A Case of Writer’s Block

old typewriterI’ve been hard at work on the fourth Peter Savage novel, and made excellent progress over the holidays. It seemed like I was well on my way to having the first draft done in January. And then it hit me.

Wham!

The ending just felt weak, uneventful, ho-hum.

That is simply unacceptable. So, I stepped back and imagined myself with the characters. After a week of restless nights (often, my best ideas come to me in the early morning hours, shortly after midnight) a finale started to congeal—starting from my subconscious and working slowing, like a blossoming flower, into my conscious thought.

Unlike the first three Peter Savage novels, I did not have an ending decided when I started writing the fourth novel. Book #4 began with a grand idea—a terrible event that actually occurred in 1967 and still has ramifications today. The plot shows the dangerous directions governments may tread if lead by paranoid and charismatic politicians. History has witnessed this many times in modern history.

Matthew Reilley, a fantastic action-thriller author, has said that he knows the beginning and the ending when he sets out to write a novel. My error here was not having the ending firmly resolved in my mind at the outset. So I’ve found myself struggling for the last few weeks trying to figure it out—and finally (heavy sigh) the conclusion is now clear.

Thankfully, I’m back to writing.

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Reflections on 2015

Diesel and books (2)Once again we near the end of another year, and it is time to count my blessings. On a personal side, we adopted Diesel from the Humane Society in May of 2015. He is a red pit bull, a juvenile when we brought him home to join our pack of three dogs. He fit right in, making himself at home in no time.

In partnership with my publisher, Light Messages, we released the second book in the Peter Savage series in April, titled Relentless Savage. Fortune smiled on me as right away ibooks selected Relentless Savage as a best new mystery & thriller novel. Then, in late spring, Crossing Savage was awarded a Ben Franklin Silver Medal (popular fiction) and was named a finalist in the INDIEFAB awards (thriller/suspense). Good news continued coming in and just before Christmas Crossing Savage topped the charts on Kobo’s Top 50 list and, as of this writing, is still ranked #1 in Fiction & Literature (Action & Adventure), Mystery & Suspense (Thrillers), and Fiction & Literature (Thrillers).

While I’m on book news, I am very happy to announce that the adventures of Peter Savage and friends continue with the completion of Deadly Savage—scheduled for release in early 2016 (ebook in April, paperback in May). As before, we will host some giveaways prior to the release dates. Stay tuned here or on my Facebook page for more information.

Finally, in November I achieved a goal I had been working toward for several years when I ITW format 2was admitted as a member of the International Thriller Writers. Also in November, I began teaching a continuing education course titled “You’ve Written Your Book, Now What?” This course is aimed at helping new authors learn the ropes of publishing and marketing their novel.

Definitely a full year, a good year. And a special thank you to all the fans of Peter Savage and James Nicolaou. Your support and encouragement is greatly appreciated.

With 2016 just a few days away, here is my New Year’s resolution: to be the person my dogs think I am, and to deliver another exciting adventure that thrills my reading fans.

Best wishes to all for a peaceful and prosperous New Year!

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Holiday Wishes to All!

Murphy with books3The Holidays are upon us again. I hope you have time to relax and spend some quality time reading and visiting with those you hold dear. I have several new books stacked up including an advance review copy from a fellow thriller author—really looking forward to it!

Much has happened this year for which I am thankful. First, many thanks to all the fans of Peter Savage. Your support is greatly appreciated. Deadly Savage was passed along to my publisher (Light Messages) and they did a fantastic job, as usual, with editing and cover design. It is scheduled for release in April (e-book) and May 5 for the paperback. In October I was accepted as a member of the International Thriller Writers! The application process was quite an ordeal, but I am really looking forward to engaging with the group (which includes just about all the big-name thriller authors) and sharing what I ITW format 2learn. Plus, I am now a Board Member of the Central Oregon Writers Guild and a continuing education instructor (my course title is “You’ve Written Your Book, Now What?”). Last, but far from least, we added a new member to our pack—Diesel is a red pit bull that we rescued from the Humane Society of Central Oregon. He is a wonderful companion and loves to snuggle.

4So, I wish all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Whether you are Christian or Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist, I extend this greeting in the spirit of friendship, love and peace. In closing, I offer this photo of the rare “cartridge in a bare tree”—just couldn’t resist putting a thriller twist on a classic and festive Christmas carol!

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Deadly Savage–Coming Soon!

DS front coverBook #3 in the Peter Savage series is in production, and will be available in early 2016. Needless to say, I am looking forward to the release and having the book available to fans of Peter Savage, James Nicolaou, and crew. I have so many people to thank for helping to bring this novel to completion–not the least of which is my military, weapons, and tactics adviser, Sgt. Lombardy (Marine and Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns).

