Meet Sue Coletta.
Member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers, Sue Coletta is a multi-published, award-winning author in numerous anthologies, and her forensics articles have appeared in InSinC Quarterly. In addition to her popular crime resource blog, Sue’s a radio show host — check out Partners In Crime on Blog Talk Radio — the communications manager for the Serial Killer Project and Forensic Science and founder of #ACrimeChat on Twitter. Learn more about Sue and her books at: http://www.suecoletta.com/
Guest Post – Pinch Points: What They Are and How To Use Them
After a quick Google search, I realized there isn’t much written on the subject of Pinch Points. Which is odd. They’re crucial milestones in fiction — especially mysteries and thrillers — because they show the face of evil in its purest form. Pinch Points demonstrate what your hero is up against, what causes her to jolt upright in bed.
Two wonderful quotes from my dear friend Larry Brooks, taken from Story Engineering:
“We need to see that antagonist form in its purest, most dangerous and intimidating form. Or if it isn’t dangerous, then at least we need to feel it for ourselves.”
“An example, or a reminder, of the nature and implications of the antagonist force, that is not filtered by the hero’s experience.”
Two Pinch Points in Every Story
The main difference between the First and Second Pinch Point is placement.
The First Pinch Point comes midway between the First Plot Point and the Midpoint. Because the First Plot Point comes at 20%-25% into the book and the Midpoint arrives at 50%, then the First Pinch Point needs to be placed at the 3/8th mark, or approximately 37.5%.
With the First Pinch Point, the reader needs to see the antagonist for him/herself and not merely hear it referenced or discussed. She needs to experience it, either through the hero’s eyes or through the antagonist himself. In crime fiction, this can be a murderer planning his next kill or stalking a potential target. Or a kidnapper beating his captor, and lovin’ every minute of it. Or even, the protagonist listening to the antagonist play prerecorded screams over the phone.
The simpler and more direct the Pinch Point is, the better. The important thing to remember is, the reader needs to feel it. Even if you choose to use a cutaway scene, you’ve fulfilled the need of the First Pinch Point. Anyone who’s ever read a James Patterson thriller has seen these cutaway scenes many times. They stick right out because he uses short chapters that show what the antagonist is doing — planning, scheming, killing. Make no mistake, Patterson knows exactly where to place the Pinch Points to keep the reader flipping pages, and that exact placement is at 37.5% and 62.5%, respectively.
The Second Pinch Point should appear between the Midpoint and the Second Plot Point. Regardless of whether you use a three or four act structure, the Second Pinch Point should appear at about the 5/8th mark, or 62.5%. This time, you need an entire scene devoted to it, whereas with the First Pinch Point you don’t.
A Pinch Point demonstrates the nature, power, and very essence of the antagonist force. And now, s/he’s more frightening than ever. Because at the Midpoint shift, your character changes from wanderer — where s/he is trying, failing, retreating, flailing — to a real hero, attacking the problem head-on. It’s at the Second Pinch Point where your antagonist will also up his game, and this is where you show just how evil he truly is. Incidentally, you should also show his softer side, but not at the Pinch Points. They’re reserved for the havoc he’s wreaking, or intends to wreak.
The Second Pinch Point could also be a discussion between two characters, which remind the reader what the hero is up against, even if the antagonist is within your hero, depending on your story.
As writers, we often concern ourselves with the hook and the big twist ending, perhaps even the Midpoint, but without well-placed Pinch Points the story will lose its sense of rising action and tension.
For example, in Silence of the Lambs the First Pinch Point comes when Hannibal Lecter gives Clarice the location of a storage facility where she finds a jarred head from one of Buffalo Bill’s victims. In their twisted relationship this is akin to Hannibal handing her a dozen long-stemmed roses. The Second Pinch Point comes when Hannibal gives her the map of Buffalo Bill’s murders, which ultimately helps her break the case and find the killer.
Have fun with your Pinch Points.
Make them deliciously evil, and you’ll ensure your reader isn’t going anywhere.
Wings of Mayhem: http://smarturl.it/WingsofMayhem
Other books can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Sue–Coletta/e/B015OYK5HO/
Meet Valerie Joan Connors.
Valerie Joan Connors is the author of four novels, A Better Truth (Deeds Publishing, 2016), A Promise Made (Deeds Publishing, 2015), Shadow of a Smile (Deeds Publishing, 2014) and In Her Keeping (Bell Bridge Books, 2013).
