Sunday, May 11, 2014

Book Thoughts: Buried Secrets by Joseph Finder

For my fellow thriller readers and authors:  I recently finished Joseph Finder's Buried Secrets and have to dole out some praise and a hearty recommendation. It grabs your attention early and never lets go. Well written. Finder finds that elusive balance between HypoInfo and HyperInfo; he gives you enough info to figure out what's going on or what something means, but doesn't insult by spoonfeeding an explanation for absolutely every point, as if you're too simple to figure it out on your own. He writes what I like to call "thinking thrillers" without becoming in the least bit arcane and pretentious.

I give this one 4.75 stars. Although he didn't fill it with a bunch of cybernonsense or magic guns, there were a handful of errors on computer and firearm issues. Not many, mind you, just enough to glitch the read on occasion. I also thought the ending was a little anti-climactic; felt like he was tired and wanted to wrap it up.

Whether you're a reader, a writer, or both (like me), there's a lot to like here. Grab a copy.

 Buried Secrets

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Writing Process: Some Questions, Some Answers

The Writing Process (a blog tour)

My dear friend and awesome writer, Dora Machado, author of The Curse Giver, passed me the baton for the Writing Process Blog Tour. This means I have to answer four questions about my work. Here are my answers:

What are you working on?

A new thriller, of course! It's called Unallocated Space, and I think it will be my best book so far, filled with great characters, exciting technology, and a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

There are a lot of great thriller authors out there, and to stand out you really need to create stories that are distinctive, so I put an enormous amount of thought into coming up with story ideas that are truly fresh. Second, my "signature" as an author is a storytelling style that readers find hard to put down.

Why do you write what you write?

That's easy. I write stories I'd love to read myself.

What is your writing process?

I sit down and start writing, and that's not a glib answer. I've tried outlining and planning the story in great detail, but that doesn't work for me. It feels like painting by numbers, and it robs my work of the energy of spontaneity. Naturally, I have the broad story in mind before I start, but the details are created on the fly. It makes writing a lot more fun for me.

I’m passing the baton to:

Catherine Lea - My friend and fellow thrillerist, Catherine Lea, is a great writer who pens exciting tales filled with deep, memorable characters. She's an even more remarkable woman who lives and writes from New Zealand.

Brooke Monroe - My beautiful daughter Brooke has finished her first novel, a gripping YA fantasy that's gonna turn a lot of heads when it hits the market. She (thankfully) lives near me here in the Houston area.

Lea Ryan - This friend has one of the most amazing gifts for language I've ever run across. The words in her paranormal fantasy stories are almost melodic. She also has a really cool blog where she reviews the latest movies she and her family watched.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Projectionist: Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Porter opened his eyes—correction—he tried to open his eyes, but they were matted shut. He used a thumb and index finger to gently unstick them, then opened them. Then wished he hadn't. The light pouring through his bedroom window hit them like needles, hot needles that went straight through the eyeballs and pierced his brain. What the hell was wrong with him? He turned to look at the old Big Ben wind-up alarm clock on the nightstand. It said eleven-fifteen, which couldn't be right. Porter Hamlin woke up at 6 AM, day after day after day. The alarm was set for 6:05, but it was never needed, hadn't been for fifty years. Turning his head made the pain worse, if that was possible. (Yes, definitely possible.) He rolled over on his side, buried the left side of his face in the pillow, and looked at the sunlit window, gradually opening his eyes to admit more of the soft light that powered through the blue curtain.

After a couple minutes it started coming back, little flashes at first, then more and more. He had gotten drunk. Very, very drunk. He had started at Harold's bar and after that…what? He closed his eyes, tried to concentrate. He remembered Harold refusing to serve him another drink, remembered it pissing him off, but what—oh crap, now he remembered:  Debra. His sister-in-law who didn't exist. Debra, with the beautiful feminine hands. (The rest of her wasn't bad, either.) The stories she told. The book she showed him. A book that looked older than him, older than Alice, but had their picture in it. Cripes, if the book was really that old, it had a picture of a movie theater that was created before movies were even invented. How was any of that possible?

