Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Because of a recent turn-down in both the stock market and sales of Allen Appel’s books, Thriller Guy has decided to turn the blog over to Appel for perhaps the most shameless appeal for sales ever attempted by an author. Yes, here we go, it’s

Writers With Cats!

Here’s a photo of the writer Edward Gorey with a cat. I came across the photo while searching for a picture of Rasputin with a cat. Why? The first book in my series, Time After Time, was set in Russia before, during and after the Russian revolution and there’s a long Rasputin death scene in the book. What is truly amazing is I was unable to find a picture of Rasputin with a cat anywhere on the Interweb. So this one will have to do because Gorey bears an uncanny resemblance in both appearance and spirit of the Mad Monk. I'm pretty sure Gorey is stoned in this picture.

And here's the book. Copies can be found on the Internet or you can go to Amazon and fire it up on your Kindle by clicking on the book cover. It's priced at an incredibly low $.99 because we're sure that once you read the first one you're going to want to read the entire series. You know, the way folks did with the Game of Thrones, only this series is a lot shorter.

Click on the book cover to go to Amazon's Kindle page and order the book.
Time After Time. Volume One in the Pastmaster series. Revolutionary Russia is the setting. After dealing with Rasputin, Lenin and other villains and fighting his way across Russia, Alex Balfour finds himself outside the house where the Romanovs are about to be executed. And why does present DNA research show that not all of the family was killed that night?

"Best novel of the Year." American Library Association
"A keep-you-up-all-night book. It doesn't end, it pauses to let you catch your breath." The Washington Post
"A ferociously paced adventure whose chief object is to keep us reading." New York Times Book Review

Yes, it's Mark Twain, who has appeared in not one but TWO books in the series. He makes his first appearance here in the second book in the series...

Twice Upon a Time. Volume Two in the Pastmaster Series. Ten years after the Civil War the great American Centennial Exhibition opened to the astonishment of the entire world. This tale takes Alex Balfour from his mysterious awakening at the Exhibition through his friendship with Mark Twain and ends on the killing fields of the Little Big Horn with General George Armstrong Custer.

"Best books of the year." American Library Association
"Riveting... Highly recommended." Library Journal
"A compelling adventure." The Coast Book Review


Ernest Hemingway, of course. Why? Because the third book, Until the End of Time is set during WWII and Hemingway was working then. I believe that there are more pictures of Papa with cats than any other writer, living or dead. And this is a good one though kind of sad. I wonder if there was a cat around the day Hem picked up the shotgun and did himself in? If there had been, maybe he would have stopped to give the kitty a good head scratch instead of pulling the trigger.

Till the End of Time. Volume Three in the Pastmaster series. From Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima, Alex Balfour is trapped in some of the bloodiest battle of the Second World War. Back in the present, girlfriend Molly deals with a terrorist threat. This time, Alex is not sure if he'll ever make it back. And he doesn't.

"Best books of the year." American Library Association
"As rousing as ever." Kirkus
"Keeps readers glued to the page." The Washington Post


These are the first three books in the six volume series. I'll be featuring MORE PICTURES OF WRITERS WITH CATS in the near future, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, do yourself a favor and buy a book and get started on the series that many have declared, "Better than Game of Thrones but with far fewer naked women."

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Patterson Master Class - Ideas

I recently watched the third entry in the James Patterson how-to-write-a-novel, Master Class series, (see entry below) and I continue to be impressed with it. But I’m only three chapters in, so we won’t draw any conclusions yet. He’s got plenty of time to piss me off.

This entry was on Ideas and Where to Come Up With Them. Patterson’s delivery remains accessible and amusing and while there were no great surprises, I didn’t expect him to come up with anything really out-of-the-box. He says that sometimes his ideas spring from a title that occurs to him, or just a scene he sees on the street. Thriller Guy has covered this topic a number of times. I was mildly surprised to hear Patterson say that there weren’t really that many absolutely original ideas anyway, so what you might do is look for several disparate ideas and then find new ways to link them together rather than beating your brains out searching for an absolutely original conception.  That’s excellent advice. Thriller Guy’s friend, Dan, a noted biography author, told me once that because it’s so difficult to come up with a bio subject that no one has written about, the smarter thing is to come up with two people who are already known and then find a new way to link them together. Good advice that could be applied to many areas of non-fiction, as well as fiction.

