Sunday, July 5, 2015

Thrillers: Why I write them

by John L. DeBoer
Author of Skeleton Run

Thrillers are what I most like to read, so naturally it was the genre I chose when I first started writing novels. They come in all shapes and sizes: legal, medical, psychological, political, crime, tales of revenge, war, even science fiction. I’ve written books containing all of those themes. As the classification implies, these stories aim to thrill the reader through action, suspense, and unexpected twists and turns.

What appeals to me in the genre is the ability to get into the heads, and show the actions of, both sides of the story’s main conflict. This is not possible, for the most part, in a true mystery, another genre I do read and enjoy. In a thriller, unlike the typical mystery, the bad guy is known, or at least suspected – sometimes wrongly! – and the plot revolves around how the protagonist will deal with that threat. For me, this increases suspense, rather than blunting it, as the reader can see what the two forces are up to while neither one knows what the other is doing. Nelson DeMille, one of my favorite authors, does this so well in his last few books with his John Corey character combating terrorists.

A blurring of these definitions occurs, of course, quite often. There are thrillers that are also mysteries – Lee Childs’ Jack Reacher stories and Harlan Coben’s books are good examples. Fun reads all, but to me, I’d rather not wait until the end of the book for the explanation of what had gone on in the previous 400 pages! Because so often this is a letdown. I usually have some element of mystery in my novels, but I prefer the end of the story to be the dramatic and exciting resolution of the conflict, not just an answer to the question that has been bugging the protagonist – and the reader – the entire book.


Twenty years ago, four teenage boys left a baby behind in a crushed car after they caused the tragic accident that took the mother’s life. Ever since, they’ve guarded the secret that would’ve ruined their lives and destroyed their future careers. But when one of them succumbs to illness, a blackmailer makes contact, and the survivors realize that, somehow, someone else knows. Now, everything that matters to them is at stake.

Las Vegas billionaire Wendell Logan is pursuing the role of political kingmaker, and he’s selected his unsuspecting king: Alan Granger, governor of Pennsylvania. Granger confesses his closet skeleton to Logan, but the tycoon has invested too much time and money into Granger’s future presidential campaign to let him and his old friends endanger Logan’s power play.
It’s time to run.

Find it online


After graduating from the University of Vermont College of Medicine, John L. DeBoer, M.D., F.A.C.S. completed his surgical training in the U.S. Army and then spent three years in the Medical Corps as a general surgeon. Thirty years of private practice later, he retired to begin a new career as a writer.

When not creating new plot lines for his novels, Dr. DeBoer pursues his interests in cooking, the cinema, and the amazing cosmos. He’s an avid tennis player, and his yet-to-be-fulfilled goal is to achieve a level of mediocrity in the frustrating game of golf.

The father of two grown sons, he lives with his wife in North Carolina.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

That moment when you realize you should've started in Chapter 15

Yeah, yeah, my bookshelf's a mess...
They say that in order to be a writer, you've got to be a reader. That's true for a number of reasons, one of which is that only through reading can you see what works in storytelling. Of course, what works for one person may not work for another, but at least you should be writing something that works for you. Because if you wouldn't read it yourself, why would anyone else? Sounds like such a simple concept, but I think a lot of writers, when starting out, lose sight of that. I know I did.

I must confess, I don't keep track of what I've written here before, so it's possible this post is something of a repeat (I also have the worst memory, which doesn't help). But it's a topic that's been on my mind again recently, and it's one that holds true across time, so I don't mind talking about it again.

Here's the thing: contemporary genre readers are impatient. I can't speak for literary fiction because most of my time is spent consuming fluff, so maybe the rules are different there, but I'm pretty sure even those who enjoy slower pacing want to know right away what the book's all about. Which often means starting at someplace not the beginning.

