This is the End: Episode 7 of The Accidental Author and the WESU Series

In this final episode: Loving your characters good and bad • Homage to Tom Clancy “The Master” • Plot line of The Devil’s Quota.

Next Time:
Join us next time as The Accidental Author delves deeper into the arts and craft, nuts and bolts and heart and soul of authoring a novel.
Up coming episodes will feature interviews with authors, publishers and others who will share valuable insights into what makes an author tick… and why!

Watch the whole series!

Episode 1 click here
Episode 2 click here
Episode 3 click here

Episode 4 click here
Episode 5 click here
Episode 6 click here

The Accidental Author – Episode Two

In the window above is the next installment of The Accidental Author, some real heartfelt confessions in this one plus an homage to one of the finest authors living today. If you missed episode one, click here.

The Thrill-ogy Of It All!

Untitled.jpgGood things come in threes: Three Dog Night, the Musketeers and Coins in Fountains. Three legs, as on a tripod, always find an even plane. So like coffee beans in the after dinner aperitif Sambuca, you always want three. Therefore, after I wrote my first book, The Eighth Day, of course the last thing I ever thought of was three.

Then The Hammer of God hit me – hard. The stars my second book created swirling around my head formed more than just one book’s worth of storyline. So I decided that two books were needed to flesh out the arc of the characters and the fulfillment of their goals.

If you are following along with your calculators or spreadsheets, then =Sum(1+2) yields 3. And thus my “Thrill-ogy” was born. “Three” + “Thriller” compacted neatly into a freshly minted term: thrillogy.

The third leg of my story tripod lands on solid ground June 17th with the publishing of The God Particle by The Story Plant. It encapsulates the maturity and development in my character’s lives plus the evolving threat matrix that continues to drum up scarier and scarier techno-nightmares.

From an author’s perspective, but not maybe a marketer’s, being able to move the lens around to investigate other characters and let them take it for a while is very attractive. The marketer would have it always be the same as my first. “Don’t change a winning formula” would be their advice.  Well, I “dood” it anyway.

In The God Particle, Brooke Burrell, my female FBI agent who had significant supporting roles in both previous books, takes the brunt of the action as she faces death and, worse, the question of what to do with the rest of her life, While the world hangs in the balance.

These were fun to write, and I hope my readers have fun reading all three. So don’t believe that old saw about, three’s a crowd; cram your bookshelf or Nook with my thrillogy and have three times the fun. Sorry, that got a little slogan-y.

Well, it’s off to an Italian dinner and dessert. I think tonight, instead of a Tartufo, I’ll have a Tar-three-fo.

 

Guest Blogger Ethan Cross on The Evil That Men Do

An Exploration into the Minds of Serial Killers

Serial killers are like aliens among us.  They think and act in ways that most of us cannot begin to comprehend, which in turn makes them fascinating.  When we turn on the news and see headlines describing the deeds of a serial killer, we immediately wonder “How could a human being do something like that?” and “What drove him over the edge?”  When trying to unravel these mysteries, investigators often look to the person’s past.  They search for an event or series of events that led this seemingly normal person to their ultimate fall from the realm of the socially acceptable into the world of the criminally insane.  But then, we wonder if there is more at work behind these actions than a traumatic childhood or series of bad experiences.  Was this person born broken?  Are they evil?  Most researchers accept that the deviant behavior of serial killers is a combination of many factors.  When questioned about nature vs nurture, one psychologist asked, “Which contributes more to the area of a rectangle, its length or its width?”  And yet, there is no simple answer, and some maintain that the circumstances into which a person is born determines their personality.

In my novels, The Shepherd and The Prophet, I touch upon the concept of nature vs nurture as I place the reader into the mind of a twisted psychopath named Francis Ackerman.  Ackerman’s father was a psychologist who wanted to prove that he could create a monster by subjecting his seemingly normal son to every known traumatic event that had occurred in the lives of modern day serial killers.  His thinking is obviously flawed because by trying to prove his theories, he establishes that there must be something broken within himself that he could have passed onto his son, giving credence to the very concept he set out to disprove.  While this is only a small piece in the grand tapestry of the novel, it’s still an important factor in understanding the twisted thoughts and character of a man like Ackerman.

In a study conducted by the FBI, researchers found that 74% of the killers surveyed experienced some type of abuse, whether physical or psychological, during their childhood.  43% reported that they experienced sexual abuse firsthand.  The abused child growing up to become a serial killer has become a cliche within our society, and yet there is a definite link between abuse at a young age and violent behavior later in life.  However, the fact remains that most people who were abused as a child don’t grow up to become Ted Bundy, and there are many killers that had a normal childhood.  So, while abuse and circumstance is definitely a factor, there must be more behind the madness.

We like to think that we are the masters of our own fate, but the truth is that much of who we are was determined before we spoke our first word or even took our first breath.  The intricate make-up of our genes had already laid out a certain path before us.  We can overcome this and change our fate, but that doesn’t negate the fact that certain barriers or advantages exist from the moment of our births.  A five-foot-four man can play professional basketball, but he has a much greater barrier than someone born to be seven-foot-one.  And beyond the physical characteristics, there are certain mannerisms and behaviors that we seem to inherit as well.  Since my daughter was a tiny baby, she has tucked her thumb into her palm and held it with the rest of her fingers.  The gesture seemed strange to me at first, until I realized that I do that constantly.  She obviously didn’t learn this behavior from me, and it’s fascinating to think that such a small action could be coded within her genetic sequence.  It stands to reason that a person could be born with an inherited pre-disposition to violent behavior, but is there even more than genetics and circumstance at work?

