Friday, 24 June 2011

Rabbits in Headlights

We have nothing to fear but fear itself. (Roosevelt)
This was said by F D Roosevelt and it is never a truer saying. Fear is one of the strongest emotions and it creates a powerful response; it is a fail safe for humans to alert them to danger and ready their bodies for ‘fight, flight or freeze’. You can see where this comes from in prehistoric man - when faced with a threat they either had to run for their lives, stood and fought, or froze to make themselves invisible to predators (rather like rabbits in the headlights).
The hormone responsible for this mechanism is adrenalin and we produce it whenever we feel scared or afraid. It readies our muscles for action ( wobbly legs and shaking), it revs up our heart pump ( pounding pulse) and increases our breathing rate ready to supply extra oxygen to the large muscles of the legs. Our eyes open wide ready spot the danger and our brains and senses become extra sharp. Skin tightens and pales as blood is diverted away to the major muscles and our stomachs contract down so as to not interfere with the process. All major organs of survival go on high alert. Adrenalin can even make the bowel and bladder muscles relax involuntarily so the body is primed and ready to go!
Fear is so powerful that it can be totally disabling in the wrong circumstance i.e when the body is not under threat but nevertheless the emotion is running amok and irrational fears are born.
It is also true that people can become addicted to adrenalin. They love the ‘high’ it produces and search for ways to initiate this response, for example, putting one’s life at risk by participating in dangerous sports.
But for most people, the way they get their thrills is by watching a high action/scary/ movie or reading a book that is full of jeopardy and danger. They can imagine themselves in the risky situation and that is enough to produce the adrenalin response. This is why people watch and read thrillers – that is the thrill – but in a safe way. In other words people want to be scared!! But then to feel extreme relief that it is not real and not them.
The fiction writers job then, is to increase suspense and ratchet up the tension to produce that feeling of fear, usually empathising with the main character. So the reader is in a steady state of fight or flight waiting for…. Whatever!
As Alfred Hitchcock said, “There is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it.”

So, what do you think? Are you scared when you read a good thriller? Do you feel the thrill?

Thursday, 23 June 2011

stylish blogger award

Hi everyone

What a lovely thing - I'm all for gaining awards...

I want to give a sincere thanks to Charmalot at 
And Then My Heart Smiled for honoring me with the Stylish Blogger Award. I am incredibly honored and appreciate the award so much!

The Rules:

1. Thank and link back to the person giving you the award. (Many thanks Charmalot!)
2. Share 7 Things About Yourself.
3. Award 10-15 Blogs Who You Think Deserve This Award.
4. Contact these bloggers and let them know about the award.

7 things about me:

1. I spend a lot of time on sunny Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.
2. I Love Marmite!

3. Walking is my favorite exercise although I used to run - a lot!
4. My favourite tipple is wine spritzer - any wine!
5. My favorite season is summer

6. I love playing rummikub
7. I collect colourful bling

My 15 Stylish Blogs I pass this Award on to:


2. http://life'

Thanks to one and all! Please visit some of the above and admire their blogs!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Making the supernatural natural?

