Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My Guest: Kim Carmichael

My Guest this week has a secret to confess; but I'll let her tell you more about that. Ladies and Gentlemen...

Kim Carmichael

"Those Books"

Yes, my name is Kim Carmichael and I write "those books". 

Not only do I write "those books", but I am damn proud of them. 

Romance books.

The books women used to hide behind decorative quilted paperback covers, but now can hide on their e-readers and no one is the wiser.

So, yes, I write those books.  The ones with the hunky hero (or heroes if one is so inclined) and a heroine who is lucky enough to snag the man all wrapped up with a nice happily ever after at the end.
Amazon Link

Outside of my writing friends, when I tell people that I write romance I get one of three reactions:

1. Men universally smile, and maybe give me an eyebrow raise as if we are speaking a secret language.  Some will ask if I write "naughty" scenes.  When I say yes, the smile gets bigger.

2. Some women nod and ask where they can get my book (All authors should always carry tons of swag in their handbags for just this opportunity).

3. The rest of the women scowl and ask if I write "those books".

Here is what I would like to tell the rest of the women about “those books”.

Amazon Link
a)  Yes, we have plot - Writing romance is much more difficult than one would think.  It is not simply a sex scene wrapped around some thin plot.  (Well, maybe some are but I digress.)  True romance writers agonize over their characters, their goals, motivations and conflicts.  We make sure that every scene is there for a reason, that everything we write will pull the story forward and we even have a team of people who will test drive the story for us to make sure it’s working.  We write for hours to make sure that when you turn the last page you can take a deep breath at having been taken on a satisfying ride.

b)  The sex scenes are the hardest scenes to write – And as someone who writes two- flame to five-flame scenes, let me tell you that the more flames the harder it is to write.  There is far more to a sex scene than inserting tab a into slot b.  The sex scenes require that we use all five senses in our writing, deepen the point of view, and yes – make sure that the sex scene moves the plot forward.  There is also the task of making sure the sex scene is actually something that one can accomplish in real life.   If you are writing sci-fi or paranormal, this may not be such an issue, but in contemporary romance, we need two regular people to be able to perform the feats we see in our head, then we have to accurately describe it so it makes sense to our readers.  If we are not aroused by our own sex scenes, something is definitely wrong and you won’t be turned on either.  Sometimes the scenes are so hard to write, I skip them and save them for the end.

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c)  I actually studied writing – When I decided that I wanted to be a romance writer, I wasn't one of the fortunate ones who just decided to pick up a pen, wrote my novel and had it accepted (but kudos to anyone who did).  I worked like a dog studying point of view, story structure, character journeys, showing and telling.  I learned from anyone willing to teach me and I got rejected until I was good enough for an acceptance. 

d)  Romance sells – Be it a bodice ripper or a contemporary, romance fiction sells and is over a billion-dollar industry.  "Those stories" make money, people!  Someone must be reading them.  (Source – RWA)

e)  Our readers have better sex lives – Women are stimulated emotionally, and it is agreed that readers of the romance genre have better sex lives, so much so, that therapists often use "those stories" as part of their treatment.  (Articles Factory, 4/3/2006)

When asked what I write, I hold my head up proudly and say romance novels.  Men can continue to give me the knowing glance, and I may make a few new readers, but when faced with the few who look down at me and "those books," I will just nod and smile.


Kim Carmichael began writing nine years ago when her love of happy endings inspired her to create her own. 

A Southern California native, Kim's contemporary romance combines Hollywood magic with pop culture to create quirky characters set against some of most unique and colorful settings in the world. 

With a weakness for designer purses, bad boys and techno geeks, Kim married her own computer whiz after he proved he could keep her all her gadgets running and finally admitted handbags were an investment. 

Kim is a PAN member of the Romance Writers of America, as well as some small specialty chapters. A multi-published author, Kim's books can be found on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble. 

When not writing, she can usually be found slathered in sunscreen trolling Los Angeles and helping top doctors build their practices.



Amazon Author page:


Thanks, Kim, for sharing your secret with us. Like an extract from 'On the Dotted Line'? Read on...