What is a beginning anyway? The answer is complicated. Often, what you see on Page One is not the actual beginning of the story. Take Harry Potter for instance. The first thing we see is Baby Harry, orphaned by a dark wizard, being dropped off at his aunt's. But you could argue that the story itself began long before that, with Voldemort's initial rise to power and the battle that ensued. Instead of spending pages and pages explaining the lead-up though, J.K. Rowling drops us right into Harry's tale, then skips over the part about him growing up and goes straight into magic invading his humdrum life. Because that's what we, the readers, want to see.
I don't actually write with a pen, but it was prettier than a laptop

I was recently beta-reading a book that had some lovely background chapters at the beginning, talking about the protagonist's boring life. But though the words were very well written, the whole time I was wondering, "So what?" Some backstory upfront is necessary, but much can be sprinkled along as they become relevant.

I made the mistake of starting too early back when I was writing Synthetic Illusions, which may also explain why it took me so many tries to get it right. I knew what I wanted to happen and developed an outline based on that. Then, I wrote the first 30,000 words. But it was a struggle, a pain, and I kept procrastinating. Eventually, I realized that the reason I couldn't move forward with writing was because I would have hated to read the book I was creating. So I reworked the plot, outlined it in order, and tried again. Another 30,000 words later, each of which was beaten out of my unwilling fingers by sheer stubbornness, I stopped again. This time, I liked the plot, but still hated reading it. It took me a while to realize it was because things were just going too slowly for my impatient brain. Everything was building and building and building, but the actual exciting stuff wasn't to start until later. Much, much later. As in, Chapter 15 of what I'd plotted.

Well, damn. Had to start over again. But this time, I actually liked what I was writing. I was excited about what was happening, and I got to the fun parts (well, fun for me – not so much for the characters) right away. As for the stuff that happened in the first 15 chapters? Some was told through flashbacks when they became relevant. Some was mentioned offhand because while the facts were needed, the details were not. And some would have been transition stuff anyway and so it just got scrapped. Basically, I took the highlights reel of the backstory and sprinkled it into the main story.

I love how Synthetic Illusions turned out, but it wasn't easy admitting that I had to scrap a whole novel's worth of words to get there. Sometimes, it's tempting to just press on and press on, refusing to believe there's something fundamentally wrong with your book. But the only way to improve is to admit when things aren't working, even though that means a lot of extra work.

Well, it got written.
I wish I could say that I learned my lesson from Synthetic Illusions and knew better than to start with too much background again, but alas, it's not true. It happened again when I was drafting Windborn (currently under contract with Glass House Press), though at least this time, I realized I should have started in Chapter 3. Bit better than Chapter 15. And only had to scrap 10,000 words. Small victories!

One of the hardest things about being a writer is disconnecting yourself from your book baby and reading it as you would read anything else. But if you can, your gut reaction is always right. If you feel like it's starting too slowly, then it's starting too slowly. If you hate the protagonist, then there's something wrong with the protagonist (this happened to me as well). Because in order for readers to believe in your book, you have to believe in it too.

Even if it means starting over, again and again, in order to get there.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Accuracy versus Readability

Accuracy versus Readability

Author of Havoc Rising

When I began to write, one of the things I felt I needed to do was write combat scenes as realistic as possible. I’m not saying I wanted to write a forty-five second close quarter combat scene the same way Tom Clancy does—as a painfully detailed 10-page sequence. I just wanted to convey the fact that most CQBs, and indeed most combat situations, resolve themselves very quickly in real life and that was how I wanted to portray them. In fact, most real-life gun battles are over so quickly and often so lopsided that they would make horrible fodder for film let alone books.

When I began to write the combat sequences for Havoc Rising, I tried to describe them as authentically as I could, running through the sequence of events in my head and on paper. What I discovered is that a straightforward description of the event is actually boring--even if it’s a harrowing thirty seconds—and there’s most always too much jargon to make the text read easily. The flow gets totally bogged down. Then there’s the whole issue with a quick and dirty battle being uninteresting and, apparently, unbelievable. Thanks Hollywood. I was told I needed to be meaner to my hero and put him in more dire situations. My first reaction to that statement was bewilderment. Any close quarter combat situation is going to be dire. In fact, the longer it draws out, the more likely it will end badly for the attacking party. But I understood what was being said. Real life is one thing, but fiction, particularly Urban Fantasy, is something entirely different. After all, my hero is a 3200 year old warlord from the Trojan War, so what’s the big deal with authentic accuracy?

