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Archive for February, 2012

author of provocative mysteries and thrillers

The next best thing to reading a great book is talking about it with your friends who’ve read it. That’s why book clubs are so popular and those discussions are so important to readers. I love these talks as much as the next reader, and I sometimes lead the activity for a mystery listserv I participate in. I also love to discuss my own books with groups who contact me, so I have some experience in asking and answering thought-provoking questions. I’ve even posted discussion questions on my website. I thought I’d share some of my insights on what makes for good book discussion questions.

Every novel has specific (and often conflicting) events and character actions that naturally seem ripe for discussion. Do you believe the mayor’s version of what happened to Jessie? Why or why not? And there’s nothing wrong with the standard questions that work for almost any novel. Did the setting enhance the plot or could the story have worked anywhere? What themes did the author weave into the story? Was the antagonist believable?

My favorite questions, though, go beyond specific settings or events:

Motivation. Any question that gets to the heart of a character’s motivation, especially to behave in a socially unacceptable way, will make for a lively discussion.  Jasmine shares privileged information with a reporter. Why Claire says she stole the painting to protect it, but what were her real reasons? I’ve discovered that readers bring their own experiences into a novel and often perceive things in characters that others don’t, even the author. It’s fascinating.

Fate. Questions that discuss the course of events and whether those events are inevitable generate strong reactions from readers. Did the young boy have to die in the end? Could the story have gone in another direction and still been effective?

Coincidence. Does the story rely on a major or minor coincidence? Was it believable and did it work for you? Was the story plausible overall?

Values/beliefs.  In what ways do the events and characters reveal the author’s values or world view? What is the author trying to say about this subject or theme? [Insert hot-button topic here: women, race, sexuality, discrimination.] Did the story make you question any of your own beliefs?

Some of the best book discussions are those in which readers disagree and perceive the story in different ways. Sometimes those talks can make you want to read the novel again and see what you missed.

Do you belong to a book club? What have been your favorite books or subjects to discuss?

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FREE 21-25 Feb

FREE 21-25 Feb

From today through Saturday, I have six free books available on Amazon.   A bit of something for just about everyone.  And a Nook First featured title.

For thriller lovers:  Lost Girls is one of my favorite books.  It’s based on the premise:  Who polices the world of covert operations.  Think about it.  If a Special Operator goes rogue, who’s going to capture him?  And then can you even put him on trial with all the secrets he knows?  Regular police would be no match even if they could track him down.  In Lost Girls, we meet Neeley, our favorite female assassin, from Bodyguard of Lies and Gant, as they try to find out who is kidnapping and killing young girls.  It turns out to be a Special Forces sniper team that was betrayed overseas and has come back to the States to wreak vengeance on the families of those that betrayed them.

For those of a more science thriller/science fiction bent, there is Atlantis: Gate.  What if the force that destroyed Atlantis came back to threaten our present world?  Last summer, the Atlantis series was the #2 bestselling series in Science Fiction, just behind Game of Thrones.  “Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice.” Thus Robert Frost warns the President of the United States at the beginning of Atlantis Gate, before departing on a classified mission on the first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus. In 480 BC, King Leonidas leads 300 Spartans to Thermopylae to try to delay the massive Persian Army. Known only to the King, they have an even more important mission: to escort and protect a powerful priestess to a mystical gate through which she can travel to help save the world. It’s a mission for which Leonidas will gladly sacrifice his own, and his men’s lives.  On the Nazca Plain in Chile, an old woman has been studying ancient lines in the ground for decades. Now she finally understands their terrifying message. In the present, tremors deep inside the Earth threaten all civilizations.

FREE 21-25 Feb

FREE 21-25 Feb

Eric Dane races against time to find the key to stopping this assault from the dark Shadow. He must reach across time to the Spartans and the priestess they escort to find the key to this defense. And in doing so, he must travel to the Space Between, the boundary between our world, and the world of the Shadow.

For writers and nonfiction fans, there is The Writer’s Conference Guide:  Getting the Most of your Time and Money. A writer’s conference is a large investment in time and money so it’s certainly worth spending a little of that time and money beforehand to maximize your investment. We cover strategies for:

• How to find and pick the best conferences to meet your needs.
• Tips on how to efficiently plan for the conference.
• How to select the workshops that will benefit you the most.
• How to socialize and mingle with those who can help your career.
• Pitching techniques and tactics so you’ll be prepared for the opportunity to discuss your book.
• Finally, we go over an After Action Review and Follow-up so every conference you attend is a great success.