The phone rang in the kitchen. He had wanted to install more phones in other rooms of the house, but Alice refused because she hated phones, didn't even want to see them any more than necessary. Yes, she got her way on that, like she got her way on most things. Why was that? Why hadn't he been more assert—

Another ring yanked him from his mental meandering. He rolled out of the bed, stretched, then gave a start when he realized he was naked. Porter Hamlin was a pajamas man, thank you very much, content to see as little of his aging body as possible. The blasted ringing continued, each strike of the old clapper on the old bell in the old phone a direct strike on his brain. He turned to head toward the kitchen and nearly jumped out of his saggy old naked skin. Lying in the bed, his bed—his and Alice's bed—tucked into the covers with a sweet little sleep-smile on her face, was Debra. His mind ceased to work in any meaningful way. He covered his privates with his hands until he could tiptoe to the door and retrieve his bathrobe from its hook. (He had picked up the tiptoe thing when he was a kid; his bedroom had tile floors that were always ice cold on his bare feet. Talk about old habits dying hard.)

Safely wrapped in the robe, he stumbled his way to the kitchen, where the phone continued its assault on his senses. He yanked the receiver off the hook and stuck it to his ear. "Who is it and what the hell do you want?"

After a moment of silence, Larry Walker's slickish lawyer voice said, "Uh, Porter?"

"Yes, Larry. What is it?"

"Are you okay?"

"I'm…fine. What is it?"

"Need you to drop by the office sometime this afternoon."


"I have a letter I'm required to read to you today."

"Wait, what day is this?"

"It's Sunday. And no, I normally don't work on Sunday, but I have to make an exception for this. What time can you come?"

"How about two?"

"Perfect. See you then."

Porter hung the receiver back on its hook, stood there a moment, then turned to go back to the bedroom and see if perhaps he was really still asleep and this was all a dream. There was no need.

Debra stood in the doorway to the bedroom. Naked as a jaybird. She smiled and said, "Hey, sweetie. Who was on the phone?"

Porter's senses swirled, then faded to gray on their way to black as he crumpled to the floor.

Monday, March 24, 2014

At long last, a new chapter of The Projectionist!



“Porter, are you drunk?”

Porter’s head snapped up and he glared at Debra for a moment, then started laughing and slapping the table. “Yes! Yes, I am! Why do you ask?”

“Are you coherent enough for this discussion?”

Both hands flat on the table, Porter leaned toward her. “Oh, believe me, Debra, I wouldn’t miss this conversation for all the—all the—well, I wouldn’t miss it. So let’s have it.”

“Where would you like me to start?”

“At the beginning, duh!”

“Which one?”


“I told you it was complicated,” she said.

"Well hell, girl. Just start somewhere!"

Debra looked at him and blew out a long sigh, then said, "Have you ever wondered how the Magic Theater got its name?"

"Nope. I know how. I was there. Alice suggested it."

"Just suggested?"

Porter flopped his head back and stared at the ceiling for a moment. "More like insisted, I guess you'd say. Alice could be insistent, in case you didn't know."

She nodded. "Indeed she can—could. Did she tell you where she got the idea?"

"Nope. She just always had it in her head that it should be named Magic."

"Not always." Debra reached under the table and picked up a tattered, cloth shopping bag.
From the way the thing hung, and the way the muscles in Debra's thin arm stood out, Porter figured it had to weigh 20 pounds or more. Then he upped his estimate to 30 when she plopped the bag down on the table between them and the whole booth shook. She reached inside the bag and pulled out a large book, and it was like no book Porter had ever seen. The cover looked to be made of metal. Not just any metal. Gold. He whistled. "Now that's an eyeful, Little Debbie! What the hell is it?"

"It's where this whole crazy story began."

"Do tell?" Porter slapped the table. "Then let's crack that heifer open and get down to it." 
Debra rotated the book counterclockwise so both of them would have a sideways view. He watched as she lifted the front cover with her long, thin fingers. Feminine fingers, on a beautiful ladylike hand. After lifting the cover a couple inches, she withdrew her hand, but the cover continued to rise and then pivoted over and came to a soft rest on the tabletop. It never made a sound. Not a squeak, pip, or peep. He guessed it had some kind of spring in it. "Now ain't that just slicker than snot?" he said. "Looks old."

"I had it looked at by an expert in old books," Debra said. "He said the paper, the writing, the illustrations, are all at least two hundred years old, maybe more." She turned a few pages, pages that looked like parchment the thickness of a Kleenex. Thin or not, there was no bleedthrough of the content on the opposite side of the page. And what content it was. Beautiful text, obviously hand drawn in ink. Vibrant pictures. Meticulous scrollwork. All of which ceased to be of any interest, the moment she stopped turning pages. Because there on the page she had stopped on, was a beautifully drawn picture of Porter and Alice, standing in front of the Magic Theater.