There are also certain religious or philosophical issues to consider.  Is there an evil or negative force at work in the universe beyond what we can see and easily quantify?  These factors are often dismissed by the psychiatric community, but since most of us believe in some sort of higher power, we can’t help but wonder at the existence of evil.  Although this is an area that is even more difficult to study and classify, I believe it’s where the true key to deviant behavior may be found.  I believe that all serial killers, regardless of varying circumstance and genetics, share one common trait.  They all harbor a darkness inside themselves, a darkness that shines through in their terrible deeds.  But the truly scary thing is that I believe we all carry this darkness or capacity for evil to some degree, and this is where genetics, knowledge, and the events of our pasts come into play.  These factors contribute to our ability to hold the darkness at bay.  We’ve all learned from a very young age how to manage our impulses.  Otherwise, we would allow that sudden animal instinct of anger or lust to elevate into rape or murder and our society would quickly crumble.

I’ve always found this concept of darkness and the questions that go along with it to be fascinating.  Can the worst killer overcome the darkness and find some form of redemption?  Can they learn to control the darkness despite the barriers working against them?  What happens to a good man who embraces the darkness with the best of intentions under a banner of righteousness?  It’s these concepts, along with others, that I explore within the pages of my novels.

ETHAN CROSS is the International Bestselling and Award-Winning Author of The Shepherd, The Cage, Callsign:Kinight, and his latest, The Prophet–a novel described by bestselling author Jon Land as “The best book of its kind since Thomas Harris retired Hannibal Lecter” while #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Lisa Gardner said, “The surprises are fast and furious and will leave you breathless to read more.”

My Internal War on Woman… Defending my inner female

In a discussion with a friend, I was relating an aversion I was having about pushing for an answer from a Hollywood Studio that is currently considering my third book, The God Particle, as a potential big budget blockbuster.

Now, truth be told, this whole adventure started much like the nine other phone calls that were going to change my life. In every prior case, I was fearless, I aggressively followed up, I dared to ask uncomfortable questions, to probe the true dynamic in play. With this drummed up courage and “damn the torpedoes” attitude I went full speed ahead, braced and buttressed against the disappointing news that eventually came. But the stinging barbs of “oooo so close” and “We love it but…” bounced off me like bullets off Superman.

But not this time! This time I am filled with apprehension. Dreading the phone, not wanting to tempt fate, or anger the Gods. It is a very uncomfortable place for me to be. But the question is why? Why this time, why this manuscript? (the others were mostly screenplays). At first I thought the answer to be self-evident… Age! As you get older you get… well, soft. You become tired of the bumps and bruises you never noticed before. But that didn’t quite fit. During this same time I have put my butt on the line for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of production and media time, by taking on projects with impossible goals and deadlines. I have relished the challenge. Never shrinking away but embracing the opportunity to perform beyond 100% and prove to myself that I can adapt, innovate and overcome any situation, in life and in business.

So why the timid, little boy, “scaredy-pants” act over this book? Over this tenth “life changing” opportunity? What is different?

Then it hit me. Everything I have done before was in my wheelhouse. Part of my success was always assured by the fact I was only playing on home-fields, at games I had a chance at winning. These were situations where I was in control of all the elements, and confident in the product.

Ahhh but this story is my first, full-fledged jump into the life, psyche and thought patterns of a female! Specifically my FBI agent turned Quarterback Group Operative, Brooke Burrell. At first I thought this was a kind of starter kit into the female mystique, in that I already had a good character base for her developed over two books, where she not only grew into her character, but into her life. And the safety rail for me was, she was in a traditionally male line of work, she had to interface and meld into the workplace mindset. Therefore, if I went too heavy male in her actions or motivations, I felt and hoped the reader would allow it, as her reacting to a male dominated environment. Easy to write a woman in that context! Piece of Cheesecake.

However, then she was always a supporting character. Therefore, I could, by reflection in the other characters, define her. It was my choice to go as deep as I wanted or leave it to the observation of the other characters to fill in the blanks.

Now, Brooke is the main character of my third book with my usual main characters taking a more supportive role. Many times in the story there isn’t anyone around to reflect off of, so I have to go inside her. It’s scary in there! I adhere to the adage, “You are a piece of all the characters you write.” So hello Brooke, welcome to my inner female. Not much organic female development in here within me, so my external observations of females have to be reversed tracked into the woman I am defining, creating motives and histories; impulses and predilections that become the cause that affects her behavior.

When writing about her, I can throw the world at her, and make her deftly respond, win, lose or draw. But going into her being, writing “her,” needs a feminine map with symbols and marks on it that most males are genetically incapable of reading.

So that’s it. That’s the fear. If they decide to make the movie, that would be nice, but if not, nothing changes, no big deal. But the reason for my nail biting apprehension, however, is the fear of them saying, “SHE doesn’t work for us.” Or worse, “you wrote a guy with breasts!”

Well, Brooke is all written now, she’s out there in the big world, I hope I have given her all the attributes of character and flaws of humanity that make her a compelling figure, but like most fathers, I pray that I just made her a good woman.

Filling my Own Shelf with The Eighth Day and The Hammer of God

I write books that I want to read. I like when there are no holes in a plot, when there are setups and payoffs, and when someone doesn’t feel like they’ve been ripped off by an author seeking convenience or their characters not playing by the rules of the world that the author has set up.

As authors, we have to play by the rules we’ve put into place, and we can’t just dump the rules or put them aside to get to the end. I think that the human factor, and the thought process behind what a character does is appealing in my books because I come out of a screenplay discipline, where it’s all about the action that is then supported by text, but rarely do you go into subtext, context, pretext. Continue reading “Filling my Own Shelf with The Eighth Day and The Hammer of God”