For a mix of science and thriller, there’s The Green Berets: Synbat, where a government experiment to produce the next generation of soldiers goes horribly wrong.  Currently under option for the Syfy Channel.

FREE 21-25 Feb

FREE 21-25 Feb

Then another thriller:  Black Ops: The Omega Sanction, described as “Sizzling, first-rate war fiction.” By the Macon Beacon.

Last, but certainly not least, is my first indie release direct to digital, Chasing The Ghost One of my favorite protagonists I’ve written, Horace Chase has been chasing ghosts his entire life.
First, his Medal-of-Honor winner father who died in Vietnam without ever meeting his son. And left him the legacy of an automatic appointment to the Military Academy at West Point which shaped the next thirty-five years of Chase’s life. Then, the ghost of his mother, who died while he was at war in Afghanistan and wounded, causing him to resign his commission and return to the United States, a lost soul.

Chase now wears two hats as a Federal counter-terrorism liaison to the local police department in Boulder, Colorado where he becomes embroiled in two seemingly un-related cases. Working as a detective with Boulder PD he chases another death, this one the apparent rape/murder of Rachel Stevens, an upscale housewife attending night classes at the University of Colorado. And with his counter-terrorism team he is embroiled in a series of killings involving a militia group, a rogue ex-Special Forces officer, a psychopathic ex-CIA contract mercenary, and ruthless drug runners.

From the streets of Boulder, to the highest railroad tunnel in the world, to a swingers club hiding in plain site in suburbia, Afghanistan starts to look pretty good to Chase.

Feel free to download and enjoy the books–and if you do enjoy them, then perhaps pay back with a positive review!

And if you’re a Nook owner, check out Black Ops: Section 8 which is featured as an exclusive Nook First title.

All the best and Readers Rule.

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I’m heading off tomorrow to one of my favorite gigs – the San Diego edition of the Southern California Writers’ Conference.  I’m scheduled to conduct an in-depth presentation entitled: Writer Primer – Writer Responsibilities to the Reader and to lead several Read & Critique Workshops.  I’ll also meet privately for one-on-one Advance Submission sessions with aspiring writers whose work I’ve read and evaluated.  This conference, like many others, is devoted to the creative and business needs of aspiring writers.

Those of us who lead workshops are willing mentors to the next generation of writers.  I believe that the Directors of SCWC, Michael Stephen Gregory and Wes Albers, will forgive me if I reveal the fact that Workshop Leaders are not paid big bucks for sharing our experiences in the trenches of the writing/publishing world.

We participate at conferences, counsel students, and lead workshops for several reasons, among them a passion for our craft, the pleasure of finding the one or two or three golden nuggets of creative talent among the attendees, the chance to guide talented writers onto a path that will result in marketable books, and the opportunity to reconnect with our own peers in the writing community.  That last one probably doesn’t surprise you at all, since you realize that the life of the writer is a largely solitary one.

Given the length of my writing and editing career – 20 plus years – I’ve participated in countless writers’ conferences across the country.  I can accurately say that the two stand-outs for me are SCWC ( Southern California Writers’ Conference www.writersconference.com/ ) and SBWC ( Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference www.sbwritersconference.com/ ).  Both conferences allow me to share my experiences as a multi-published writer in both traditional print publishing and, more recently, in the digital publishing arena, as well as to utilize my skills as a veteran editor when critiquing student work.

And so, Readers, I want you to know that aspiring writers are in good hands as Workshop Leaders groom the next generation of writers – the same writers who are destined to entertain and delight you as they sweep you into the future, the distant past, or the here and now with their fiction, or inform you with their non-fiction.

I would like to close by offering my own sincere and heartfelt thank you to Readers You’ve been amazingly supportive of my romantic suspense books during the last several months – so supportive, in fact, that INTIMATE STRANGERS, FALLEN ANGEL, DESERT ROSE, MIDNIGHT STORM, and HEARTBREAKER have all occupied (simultaneously, no less!) the Bestseller Top 100 Romantic Suspense List at Amazon.UK for the previous two weeks, and those same books all spent two months this winter on that same Bestseller Top 100 Romantic Suspense List at Amazon.com in the U.S.   Color me extremely appreciative of readers.

I’m going strong on Facebook, Google+, and at Twitter (AuthorLTaylor) these days, so reach out and we’ll connect.  Meantime, READERS RULE!

Hugs all around, Laura

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Area 51 is in the middle of nowhere on the road to nowhere.  Nevada Route 375 which has officially been named Extraterrestrial Highway is road you take only if you want to drive by the fringe of Area 51 and stop in the Little Ale’Inn in Rachel, NV.