Months ago I offered some clues as to the setting of Deadly Savage. Did anyone guess correctly? Here’s a short plot summary…

When militants invade the Belarusian State University in Minsk, Peter Savage and his father are caught in the crossfire. Held hostage by gunmen who look suspiciously like Russian soldiers, Peter uncovers a deadly plot to kill thousands of innocent civilians—and lay the blame at the feet of the United States government. In a desperate attempt to avoid a global war, Commander James Nicolaou and Peter are called to the front lines of a sinister campaign, and the stakes have never been higher.KGB HQ Minsk

Review copies are just going out to bloggers and group moderators on Goodreads. Advance purchase is not available yet on Amazon, but stay tuned for updates. Cheers!

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New Cover for Crossing Savage!

New CSI am very excited to share the new cover design for Crossing Savage. My publisher wanted to update the original cover to be representative of the Peter Savage series. The image hints at the major plot themes of energy and scientific discovery, as well as sinister forces lurking in the shadows.  I hope you like this design as much as I do!

With book #3 (Deadly Savage) in the series moving into production, I have reviewed a draft of the cover. It is fantastic–again visually conveying key elements of the story. More to come as the design is finalized. You can look forward to a cover reveal before too long.

Cheers!

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Never Forget

014Yesterday marked the 14th anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center. For Americans, it was an emotional day as we remembered the many thousands who died that day, and the hundreds of first responders who have since suffered–both physical ailments and emotional distress. Personally, I had a difficult time settling my mind, but I kept coming back to one thought over and over–never forget.

On that September day 14 years ago, I was in London attending a conference. I recall very clearly… it was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and a colleague from Austria rushed up to me and announced that the Twin Towers in New York had been destroyed. My initial reaction was that it was a sick joke, but his face told me otherwise. Unable to concentrate on business, I left the conference center and walked across the street to a pub.

A TV was playing CNN. That’s when I first saw the video of the two planes slamming into the towers, and then the inevitable collapse. Somehow the bartender knew I was American, and placed a pint in front of me, no charge.

With the airspace closed, I was unable to fly home, and have never felt so removed from my family and helpless. The next day, the entire city of London stopped at 11 AM for a moment of silence. It was eerie, and the memory still chokes me up. I was exiting a subway station at that moment, and I am not exaggerating to say that everyone just stopped, stood still, and bowed their heads.

Three days later I was able to catch a flight, and en route to Heathrow Airport my taxi driver tried to strike up a conversation. He could see it was hard for me to talk about the attack. I can still hear his words echoing as if just spoken–”We’ll be there with America, shoulder to shoulder.”

For me these memories are vivid and painful. And of one thing I am absolutely certain, I will never forget.

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Firearms 101 for authors (and readers)

Revolver firingI’ve been a recreational target shooter and hunter for 4 decades; shooting and reloading for pistol, rifle, and shotgun. I’ve even built and shot a wide range of primitive guns from flintlock pistols to Kentucky long rifles to Hawken-style percussion rifles (all muzzle-loading blackpowder weapons). My reading pleasure centers around thrillers, especially action-thrillers. But if the author really blows it when it comes to firearms facts and reality, it’s a big put-off for me.

Probably the most common error writers make (including screen writers) is to refer to a magazine as a clip. The photo to the right clip v magazineillustrates the difference. Magazines are a big improvement over the clip, which leaves the ammunition exposed and is slower to reload than is the self-contained magazine. Clips fell out of favor following WWII, and pretty much all modern semiautomatic firearms (and some bolt action rifles and shotguns) use magazines.

Another pet peeve I have is ignorance of terminal ballistics–that is, what the bullet does after leaving the gun barrel. Contrary to Hollywood depictions, and some writer’s whimsy, bullets are rarely stopped by the human body. Even common handgun cartridges fire bullets of sufficient mass, at sufficient velocity, that they will pass cleanly through an adult torso and still be lethal. So that image of the good guy holding a bad guy in front of him as a shield is pure bunk. DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME!

Russian with AK74Then there is the magazine that never runs out. Typically, a pistol magazine will hold from 7 to 17 rounds, and up to 30 rounds for a rifle magazine. You’d be surprised at how fast those rounds go when you are shooting, especially if you consider a stressful situation (i.e., your life is in danger) and you are shooting two or three shots at each adversary. If the rifle or submachine gun is fully automatic, it will chew through ammunition at a staggering rate–600 rounds/minute for an Uzi, up to 900 rounds/minute for an MP5, and 650 rounds/minute for an AK74. At these rates of fire that 30 round magazine is empty in 2 to 3 seconds. Yes, changing a magazine does not take long if you know what you’re doing, but it does mean a break in the action, and one has a finite number of spare magazines.