“I have a charter plane at my beck and call.” He lifted his head. “And I have you.”
Everyone had their certain moments in life they would always remember. Some of these moments were shared with the world such as man landing on the moon. Other moments like special birthdays or life changing events one was supposed to keep forever. Then there were the moments, little flashes that stuck with someone for the rest of their lives but would be meaningless to anyone else.
Randolph mentioning her, marriage, and a charter plane together qualified as one of those moments in her life.
She forced herself to take a breath, move, react in any sort of way to his idiocy. “I think the fever is getting to you. Maybe you need to go home.”
“Actually, I feel surprisingly better. I think what you gave me worked.” He tilted his head, his curls tumbling off to one side with the motion.
“So says the naysayer.” No one was ever surprised when a prescription worked, but everyone was amazed when what nature doled out did the job. Actually, she was amazed he gave her remedy a shot.
“Maybe you’re on to something.” He pointed at her. “At last my head isn’t pounding. You did that.”
“Then I need to go home. I think I’m going to be sick.” She needed to go anywhere deemed a Randolph-free zone. She walked down the alley toward her store, the gravel digging into the bottom of her sandals.
“Lest you forget you don’t have a home.” He called after her.
“Don’t let him get to you,” she mumbled and forced herself forward. He must have continued to eavesdrop on her and Jade.
“How much longer are you going to be able to put off not paying your landlord?”
His words hit her, and nearly knocked her over.
“You know you may have something I need, but the street goes both ways.” He followed her down the alley.
Not wanting to hear whatever argument he spewed, she continued her trek.
“What is it you want Willow? What if I told you I could make it happen?”
“I just want to be happy.” Her steps slowed.
“You know, if you married me I would get the rent current within three seconds of saying yes and you would never fall behind again.” The man continued. “I could also make sure you never had to buy anything but the best ingredients for your store. If your headache remedy is any indication, they work.”
Her mind yelled for her to keep walking. At the end of the alley she would be at her shop, go up the flight of stairs, make a cup of tea and get rid of his bad vibes.
“I can make you happy. I have the money and the connections. You would be set, all for only three hundred and sixty-five days of your life.”

Eric @

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Seven Superb Scribes you should read

My post this week is a summary of my Guests in the last few months. They shared their views and wisdom on a variety of subjects ranging from writing reviews to changing your perspective on your craft. Ladies and Gentlemen, don't miss this opportunity to discover the Seven Superb Scribes:

Andy Laker

(changing your perspective on writing)


John Dolan


Fionna Quinn

(how to co-author... the hard way)

Jonel Boyko

(the right way to write a book review)

Tamie Dearen

(so who is the best bad guy?)

Judith Lucci

(and how it can get you into trouble with the TSA)

Owen Jones

(how to take that first step)

Seven Superb Scribes as I mentioned.

And finally, one of my own modest contributions:

Eric J. Gates

(well the title says it all, right?)

Many more Guests will be here on the Thriller Writer blog in the coming months, so sign up on the right to become a follower and the posts will be sent to you automatically.

Best wishes to all,

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Attacking the Speed Trap - PACING SECRETS

It's the Holiday Season, a time of joy... and gifts. So this year I decided to Give Away one of my writing secrets as a Christmas present to you all. If it's one thing I'm known for it's the fast-pace of my thrillers. How do I achieve this?

Yes, this is a writing tips post... so let's talk about Martial Arts.

When I teach Martial Arts I often use the strange and unpredictable to get the message across. One such trick had all my students dancing to a Waltz on the tatami. A widely-held opinion at the time was that I’d finally flipped, but no, there was madness in my method.

You see, everything in life has rhythm, even a fight. Sometimes it’s natural, like the tapping of rain on a window pane as a storm ramps up; on other occasions it is man-made – the clacking of train wheels on the metal rail joints or the swishing of car tyres on an asphalt street come easily to mind.

And so with your novel.

Different genres have different rhythms, so how do you find the right one for the genre you have chosen.

Let’s use my genre, Thrillers, as an example.

I have always heard that old adage that all thriller novels should be like a roller coaster ride. At first, your reaction, like mine, may be to agree. But we would both be wrong.

Times and writing styles are changing. Today, most thrillers start with a bang; something that grabs the reader’s attention and refuses to let go until they have finished the novel. Yet it was not always this way.

If you examine some of the thrillers of just twenty years ago you may notice they start with a slow burn, like a lit fuse that does not cause the explosive opening to the tale until several chapters have gone by. Thriller writer David Morrell is a master at this type of start; he builds tension and suspense then the BANG happens. That is the starting gun for the speed of the novel to increase and take the reader on a fast ride. This is still a perfectly valid way to write a thriller novel and it does conform to the analogy of a roller coaster where we sit in the car and are drawn slowly to a great height before being released into the waiting troughs and peaks. Although most rides also end on the flat, rolling to a gentle stop as your novel’s climax is passed and ‘normality’ returns.