When my wife and I moved from South Carolina to Whidbey Island, WA almost five years ago, we went out of our way (well I did, over my wife’s protests) to drive up the road.  We got on it and saw not a single car for at least a half hour.  Then, and not making this up, we spotted a car coming the other way.  Right out of Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.  Same kind of old car and the people in it were dressed exactly right for the era with the top down.

Now that was weird.

And today (14th) through Thursday (16th) Area 51 Legend is FREE on Amazon.  In fact, I’m giving away a free book every week this year on Amazon.  I’ll update this site, but if you go to my Write It Forward blog, you’ll see not only my free books for the week, but our other authors, such as Mary Reed McCall’s title:  The Templar’s Seduction, which is free today and tomorrow.

Last year I spent a morning with a crew from the SyFy channel filming in Nevada.  I drove down from Whidbey Island—takes two days.  We linked up in Vegas and then drove out, at the unGodly hour of 4 am (reminded me of being in the Army when everything always started at oh-dark-thirty, especially airborne operations) to drive the 120 miles to Rachel, NV.  We stopped at the Little Ale’Inn.  Then I led them out to the main gate to Area 51.  We filmed for about an hour.  I was technically the ‘expert’ about Area 51 for the host of the show.  I’ve done shows before, Discovery Channel about Special Forces, etc, but this was interesting because we were filming in a place where you can’t film.  Big sign says so.  But also, we were on BLM land, not on Air Force aka National Security Agency land.  We could see their cameras filming us.  So I guess my license plate is in the database now.

And we didn’t run into a little grey, aka Paul, on the road.

The episode was about the Spear of Destiny and how it could have ended up at Area 51.  The crew had filmed all over the world, tracking it.  We had to film so early because the entire crew was flying to South America at 4 that afternoon.

I thought about it for the show, and I do have to say as former Special Forces, it would be a hell of a place to infiltrate successfully.  On the west you’ve got the Nevada Test Site where they detonated 739 nukes over the years.  I aint coming in from that direction. On the south, Yucca Mountain where they store nuclear waste.  Ditto.  And then the outer perimeter, which keeps getting expanded, is thoroughly covered by cameras, thermal, motion detectors, etc.  And it’s pretty much wide open desert.  No sneaking up.  No parachuting in, because the airspace is as highly classified as that over the White House.  And if you did get through outer perimeter, you still got dozens of miles to get to the actual facility, which has its own layers of guards and security.  So, all in all, when the host asked me where I would secure something very important, I had to say it was Area 51.

On the drive back, I passed Pilot Peak in northeast Nevada.  I have a scene in my book, Duty, Honor,  Country a Novel of West Point & the Civil War set at the base of that mountain.  It was pretty easy to see why the mountain was so important to early travelers.  John Fremont named the mountain after Kit Carson went there and lit a fire to guide him in when they needed water.  Both figures are in the book as I cover their 1845 expedition to California, where they ended up conquering California from the Mexicans.

One thing I love about being a writer is going to the places I write about to get the feel for them.  When I walked the entire Shiloh battlefield, I was amazed at how places that resonate in history such as The Hornet’s Nest or Bloody Pond, were just these simple spots that you wouldn’t give a second glance to, but on which so much blood was spilled.  Now that I’m back east in North Carolina, I will be revisiting a lot of Civil War locations for the second book in the Duty, Honor, Country series.  For the new series spinning off of Area 51:  Area 51: Nightstalkers, I think I’ve already spent enough time tempting the fates in Nevada.

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As a former ER doc, I’m often asked about life in the ER and how it’s different than the “normal” world.

One obvious difference is that for people who work in Emergency Rooms, holidays take on a whole different meaning than they do for the rest of the world.  Here’s a list of the five most dangerous days of the year to be in or around an ER.

Number 5: tie between Valentines Day and St. Patrick’s Day

Valentine’s Day has sloppy heart-broken drunks with suicidal ideations. St. Patrick’s Day has more sloppy drunks puking up green beer and seeing leprechauns.  Definite toss up (pun intended!)

Number 4: Christmas

Over the hills to grandma’s—often while driving drunk on icy roads; stomach viruses, influenza, and respiratory diseases all hitting at once; curious kiddies surrounded by poisonous mistletoe and poinsettias; traveling out-of-towners who forget their heart, diabetes, blood pressure, or anti-psychotic medications….need I say more?

Number 3: New Years

More drunk driving, more icy roads, coupled with kids waking up before their parents and overdosing on left-over booze, add in a plethora of stroke of midnight kisses turned into date-rapes, hang-overs, and football bets gone wrong.