If you are an author, follow these tips to keep it real and your readers will thank you.

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Introducing the Trunk Monkey

trunk monkeyRoad rage, car jackings, auto theft… no doubt that violence on the road is on the rise. This is the best deterrent I’ve come across. And it is certainly an accessory Peter Savage would want if he was driving a sedan. But, sadly, there is no trunk on an H3 Hummer truck.

The trunk monkey is a must have accessory, and one I will insist on having in my next car. Not to mention that it offers a safe deterrent to underage, overactive hormones–something EVERY father fears.

So I hope you enjoy this short collection of four videos (not three as the title suggests). Cheers!

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Sightseeing in Manhattan: Modern Thrillers

021Any fan of science/action thrillers has surely read CONTEST (by Matthew Reilly) and RELIC (by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child). Both of these stories largely take place in Manhattan: CONTEST at the Public Library and RELIC at the Museum of Natural History. I loved both of these novels, and in no small way these plots and writing styles have influenced my writing (also science/action thrillers). So, on a recent trip to NYC, I spent a day visiting these buildings, making a tangible connection to the stories that these monuments are the locus of.

The Public Library (above) is an imposing stone building situated adjacent to Bryant Park. Both facts are consistent with the plot of CONTEST. For some reason, Reilly incorporated an attached parking structure into the story, and there is no such thing in reality. Another disappointing discrepancy is that the gazebo, which figures prominently in the climax of CONTEST, is absent from Bryant Park. A pity. However, the interior of the Library is massive and covers multiple floors, and there is a basement with row upon row of stacks housing innumerable volumes (important to the plot). Unfortunately, the basement is not open to the public. I found it easy to imagine running for my life down the wide hallways and getting turned around the many meeting and reading rooms. The grand scale of the building is every bit in line with Reilly’s description.027

I had just finished reading RELIC for the third time the day before visiting the Museum of Natural History (yes, the very same as featured in the “Night at the Museum” movies). The museum is across the street from Central Park—an important fact to the sequel, RELIQUARY—and close to the Hudson River. However, I found it impossible, on the hot June day of my visit, to imagine even a torrential rain causing extensive flooding of this huge stone structure as described in the novel. From the exterior, the building is imposing and covers a city block. Inside, there are multiple floors of exhibits that seem to go on endlessly. Unlike the novel, I did not find a large central room just off the main entrance where the opening gala was held the night the beast went on its rampage. And there was no Hall of Primates, although I can forgive that as exhibits are most likely changed over time. The basement was off limits, and that’s a shame since it is in the lowest levels of the building that much of the mayhem occurs in RELIC.

Although Preston and Child set the story at the New York Museum of Natural History, for some odd reason the movie (also bearing the title “Relic”) was set in Chicago. Another problem I have with the movie is that the Pendergast character, who is featured in several subsequent novels, is completely absent. Unfortunate, since he adds so much to the story—he strikes me as a delightfully entertaining individual that I’d love to meet and converse with at a cocktail party. Although the movie was successful, if you have seen the film but not read the book, I’d encourage you to download it onto your e-reader http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-movies-film-cinema-movie-theater-image27668457or find a used paperback version—you’ll find it more entertaining than the movie.

Speaking of books to movies, if you’d like to be part of the team that brings CROSSING SAVAGE one step closer to film, please make a donation to the crowdfunding site.

My goal is to raise enough money to hire a talented screenwriter to convert this award-winning and best-selling science/action thriller into a screenplay. With screenplay in hand, the marketing effort can be launched in earnest. I need a lot of help with this, and I hope you’ll consider a contribution of any amount (there are some cool rewards too!). Thank you and cheers!

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Commander Nicolaou and team test new ordinance for DARPA

sniperThe Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) frequently works with Commander Nicolaou and the men and women of SGIT to test new hardware. Recently released unclassified video shows the results of experiments with a steerable .50 cal bullet (code named EXACTO), designed to increase the probability of a first-shot hit.

Since the SGIT operators all carry security clearances and are expert bullet in flightwith a wide range of weapons, including the Barrett .50 cal sniper rifle and extremely long-range precision shooting, this elite group was selected by the DARPA project manager to carry out the field exercise (video). Based on the video, the steerable bullet appears to be a success. You can expect special forces such as SGIT to be the first to use this new projectile in future missions.

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