If you have read any of my books (if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?) you will notice I like to start AND end with a bang. The ending may often be a cliffhanger of sorts, not necessarily implying there is to be a sequel, but trying to get you to discuss the denouement and draw your own conclusions.

The important bit, however is the middle.

This is the bit where you can bore your readers, so you need to keep an eye on the rhythm of your novel.

This is my secret weapon:

Don’t try to read it; it’s cleverly designed to bust your eyeballs if you do. However the important bit is easily seen. If you are reading this in color, then it’s the red at the top; if you are in fifty shades of gray then it’s the bit that looks like a skyline.

I call this my Pace Meter.

The one I use for all my books was generated in five minutes using a spreadsheet program, but if that is beyond you technical scope, then paper, pencil and a ruler are all you need. Red ink is optional, but it does add a little flair!

My Pace Meter has a row for every chapter in my book and a scale (column on the spreadsheet) of five. I’ve found this to be about right and it’s easy to decide what value you are going to insert in each one.

The example shows the real Pace Meter for the end of ‘2012’ and you can see how the amount of red grows as I near the end of the novel (that’s the dark bits, for the fifty shades people). This is the scale I use:

Five is Maximum Pace, or tongue hanging out of open mouth, eyelids wide open.

Four corresponds to leaning forward in your chair.

Three is a tensing of the fingers and neck muscles as you read.

Two is the feeling that something is about to happen; a general unease spreading through the body.

One is gentle normality.

None is – something is seriously wrong with this chapter – Rewrite NOW..

Now let’s just zoom in a little:

You will immediately notice two things: There are several ‘troughs’, where the pace slows, that occur just before it speeds up dramatically, and after a fast-paced bit, which may span several chapters, I deliberately slow things down.

Why do I do this? Surely a thriller needs to be fast-paced throughout?

Well the trick is in the VARIANCE of Pace, not the Pace itself. Readers would quickly become bored with a novel that maintains the same rhythm throughout.

Now, you might ask, am I monitoring this from the moment I pen the first word, and the answer is a resounding NO.

If you are going to use this method, and I’ll tell you how to apply it to your genre in a moment, forget about it until the Second Draft – never try to apply this to your First Draft.

Writing a First Draft should be EXCLUSIVELY about getting the tale down on paper. Nothing else. From then on we can start to polish that tale and make it easier to read, more interesting for our potential readers.

You see, the relationship between a writer and his reader is twofold – there’s entertainment and there’s engagement. Of course you want the experience of reading your novel to be enjoyable for your reader, because then they will talk about your book and maybe buy the next one. This is a passive involvement in your tale, however; if you do it right, your reader will place their eyeballs on page one, finish your book and then smile, sigh, cry or emote in some fashion, just before writing their glowing review of your work.

But we writers are a greedy bunch. We want to sequester the innocent holding our novel and drag them onto the page. We want them involved with the action, interested in the characters, worried about the outcome of events. In short, we want them emotionally engaged with our tale. Pacing is an important part of this.

Play with the Pace you create; let the reader relax then hit them with something that’ll knock their socks off. Change it up… and down… and you will have your reader there, on the page, with your protagonist, living the events as they happen.

Am I sure that readers react this way?

My answer, all modesty aside, is to reproduce part of a real review, a very insightful review, I might add, from someone who knows how to write a useful one (and NO, it wasn’t a Five-star review – I’ve included the snippet so you can see that readers do notice the use of this trick):

Gates' writing style dictates your mood towards the story. At times he uses short, choppy sentences, making the action seem even more intense. Other times his writing is soothing. Yet again, the way that his sentences are put together brings out further compassion for the characters involved. Each section of the novel is written in a way to maximize impact, while still flowing seamlessly together. The novel also remains gripping throughout. Even the parts that are simply background information or descriptive narrative are never boring.

[Taken from Jonel Boyko’s review of ‘the CULL – Bloodline’, cited here with permission. Check out Jonel’s website and especially read her thoughts on book reviewing – this is a professional attitude!].

The comments also highlight some of the tricks I use to play with the Pace. Remember, you are looking to generate an emotional reaction in your reader, so to make their heart beat faster, shorter sentences, even ones that contain one or two words (one of my trademarks) work well as long as you don’t overuse them.

But this is just the start...

If you look at the reviews for my Thrillers the words most repeated are 'fast-paced'. In this second part of my article, I'll reveal even more secrets to managing the Pace in your writing. 