Number 2: Thanksgiving

Sharp knives do not mix with a once a year family gathering!  Festering hostilities tend to surface, aided by liberal doses of wine and turkey.

Number 1: July 1st

Actually make that July 1st through the 4th.  You see, for teaching hospitals, our calendar starts on July 1st.  That’s when the new interns—yes, the bumbling fools who were mere medical students on June 30th—hit the hospitals and start taking care of patients.

Add to that the age-old American traditions of drinking yourself stupid and shooting off explosives and/or guns while celebrating Independence Day and you have a sure-fire recipe for disaster.

Is it any wonder that my medical suspense novel, LIFELINES, takes place from July 1 through July 4th?

I remember my own Transition Day.  Brand new, still not unpacked or moved in, barely finding the hospital parking lot (it was two blocks away in a gang-riddled, not-so-nice neighborhood) much less figuring out my way around the hospital and I’m suddenly on call, responsible for three floors worth of very sick kids!

No one died that night, not on my watch….for which I’ve forever been eternally grateful.  I don’t take credit for it—I think it was more likely because of the always-excellent nurses who were well aware of the dangers July 1st posed their tiny patients.

Anyone out there with a favorite holiday disasters?  I’d love to hear!

Thanks for reading,

CJ

Visit CJ's Website

About CJ:

As a pediatric ER doctor, New York Times Bestseller CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart.

CJ has been called a “master within the genre” (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as “breathtakingly fast-paced” and “riveting” (Publishers Weekly) with “characters with beating hearts and three dimensions” (Newsday).

Learn more about CJ’s Thrillers with Heart at www.cjlyons.net

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(Information on free eBooks at end of post!)

My first assignment after graduating the Special Forces Qualification Course was to the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) as a First Lieutenant.  I was one of the last officer executive officers on an A-Team (Now they are Warrant Officers).  Then I was chosen to command ODA 055 (Operational Detachment Alpha, which is where A-Team comes from).

We did a lot of really interesting stuff some of which I still can’t discuss.  There was a then classified program being run in 2d Battalion initially called, seriously, Jedi Warrior.  They changed the name to Trojan Warrior (the symbol for 10th Group is the Trojan Horse, not the condom).  My team got the distinct honor of being chosen to take all the evaluations for Trojan Warrior without getting any of the training (we were the standardization score to judge the teams taking the training).

The team in the program did things like blood-packing, biofeedback to control heart beat and body temperature, martial arts, meditation, and a lot of other interesting stuff.  When I was watching the movie: Men Who Stare at Goats, I was stunned at how much of that movie was real and from either the Trojan Warrior program or the First Earth Battalion which I was briefed on while a cadet at West Point.  I’ve always been attracted to strange things.

Then, when he was at the height of his career, which one can debate how high that was, Steven Seagal called me to ghost write a book for him about Operation Grill Flame.  This was the classified remote viewing unit run by the CIA.  We’d had some experience with Grill Flame in Lebanon and when General Dozier was kidnapped in Italy.  Anywho, Seagal claims to have been in the CIA and been affiliated with that program.

Whatever.

I’m a novelist.

Buy at Amazon

So I started doing more research.  I learned the Soviets had investigated paranormal activity extensively.  One theory is that they actually sunk the USS Thresher using remove viewers.  This became the opening scene of my book Psychic Warrior.  What I did was punch things forward, where the Trojan Warrior program was completed, and then a deeper program launched, where not only would Special Forces soldiers be able to remote view, they would be able to project avatars onto the virtual plane and then bring that avatar into the real world to conduct real missions.

Psychic Warrior is now available for the first time on all eBook platforms.  The follow on book, Psychic Warrior Project Aura will be released later this year.

Oddly enough, despite their training, my team scored as well, if not better, than the two teams that received the training.  I believe that was because I had a superb team sergeant who made us a truly cohesive team.  We implemented things that I teach in Who Dares Wins:  For example, when we went to Denmark to go through their Combat Swimmer School, during the morning runs, we’d put our two slowest runners at the front of the formation and no matter how much the Danish instructors taunted and challenged us, we never broke formation and always finished together.  In the same manner, my team sergeant taught us to clip together as buddy teams on a center line when we swam.  We always swam as a team.

Free on Amazon

Today, The Green Berets: Eternity Base (until Wednesday) Black Ops: The Line (until tomorrow) and Black Ops: The Gate (today only!) are free. Please, download the free copy and if you love it please take the time to write a review on Amazon. Reviews really do help out authors.

2012 is going to be an exciting year and we will be sending out newsletters to coincide with some of our FREE book offers, including later this month when 6 of Bob’s book will go free for five days.

Readers Rule!

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