The child of an artist and a musician, Valerie was born in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan a long time ago. Her family moved her out west, where she spent her formative years in Eugene, Oregon. Then she bounced up and down the west coast, spending time in San Diego, Seattle, and Portland, before her job as a software consultant brought her to Atlanta in 1996, the same day as the Olympic torch.
Valerie credits her association with the Atlanta Writers Club for the fact that her four novels were both written and published. She has served on the AWC Board since 2011 in nearly every capacity, including as AWC President from 2013 to 2015. She continues to serve as the VP of Programming and Officer Emerita.
During business hours, Valerie is the CFO of an engineering firm. She is a dog person, and supports lion, tiger, and elephant conservation efforts, and hopes to raise awareness through her writing. Valerie lives in Atlanta with her husband and two rescue dogs, and is working on her next novel.
Find out more about Valerie and her books on her website: http://www.valeriejoanconnors.com
Guest Post – The Thrill of the Psychological Thriller
These days, inspiration for your next thriller is all around you. After just fifteen minutes browsing my Facebook feed I came up with a dozen ideas for stories that could scare the pants off of people. The political stories alone were enough to scare me. Megalomaniacs, terrorists, missing children, unsolved murders, a serial killer on the loose in some city. Maybe your city.
It seems that people love to be scared, though the answer as to why we do is better left to the psychiatrists. However, the proof that we do is in the numbers. Stephen King has sold approximately three hundred and fifty million books, according to Google. That’s one book for every man, woman, and child currently living in the United States. As for me, I have read all of his books. The popularity of the genre is reflected in its many sub-categories, including but not limited to legal thrillers, medical thrillers, crime thrillers, political thrillers, techno-thrillers, and my personal favorite, the psychological thriller.
If you think about it, the very nature of fear has its roots in our imagination. We may look at a situation and imagine possibilities that are much worse than is strictly realistic or likely to occur. It follows that the scariest of thrillers would be the ones whose protagonists suffer with a touch of madness. Their twisted ideas and distortions get inside the reader’s head and can’t get out. It wakes us up at night, or sneaks into our thoughts when we’re home alone. But still, we can’t wait to pick up the next new thriller and find some other scary thoughts to harbor in the dark.
So what makes a good psychological thriller? There are many elements, of course, but here are a few of my favorites. When the main character is a little bit off their nut, so to speak, the reader is automatically put on edge with the feeling that things may not actually be the way they seem. It’s the unreliability of the narrator that makes us not trust in the words he or she is saying. We ask ourselves, just exactly how crazy is this person?
The setting is also important in a psychological thriller. The darker, gloomier, and more claustrophobic, the better. An interaction between our protagonist and the story’s villain that takes place in the middle of a crowded restaurant, would be much more threatening if it took place in an isolated location with no one around to hear her screams for help…
In psychological thrillers, the characters don’t rely on their physical strength to defeat their enemies. They depend on their mental resources instead. Sometimes the enemies are internal, like phobias, insanity, paranoia, and a crumbling sense of reality. And sometimes these demons are so powerful that we begin to wonder if our protagonist will prevail in the end. So we bite our nails as we watch her begin to lose her grip, wondering how much more she can handle. Our antagonist will use deception, manipulation, and mind games to push her to the brink, and maybe beyond.
Willow St. Claire, the protagonist in my psychological thriller, A Better Truth, has a difficult time recognizing the difference between reality and hallucination, nightmare and memory. There’s something in her past she’s trying very hard to forget. When you add these complications to a character’s life, it gives the writer all sorts of new opportunities for creating tension and suspense. That’s the goal, after all.
Of my four published novels, A Better Truth was the most fun to write. I’ve always loved reading reading thrillers, in many of the sub-genres, but now I’m hooked on writing them too.
“I hurtled through the uneven grass towards the grove of trees. The two smaller men followed me, laughing and calling out obscene threats; this was just a game to them.”
– Rosa Fedele
The Red Door
A Review by Linnéa Ryan
The Red Door by Rosa Fedele is a period mystery set in 1980s Australia. Like all good mysteries it is rife with red herrings, secrets, and lies. The novel follows many threads that weave in and out of each other, but they all intersect with Madeleine. A compelling dichotomy of wounded fragility and stubborn resilience, Madeleine is the curious, new landlady of an old estate named Rosalind. She comes to find that she may have received more than she bargained for when Rosalind proves to be at the heart of many dangerous secrets—secrets which some would go to terrible lengths to keep buried in the past.