Turning the supernatural into the superbelievable? That, as I see it, is the challenge to all paranormal thriller writers.
Making supernatural elements fit into a thriller story so seamlessly that the reader accepts them without question, is not easy.
After all the vast majority of readers who enjoy this kind of fiction are perfectly reasonable sane individuals who do not necessarily believe in ghosts, spirits and things that go ‘whooo’ in the night. But just like sci-fi readers, they want to wonder and ponder the unanswerable questions. Just for the time it takes to engage with the story readers will willingly believe if we give them a good reason to.
That’s not to say that once the book is read the reader will believe any of it but just for that book the reader suspends disbelief. This, of course must happen with all stories but it is so much more difficult when dealing with the paranormal.
Of course making the world the characters inhabit detailed and colourful and having the characters themselves rich in human traits and emotions (even if they are spirits or whatever) helps. If the people in the story believe in the other-worldly elements and do so right from the beginning as a matter of course, then the reader will too. Events follow in a normal and accepted way and lo! - the supernatural becomes the natural for that story.
For me the furthest I will go into using the supernatural is to introduce elements of ‘what if’ into a story. What if someone’s soul/spirit does not die with them but carries on in someone else’s body? What if a spirit wilfully inhabits someone else’s body and makes them do things they would never normally do? What if someone has the power to read certain people’s minds? What if this power is hereditary and a child is unaware they have it? What if someone believes that if they preserve a person’s body after death they will gain power over life and death and eventually become immortal themselves? What if a person really does have a double and the double/doppelganger bends the person’s will to make them murder their own child?
I know, I know. All of these have been done before but not by me and my imagination. I had fun with these stories and will continue to use similar scenarios in my writing. But apart from the paranormal additions my plots have conflict, suspense and follow normal storytelling rules and my imagination, with the help of my muse, adds width, depth and a sprinkling of magic – at least I hope it does…
Happy Writing!
So what do you think? Do you have a favourite genre? Do you read paranormal thrillers?
For a sample of my writing visit

Monday, 20 June 2011

Raising the Stakes

A Thriller Killer?

Murder’s, the TV and film industry would have us believe is frequent and horrible. The truth is, happily, it’s not as frequent as it might seem. Murderers inhabit the corridors of whodunits and mystery novels like the opening night of a Harry Potter premier. The best example in English TV is the small quiet leafy village of Midsommer where murders – usually more than one - happen every week! The focus of those plots is for the hero/heroine to solve the murder and catch the killer.
In thrillers, unlike mystery and ‘whodunit’s’, a murder is often not the main plot line. But a killing will often serve to raise the stakes for the hero/heroine i.e. a woman desperate to save her child (and the rest of the world maybe) has to accept the kidnappers mean business when another child is found murdered. In a race against time, Killings along the way may be viewed as acceptable losses. Some murders are even inconsequential – strange though it may seem. For instance the multitude of deaths in war stories, blockbuster disasters and action movies.
The best thrillers, though, often have a murder somewhere in them, even if it is only a bit player (eg The Da Vinci Code and other search/quest thrillers). It lifts the story from ‘so so’ to a higher level where more important characters are under threat and the anxiety for the reader ratchets up a level. This, of course is where thrillers come into their own for they are all about rising tension and cliff hangers at a mile minute speed.
In one of my books (The Witcheye Gene) the killing actually starts in the prologue - another familiar way to show the true nature of what the hero is up against.
So do you need to show the actual murder in graphic detail or not? Depends is my answer – if we want the reader to feel worried or scared for the hero then yes. But maybe a few choice details will suffice rather than a blow by blow account. I also think it is more about showing what kind of person the protagonist (villain) is and how his character connects to the story, than the actual deed.  However no one is truly all evil – except maybe the devil himself - so a fully rounded villain also needs some redeeming qualities. Many of the best known villains murder ruthlessly and without compunction yet they love their mother/animals/children! In fact, I believe it is these very human traits mixed with the very worst traits that fascinate us so much. And that is why the best known fictional villains/murderers stay with us for a long time. They could so easily have been just like us!
Murder for murder’s sake should never be introduced into a story just to spice it up but a well placed, well developed villain/protagonist who murders horrifies us and that can certainly rev a tale up into top gear!
Who is your favourite murderer/villain in the most well known fiction?

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Chiller Thriller Friday. Err... Saturday??

Okay so here's my friday post - a day late, I know but it was re-launch day yesterday and my post was all about that! So I think I could be forgiven??

Chiller Thriller Friday ( oops Saturday?).