If you recall from part one of this post, I showed that the key to good Pacing is in it's VARIANCE. In this extract from ‘Full Disclosure’ look how I subtly vary the Pace from when the shooter is waiting to take his shot, to the firing of the gun:

Amazon Link
Looking through the scope again; the minutes dragged by. His eyes watered; sweat poured down his face, adding to the discomfort as the salt stung his tear ducts and pooled around his pudgy lips. He used his left hand to swipe away the perspiration, running the jacket sleeve across his eyes. More waiting; the awkward wetness returned.
A figure half crossed his field of vision, turned back, speaking to someone, then turned again and took a step.
Ayuso jerked on the trigger.
The rifle fired.
Through the scope he saw the window shatter.
He couldn’t see the bitch he aimed at.
Did he get her?
Lights were extinguished; first from his target’s house, then, some seconds later, from the place alongside.

Observe how I employ semi-colons as well as very short phrases to break up longer narratives into a more staccato beat and increase the pace.

Then there’s the image your writing creates on the page. I have found that this can be effective too. We all know about the reader’s reaction when seeing a solid block of narrative text that occupies most of a page, right. I have been using several techniques in this short article to make it easier for you to read: I’ve used extracts from books presented in a slightly smaller font size; cartoons and diagrams; short, often italicized sentences; bold lettering; even humor.

Look at your own writing and break it up. Build in snippets of dialogue, or paragraph breaks, so the image the reader perceives doesn’t introduce any unwanted prejudice.

You can also take this to an extreme, so the ‘pattern’ of the words on the page adds to the sensorial experience for the reader. I did this at the start of book one of ‘the CULL’ series – a storm was just breaking and I used this little device to add to the reader’s experience. Never start a book with weather, they say; oh how I love breaking the rules:

Black thunderheads obscured by the oppressive night air. Closer they move; drawn into explosive detonation. The first thunderclap announced a prodigious tempest. The strengthened glass wall shuddered
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as the sound waves tried to penetrate the quiet interior with their full force. Anka Syzmanski’s step hung suspended for a fraction of a second; the hallway lit with jagged electric blue. She completed the step; started another.
The lights went out.
Another celestial drumroll; quicker now, the storm approaching fast.
Seconds passed; she waited. Fighting against the darkness, the emergency lighting sputtered into action.
Plick, plick.
Plick, plick, plick, plick.
Spattering against the glass separating wet from dry, the rain began. A heavenly tap opened; grime swabbed down the transparent wall by sluicing torrents; lightning filtered through cascading wash forming eccentric shadows.

You notice the  pyramidal effect of the ‘plick’ words.

Plick is not a real word, but it is onomatopoeic (the Webster Dictionary defines it as ‘the use of words whose sound suggests the sense’) and this is another trick you can use. Certain words sound harder or softer than others, and by choosing the right ones you can emotionally stimulate your reader by the sound they make, and suggest the pace too. Metal CLANGS not caresses – you can feel the difference between the use of either word on the pace of the imagined scene:

The sword clanged to the ground.


He caressed her bare arm with the blade’s cold metal.

Different pace, right?

It’s not just the word choices, especially the verbs, that will set the pace (it’s not the same when Tommy walks into the room or he bursts into the room) but the nouns used, the noises the words make, or imply, and the context too. Try writing a soft romantic scene using harder, more guttural words (those that start with B, D, G, J, K, N, P, R, T, V, Z); as soon as you introduce a couple, the mood changes... and so does the pace.

Going bigger scale, you could also make your chapters shorter. James Patterson discovered this years ago. Today, with people taking tablets, e-readers and smartphones everywhere, reading in spare moments while they wait for trains and buses, or in lunch breaks etc, short chapters are very welcome by readers too. Of late I keep coming across that old saw that chapters MUST be fourteen pages long- Poppycock (or the stronger word I really had in mind)! Did you know that this ancient Traditional Publishing 'rule' had far more to do with how books were bound than anything else? Bound any e-books of late?

And don’t forget the influence of the background music you listen to when writing either! Check out my thoughts on this dangerous trap here.

So how do you choose the right pace for your genre? How do you build your particular Pace Meter?

This will take a little time but the results will be worth it.

  • Pick five novels you have not read before, by different popular authors, in the genre you wish to adopt.
  • Create a blank Pace Meter for each one.
  • Now read the books, one at a time.
  • Stop briefly after each chapter to annotate your reaction to the pace of what you have just read. NOTE: I said Pace; not level of intrigue, suspense, romanticism, or anything else – just the PACE. Use the definitions in Part One of this article - you'll quickly get the hang of it, and the brief pause as you select the value will allow your mind to reset and evaluate the following chapter with greater objectivity.