Patterson says to read, read, read. Learn things; that’s where ideas come from. TG would add that the Internet is a great place to follow these kinds of threads from one interesting idea to another, so don’t feel guilty if you’re wasting your time surfing around, hoovering up stray factoids and perusing random articles that catch your interest. What you’re doing is called Basic Research. But remember, at some point you need to put down the mouse and sit in a chair, preferably outside, away from the computer and simply think. You need to make your brain consider all those interesting ideas you’ve come upon while surfing, and think of ways to turn them into plots. As TG has noted many times, it’s a painful process, but it has to be done. Not only when you’re thinking an idea up for a novel, but while you’re working on it, at any stage -- outline, first draft, later drafts, final draft. Patterson uses his novel Honeymoon as an example. I’ve never read it, but the basic idea is simple: a woman is a bigamist. Good idea. Almost everything you read about bigamists comes from the angle that it’s the man who’s always the perp. Patterson goes on to describe Honeymoon. The plot is what you might come up with once you accept the female premise: the woman is a “black widow” who is killing her husbands, an FBI guy sees something funny about the murder cases, the FBI guy falls for the woman even though he knows it’s a terrible idea, etc. Nothing really revolutionary there, but the basic idea is sound enough to build a good story on.

Patterson then adds more useful advice: if you can’t come up with a new concept, come up with a new character, someone really original to whatever genre you’re working in, or want to work in.

When you do come up with something, he continues, run it by a friend or two and see if it elicits a “tell me more” response. If it does, you may be onto something.

He then says to write down these ideas and keep them in an idea folder. Later on when you’re casting about for a new idea for a new project, you can go through the folder and see if anything leaps out at you. He adds that he used to keep a notebook by his bed, and if he came up with an idea in the night he made himself get up and write it down. This is standard Thriller Guy advice. Patterson no longer does that. He says that if you have an idea in the night and you don’t write it down and you forget it the next day that it must not have been a very good idea anyway. Not in my brain, James. If I forget an idea, it’s usually because I forget lots of things, especially stuff having to do with nebulous, or not so nebulous, fiction projects.  But he’s a big supporter of keeping a notebook to jot down ideas and other raw material for whatever you’re working on.

OK, all good, solid information. Now it’s time to get down to business. I’m going to work along with my master, James, on a new book. Hey, I paid $90 for this program, I might as well use it. Here’s my plot idea, which was sparked by my writer pal Larry while we were at lunch. Actually, early in this lesson Patterson says that asking friends for a novel concept is a very good idea. I’ve got some very good writer friends who are always up for this sort of activity, and over the years I’ve picked up many good plot concepts and had ongoing help from these folks while working on my many novels.

Larry’s idea: A guy who is a book critic writes a review of a book (mystery or thriller) and sends it to his editor. After awhile, he notices that the review he wrote never appears in the magazine. He emails his editor to ask why, and the editor says what review? What book? He doesn’t understand what the writer is asking about.

One of the reasons that this is an intriguing idea is that I’m a book reviewer, I write for a magazine and I have an excellent editor. I’ve often wondered after reading a particularly chilling or tech-heavy book, if terrorists and spies read thriller fiction. Is there a danger that they might pick up useful information from these books? So I began thinking about this setup and came up with these initial questions: what’s the book the reviewer is reviewing? Why did the editor say he’s never heard of the book or ever assigned him the review? And why does the editor turn up dead a week after the writer asks him these questions?

Anyone out there want to help? Joel, you with me on this?  Anyone else? Chime in with your ideas and we’ll start to build a book the Patterson way. Who knows, maybe we’ll make a million bucks.