Intriguing plots, suspense, dreadful predicaments, breakneck pace, ‘out of this world’ events even. These are all elements of a good fiction thriller novel. Of course, you can also break thrillers down into lots of sub genres and start including spy/terrorist, swash-buckling adventure, horror, and supernatural. Maybe the key ingredient of thrillers is that they should have you breathlessly hanging onto your hollyhocks to see what will happen next. The stakes are high and layer after layer of ‘can it possibly get any worse?’ is superseded only by the hero/heroine’s attempts to come good, which conversely just gets him/her into further disasters... I just love these plots…
But wait there is more to it than this.
As a thriller writer I’m always fascinated by human behaviour in extremis. When the chips are down (forgive the cliché) all bets are off! Because, much more than the exciting plot lines, there must be a strong human interest that readers can relate to. And that, I believe, is what makes a thriller story so believable and engaging. It is the hero/heroine suffering and struggling and yet overcoming adversity – eventually - that makes readers empathise with them.
One of the main faults I had when I first started writing thrillers was that I did not understand the power of empathy. I focused on the multi-layered plot making it as full of chills and frights as I could. I made my main character a bit of a bitch and apart from overcoming the threat to her and her family I never made her particularly likeable. After this criticism of my story came from more than a few quarters, I looked afresh at other stories, comparing them to my own and realised they were right. Mostly main characters should be likeable even if they do some not so good things.
None of us know how we’d react if we were put in a life or death situation or were faced by a dreadful choice but we can’t help but wonder how we’d cope and that emotion – empathy - is the engine of all good fiction, not just thrillers. Of course it does mean that the heroine/hero characters must be likeable so we can root for them to succeed. Even superheroes and star trek characters have to have some human frailties for us to feel for them.
Thrillers may be fast-paced exciting reads, but they still need to conform to basic story telling rules and the main charcters still need to connect with us, the readers.

Do you agree? What makes a good thriller for you?

Friday, 17 June 2011

Ta Da! My re-vamped blog launches!

TA DA!! *Trumpet fanfare - Ryanair style*... My newly renovated, re-vamped and refurbished blog launches today!

After reading Kristen Lamb's blog and her social media books, I decided to take her advice and totally re-focus my blog to reflect who I am and what I do.  Hence the emphasis on me and my genre. 
I intend to blog at least three times a week and although it will be mostly about thrillers, I will talk about other related topics too. (*Muse whispers in ear*, well, that little rider gives you carte blanche if you get stuck!  Ignores muse and shakes head - onwards and upwards...)

So, to coninue - my Monday posts will be about some of the darker edges of thrillers such as murder, evil and what makes bad characters tick.

My posts on Wednesdays will be a little tongue in cheek as I intend to explore the paranormal, supernatural and some other whacky bits and peices (but NO vampires!). Mainly because my books do feature some elements of the supernatural - although fairly lightly done.

Fridays will be about the whole genre of thrillers from suspense, horror, and murder mystery to epic armageddon type tales. The story is the main thing and in common with many thriller writers I do try to make my stories fast-paced and edgy.

So there you go - new blog launched! I just hope it will fly!

What do you think? Is re-branding oneself a good thing?

Samples of my books and writing are on my website:

Thursday, 16 June 2011

OMG! a brilliant book on social networking

I just finished Kristen Lamb books on social networking and OMG my eyes have been opened! I have bumbled along with blogging, tweeting etc for a while, learning as I go and making tons of mistakes only to find someone made most of them before me and I could have saved myself a heck of a lot of time! ( that most precious of commodity)
Her books? 'Are you there blog? it's me writer.,' and 'We are not alone: The Writer's guide to social networking.'
It's not often that I read a non-fiction book so voraciously that I stay up all night but this one (We are not Alone) - it had me entranced. It's written so well too with lots of lighthearted bits that will make you smile.
I was learning in a very pleasant way. And it all made sense!
A must have book for all writers who want to move with the times and develop their social networking platforms.
Stop Press! This blog will be changing soon - please come by and visit again...

For samples of my thriller novels please visit

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The good, the bad and the ugly (insane)!

Hi all
Now that I am getting used to social networking I thought I would make a few comments on what, it seems to me, is good about it and what is not! In other words the good, the bad and the ugly, (aka insane)!

First off, I love that you can connect, however briefly with like-minded folks from all over the world! I did learn quite early on that I really only wanted to connect with people whom I have something in common with - ie. writing! That said, I have broadened out a bit lately, but I am still more interested in what other writers have to say about writing related topics...