The other thing I learned is that accurately writing things like communications via com-links REALLY slows things down. The actual sequence of communications between operators on a team is often highly redundant and flush with jargon. I had to cut my dialog greatly to keep things moving in these situations. Again, I had to sacrifice accuracy for the sake of readability. It completely makes sense though and I now know why most writers who include such things in their books write them they way they do.

So for those readers out there who are as anal as I am, please forgive me. Trust me when I tell you that writing things exactly as they happen often is more detrimental than the accuracy is beneficial. In the end, the story needs to read well or all the exact descriptions in the world won’t save it. So when you read Havoc Rising, just remember that everything is written as accurately as I could make it while still moving things along at a good pace. It’s a sacrifice I am willing to make and hopefully you’ll agree.

Title: Havoc Rising
Author: Brian S. Leon
Publication Date: June 2015
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Eternal life. Eternal battle.
Steve—Diomedes Tydides to his Trojan War buddies—just had a bad day on his charter fishing boat in San Diego, but when the goddess Athena calls on her faithful warrior for another secret mission, he’s ready. The bomb that exploded inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art isn’t the crime American authorities think it is. Someone also stole the Cup of Jamshid, and Diomedes knows its fortune-telling abilities won’t be used for anything benign.
Though Diomedes recovers the Cup from a determined shaman holed up beneath Central Park, when he finds his allies slain and the Cup taken once more, he knows he’s up against a truly powerful enemy. Over a millennium has passed since Diomedes last contended with Medea of Colchis, deranged wife of Jason the Argonaut, but neither her madness nor her devotion to Hecate, goddess of witchcraft, has waned, and she intends to use the Cup of Jamshid to release across the world a dark brand of chaos unseen in human history.
Immortal since the Trojan War, Diomedes must once again fight for mortals he understands less and less, against a divine evil he may never truly defeat.

Brian S. Leon is truly a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. He began writing in order to do something with all the useless degrees, knowledge and skills--most of which have no practical application in civilized society--he accumulated over the years.
His varied interests include, most notably, mythology of all kinds and fishing, and he has spent time in jungles and museums all over the world studying and oceans and seas across the globe chasing fish, sometimes even catching them. He has also spent time in various locations around the world doing other things that may or may not have ever happened.
Inspired by stories of classical masters like Homer and Jules Verne, as well as modern writers like J.R.R. Tolkien, David Morrell and Jim Butcher, combined with an inordinate amount of free time, Mr. Leon finally decided to come up with tales of his own.
Brian currently resides in San Diego, California.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

COVER REVEAL: Blood in the Water / Tash McAdam

Look everyone! Tash McAdam has a brand new novella coming out! I'm lucky enough to have an advance copy in my paws... review coming soon! Meanwhile, here's the cover:

There have always been warps—tears between realities—and they’ve always been a threat to humanity. Most people are blind to them. But Hallie’s eyes are opening. Now that she’s going to school at the Protectorate, she’s learning there’s more to life than fun and games.

The truth is, she’s just become part of Earth’s only shield against the monsters of the warps. Before, she didn’t think she was anything special. Now, yanked from her relatively normal life, she realizes that she doesn’t have a choice.

When the emergency alarm sounds, calling everyone in the school to arms, even the young and inexperienced are needed. As one of the warp weavers—capable of closing the warps and stopping the monsters—Hallie must now work to save lives. And she must do it in the most complicated situation she’s ever experienced. Because there are sea serpents in the Thames, and Hallie has to close the doors that are letting them in.

The problem is, they’re underwater, and they’re hungry.