When you have completed your reading of all five books in your chosen genre, compare the resultant diagrams. Don’t be surprised if you find then eerily similar.

That’s what you should be aiming for in your excursions into that genre… at least as you set your foot firmly into the writing waters for the first time. With practice, you will develop your own pacing; something that readers will instantly recognize as part of your particular narrative voice.

A Happy New Year to everyone!
Have fun, make some great Resolutions and above all READ A BOOK or three (preferably mine!)

With so many star starstarstarstar reviews

is the IDEAL GIFT 
or just a GREAT READ for yourself:
Amazon Link

(article adapted from 'How NOT to be an ASPIRING writer')
Amazon Link

Eric @

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

My Guest: Andy Laker

If you are a writer, or are trying to become one, this is PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT POST YOU WILL EVER READ. Ladies and Gentlemen...

Andy Laker

A writer’s worst enemy

Any writer understands that procrastination is the scourge of us all, without it we’d all be content with the quantity of our work, right? We’ve all done it at some time or another, I know I have.  Many times I’ve told myself it won’t matter if I just have one more go at my new computer game, or watch the programme I recorded on TV last night. There will always be another chance to write my best-seller tomorrow.

But will there?

I hope, for all of you the answer to that question is a resounding yes, but there is no guarantee. The ability to write well and put into words something that other people want to read and enjoy reading, is a gift that’s not given to us all. You’re among the lucky ones and I urge you to use your skills to their full potential. After all, you could be like me and have it all taken away, which is why I want to tell you my story, in the hope that you will add it to your literary armoury. Then, the next time you get the urge to do something else when you could be writing, you’ll think of me and use your time productively.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for your sympathy. I genuinely believe that my MS has opened as many doors as it closed. However, if I’d had a choice, I’d have removed this particular door from its hinges to ensure it could never close. Unfortunately I had no influence over which way my MS progressed.

My love of writing began when I joined the Royal Navy back in the Dark Ages. It was long before computers and the Internet, when time and paper were at a premium and every word was precious. I had to think about what I was writing because there was no delete button on my writing pad. During those long periods at sea I’d write letters to anyone I thought would write back, telling them in great detail, what I’d seen and done. Except my mother of course, I spared her the finer detail, because the exploits of young sailors ashore aren’t for a mother to read about.

It was before I’d studied creative writing, but even back then I committed my senses to paper to tell my stories in the most powerful way I could. I became a slave to good grammar and could spot a spelling mistake from fifty paces. Then, like many writers I progressed to poetry and short stories, and I even had some small pieces of my work published. I was hardly Stephen King, but I felt a buzz every time I saw something I’d written in a genuine newspaper or magazine.

Following those small successes I moved on to bigger projects. My first crime novel ‘Time to Think’ is available on Amazon and my second is almost at the editing stage. Yes, I’ve had my fair share of rejection slips, but I have always believed life’s too short to worry about what a nameless editor thinks of my writing and I learnt to move on.

In short I loved to write and couldn’t imagine going anywhere without at least a pencil and paper, to scribble my observations on for use when I got home. Sadly in 2002 it all began to slip away with my diagnosis of Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. It was a bombshell I can tell you, but (cliché alert) I promised my family that I might have MS, but it didn’t have me. I have kept that promise and after getting over our early shock we carried on with our lives by adapting to the pressures of my condition. To this day we live life our way, not the MS way. We just use wheelchairs and hoists to do so, it's no big deal.

So what’s my point? Well, simply it's that this is the last piece of creative writing of any length that I will complete. My brain remains as alert as ever and I still see and hear incidents that I instantly recognise as potential for a story, but my tired body is weak. A passion for writing still fills my every waking moment, but my fingers are too stiff to transform my thoughts into written words. I used to think it would never happen to me but it has, so I urge you if not for yourself, do this for me. If you are a writer who lets other preoccupations get in the way, don’t procrastinate, get writing. I may not be able to write, but I can still read and like millions of other people, I want to read what you have to say. You have a special talent and you owe it to yourself and people like me to embrace it. Take it from me, your future is not an exact science and the skills you hold are too precious to waste on procrastination.

*  *  *

Support Andy by reading his superb thriller novel, 'Time to Think' and following him on Social Media:

Thank you, Andy my friend, for your sobering words. It's true many of us forget to see the trees for the wood.

Eric @