I also love that my list of contacts grows daily and is generally reciprocated so I don't feel I am wasting valuable writing time. Networking in todays society is not only desirable but is totally necessary if you have something to say that you want to get out there or have a product (yourself and your work) to promote.

Tied into this, of course, for me, is my blog (tadaa!) and my website. I've had many a useful comment and/or insight in terms of writing than I know what to do with. All grist to the mill!! And all very welcome. It's so great to get this kind of feedback. Never could I have imagined - just a couple of years ago even - that I would be networking and promoting like this.

Now for the bad (moans). I so hate when people do not put a few words of bio into their profile. I like to know something about the person I'm contemplating tweeting or networking with. In fact, I think it's absolutely crucial to keeping some kind of common dialogue thread going. I mean, I wouldn't try and talk about brain surgery with a neuroscientist willingly, would I? Or maybe that could be interesting.... But you know what I mean...
So come on folks, give us a little info about yourselves so we can judge whether you'd want to tweet with us.

Lastly insane. No not me - although some may dispute that fact! Insanity comes when I am madly trying to keep up with it all and realise the morning or afternoon has sunk without trace! I'm a writer - ergo I WRITE. Or at least I try to when I am not networking.... Eeek!
Oh well, mental home here I come...
So, do you have good and bad things to say about networking? What are your pet hates?

If you want to read a sample from my book please visit -
Or buy my book 'The Witcheye Gene' from

Friday, 10 June 2011

Fruitcake author?

Does slotting your book into a genre still mean as much in today's publishing world?
I seem to come across many novels that cross the genre boundaries and, yes, I think they are more gripping as a result.
In fact my own books have a little of the kitchen sink syndrome about them. I mean, to make them lively, interesting and readable I do find myself wanting to mix mystery, romance and even a dose of pshychological suspense. Sometimes I think I might be confusing making a fruit cake with developing a plot - all ingredients go into the mixing bowl! Or there again maybe I AM a fruitcake!
The problem, they tell me, is not about what makes a book exciting and readable but about how a publisher can categorise a book.
But there again, readers choose what to buy based on their own tastes for certain genres, or so I am told. I think most of us have a bent for our particular genre but personally, I also read as much as possible oustide my usual choices to broaden my reading experience. And I am sometimes quite pleasantly surprised to find I enjoy a particular book that I initally was not so sure about.
I suppose it's also about expectation - if you pick a book from the horror section you certainly would not expect it to be a cosy romance!
However, every book/story should have the basics of conflict, surprise, struggle and resolution - and if that story includes the odd murder, romance, scifi and even a cowboy, well so be it.
The issue then is for the author to decide what genre their work falls into.
But, I do think crossover books are gaining ground and a big, plotline-packed multi-tiered novel is going to be hard to categorise anyway.
I guess it comes down to what you want to write about...

So are you a genre writer? Do you stick faithfully to your chosen genre?

To read samples of my books visit
'The Witcheye Gene' is also available to buy on

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Pac-men, jigsaws and numbers for titles

Titles are the bane of my life! They are as elusive as the slippery fish you can see in the water but just can't get a hold of. I get sidetracked from my actual writing by pausing to think of a better title for my WIP. It matters not that I already have a reasonably good one, my brain will refuse to accept there is nothing better. It roams ceaselessly, turning over words, rhymes, sayings and phrases until utter confusion rampages across my thinking processes. It picks out words from my work like jigsaw pieces and tries to fit them together into what may well be the absolute best title in the whole world - it thinks!
Why, oh why do I get stuck like this? I have been known to wake in the night with random titles jiggling together like pac-men (oh dear, that dates me!) in some old computer game. When I finally do get the words together I then start juggling them around to try to get the best impact!
Generally speaking, in the final draft I use the words I first thought of anyway, so what was all the fuss about? I just don't know... And there again, publishers can suggest their own and not go with yours... Maybe, I should just use numbers...
What do you think?