after he confessed to cheating on her. He was her first serious boyfriend, the man by which she measures all others, and when the story opens, she is still plagued with feelings for him. She wishes there was a toggle switch in her heart so she could turn off her emotions.

When I was putting HUSH together, I wondered what to do with Jake. Should I make him a total jerk who just couldn't keep his pants zipped? Should he be a basically good guy who made a mistake? What kind of character arc can a cheater have? Cheating shows him to be weak. Can he find strength by the end of the story?

The primary question in my mind was whether or not he should be "redeemed." By that I mean, could he become a sympathetic character that readers identify with and even root for? What must he do to win Megan's forgiveness? Could he win her love again?

A marriage falters in the kitchen before it fails in the bedroom. What sort of garbage did both Meg and Jacob bring to their marriage? These were all questions I grappled with while I wrote HUSH.

Infidelity is an issue which effects many relationships. It rouses a visceral response because betrayal at such an intimate level rocks everything. What do you think? Is it possible for the unfaithful character to come back and wear a hero's mask?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Playing Politics for Keeps

Politics are supposed to be about making a government that works to fulfill the promises of our constitution. But too often, it's about personal power.

In my novel HUSH, the new electronic voting machines system has been compromised and an election is about to be sold to the highest bidder. Sometimes, I wonder if it isn't more truth than fiction.

The security of the secret ballot is the bedrock of our political system. And I'm all for a high voter turn out. If you don't vote, don't complain.

But, I'm concerned about what's happening right now in Ohio. People are being allowed to register and cast their vote at the same time. There is no opportunity for the state to make certain these people have a right to vote. They may be students whose actual residency is in another state. They may be illegals or convicted felons. Political activists are rounding up homeless people and ferrying them to the polls. I'd be interested to know what sort of identification and proof of residency are being required. When I applied for my most recent library card, I had to produce a valid, state issued ID and proof of residency in the form of a lease or utility bill. Are these early voters asked to provide as much as I did in order to check out a book?

Call me a suspicious fiction writer, but this has potential voter fraud written all over it!

If you know more about the particulars of this program, I'd be interested to know what safeguards are in place to insure a free and fair election. Anybody know what's going on? All I can find on the news is the political spin and the results of the court challenge. I'd like to know about the nuts and bolts of the program.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Plucking Ideas from the Air

People always ask where the ideas for my fiction come from. My answer is "They're all around me." There are a hundred stories in every interaction, every chance meeting. The trick is to recognize the kernel of one that can be polished into a premise that will go the distance, an idea with the legs to propel me 400 pages.

The idea for HUSH came while I was, like my heroine Megan, stuck in traffic. In the side mirror of the car ahead of mine, I caught a glimpse of part of the driver's face. He was talking a blue streak and though I can't speechread like Megan, I wondered who he was talking to, what he was talking about. And because the heavy traffic had put me in a murderous frame of mind, my thoughts turned to killings-for-hire. I asked myself the writer's question--"What if ... ?" and the rest turned into HUSH.

My method of letting stories find me is not usual. I know some writers swear by brainstorming. Others use taro cards. Some start with character. Others are inspired by an object, by music, or news headlines. If you're a writer, where do you find your ideas?

Visit to learn more.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

HUSH . . . My first Middlesex Mystery

I'm a multi-published author in another genre under a different pen name, but HUSH is my first suspense. The craft of writing is the same, where ever the final product might be shelved in a bookstore, but writing suspense poses some unique challenges. How much to hold back, what clues to hide in plain sight, how much blood is too much . . . the trick is always to make a path in the prose, a series of literary bread crumbs that keep the reader turning pages and guessing what comes next along with the sleuth.

My sleuth in HUSH faces some unique challenges. For one thing, she's only got 60% of normal hearing with two hearing aids. Without them, her hearing is classified as profound loss. And she's only 26. Meningitis in her sophomore year of college nearly killed Megan Kelley, but she won't let her impairment stop her from achieving. She graduated from Boston College with honors. The only real casualty was her marriage to her high school sweetheart.

I first became interested in the challenges of the Deaf and hearing-impaired as a child. One of my friends had Deaf grandparents. My friend taught me to finger-spell. Then later as an adult, one of my close friends was an interpreter. I tried to learn some ASL, but was less successful with that than finger-spelling. ASL is a language all its own, not just English by hand.

My heroine Megan straddles two worlds--the hearing one she was born to and the Deaf one she still feels uncomfortable with. The tension between the two is a difficult tightrope to walk. Add in accidentally speechreading a murder-for-hire contract, and she's got a terrific balancing act.

Visit my website at to read more.