Now everyone is relying on her, and Hallie must find a way to do her job—with a brand new partner—before it’s too late. Because if she fails she’ll die, along with everyone who’s depending on her.

Don't miss this prequel to Tash McAdam's new series, Warp Weavers, coming in 2016.


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Monday, June 22, 2015

Casting Choices

Casting Choices

Author of The Dragonkin Trilogy

A while back, author Mary Fan introduced me to one of the best possible uses for a writer’s time: speculating on who should play your book characters in a TV or film adaptation. This seems at first like a lighthearted pastime, the creative equivalent of junk food, but for me, it very quickly turned into something else. After all, these are my characters! They’re part of me. They matter. They can’t be played by just anybody, right?
            Well, I had a hard time selecting my dream-choices for some of the roles (Rowen Locke, for example) but others came to me almost immediately. I’d absolutely love to see Ron Perlman play Fadarah. And I’d pay a small fortune to see Steve Buscemi play the Nightmare, or Patrick Stewart or Lance Henriksen play El’rash’lin. But literally the first choice that I thought of was Elizabeth Olsen for Silwren.
            Silwren is a complex character—quiet, but roiling with inner turmoil—and if you’ve ever seen Martha Marcy May Marlene, you know that Elizabeth Olsen is one of those actresses who can speak volumes just by sitting there. Watching her, one gets the feeling that at any moment, she might burst into tears, laughter, or flames.
And that’s how Silwren is. It’s already well-established from Wytchfire that when Silwren loses her cool, people die. A lot of people. So her existence and sanity, plus the survival of her friends, depends on her maintaining rigid self-control that usually manifests as inaction. Then again, Silwren understands that eventually, that same kind of inaction will prove just as fatal—to her, to everyone.

So, yeah. If anybody has Elizabeth Olsen’s number, let me know.    

Title: Wytchfire (Bk 1)
Series: Dragonkin Trilogy
Author: Michael Meyerhofer
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Publication Date: April 28, 2014
Genre: High Fantasy

In a land haunted by the legacy of dead dragons, Rowen Locke has been many things: orphan, gravedigger,
mercenary. All he ever wanted was to become a Knight of Crane and wield a kingsteel sword against the kind of grown horrors his childhood knows all too well. But that dream crumbled—replaced by a new nightmare.
War is overrunning the realms, an unprecedented duel of desire and revenge, steel and sorcery. And for one disgraced man who would be a knight, in a world where no one is blameless, the time has come to decide which side he’s on.

Title: Knightswrath (Bk 2)
Series: Dragonkin Trilogy
Author: Michael Meyerhofer
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Genre: High Fantasy

Rowen Locke has achieved his dream of becoming a Knight of the Crane, and he now bears Knightswrath, the midnight duel that teaches Rowen a dangerous lesson and leaves him with a new companion of uncertain loyalties.

legendary sword of Fâyu Jinn. But the land remains torn, and though Rowen suffers doubts, he would see it healed. His knightly order is not what it seems, though, and allies remain thin. When Rowen and his friends seek an alliance with the forest-dwelling Sylvs, a tangle of events results in a 

The sadistic Dhargots still threaten the kingdoms, but another menace lurks in the shadows, playing a game none can see. As Rowen struggles to prove his worth—to his allies and to himself—chaos raises its hand to strike. A price must be paid, and not even the wielder of Knightswrath will remain untouched.

Michael Meyerhofer grew up in Iowa where he learned to cope with the unbridled excitement of the Midwest byStar Trek, weight lifting, and collecting medieval weapons. He is also addicted to caffeine and the History Channel.
reading books and not getting his hopes up. Probably due to his father’s influence, he developed a fondness for 
His fourth poetry book, What To Do If You’re Buried Alive, was recently published by Split Lip Press. He also serves as the Poetry Editor of Atticus Review. His poetry and prose have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Brevity, Ploughshares, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Rattle, and many other journals. He and his fiancee currently live in Fresno, California, in a little house beside a very large cactus.

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