Within the pages of The Red Door, readers will find themselves racing to piece together the clues presented to solve the novel’s many mysteries: Who is the illusive tenant in Number Three? Who is watching Anne and Madeleine? Is there really more to Monique than her villainous vanity? Who were Zahra and Amirah Billah? Why were they murdered?
When it comes to the author’s style of writing, Fedele’s prose is almost cinematic in nature. Even without the smattering of illustrations between select chapters, one can easily tell that an artist wrote the book. Acute attention is given to visual details throughout, from elaborate descriptions of landscapes and the intricacies of the Rosalind estate, to the eccentricities of the outfits that adorn her large cast of characters. Material items and the space they reside in are a large part of Fedele’s writing style. Her transitions between passages almost lend themselves better to a cinematic format than writing however, as they can be somewhat jarring in their quest to be mysterious and pull the reader too far out of the story’s rhythm.
That being said, it is this rich, sensory imagery that is one of Fedele’s strongest suits as a writer, along with her attention to relationships. One of the most captivating aspects of The Red Door is the achingly tender relationship between Madeleine and a young teenager named Claudia. The multiple mysteries of the novel are often overshadowed by the earnest depictions of Claudia’s abusive home life and her struggle to free herself. It is through the unfolding of their unlikely mentorship that Fedele’s true voice as a writer shines through. You may pick up The Red Door for its mysteries but it is the book’s poignant exploration of the bonds of friendship between women that will stay with you long after you’ve put it down.
Meet Rosa Fedele.
‘For me, every painting and every book is a new adventure, started with a thrill
of excitement and anticipation.’
Australian painter Rosa Fedele, known for her portrait and figurative work, was born in Sydney and studied at the prestigious Julian Ashton Art School. A member of Portrait Artists Australia, Australia’s largest industry association for professional portraitists, and a regular contributor to Australian Fine Art and Decorative Painting magazine, her work has been exhibited in NSW Parliament House and Parliament House Canberra, as well as numerous galleries and exhibitions in Australia and worldwide.
Rosa fell avidly in love with books at a very young age. Her favourites were those by C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, and later on Raymond E. Feist, David Eddings, Anne McCaffrey and Frank Herbert; in fact, anything with beautiful and spellbinding words and imagery that would allow her to escape into other worlds.
Her debut novel The Red Door is a fulfilment of her lifelong dream, to interweave a story with pictures … and draw the reader into her own bewitching, and slightly dark-edged, world.
Guest Post – “Would YOU invite this woman in for tea?”
The first reaction I encountered at the announcement of my first novel was: “Why ever did you decide to write a book?” The question is usually accompanied, even now, by the scratching of heads, and incredulous or uncomprehending looks. Well, really, is it such a leap from creating pictures with a pencil or brush, to conveying images with words?
“But, is this something you’ve always wanted to do?” they persist.
Funnily enough, when first I started to write, I had no idea what I was doing. In fact, I was so embarrassed that I started the project in secret, waiting until the house was empty and I was sure to be completely alone.
But, quite simply, yes. I have always known I would write and illustrate my own books; it was a natural progression. I grew up on a rich diet of illustrated stories – the works of C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Beverley Nichols, Hauff’s Fairy Tales, E.C. Pedley’s Dot and The Kangaroo and this – newly rediscovered during a recent move – Norman Lindsay’s “The Flyaway Highway”. Lindsay, a master of portraiture not well-known outside our country, had a wonderfully silly side, unapologetically writing his own jolly and deliciously nonsensical stories, generously laced with illustrations and innuendo.
See how disrespectful I was as a child, wantonly defacing this lovely old book by colouring in Norman’s drawings!
Now, the thing is: I love old houses. A lot.
Sometimes my heart profoundly aches at the sheer beauty of a building and I will stop and stare dumbly at the shimmering tarnished Gothic copper roof of a turret, the sun flashing off stained glass windows or the swirling ochres and russets of a Sydney sandstone wall, wishing desperately for the owner to appear at the door, smile and welcome me in for tea and biscuits.
One day, I was strolling through Glebe (one of the oldest suburbs in Sydney), admiring the timeworn mansions, and I happened upon one house in particular. But it was more than a house; the magnificent old building riveted and mesmerised me and in the following weeks I was drawn back to the site, over and over. The mansion is fronted by a brightly painted door, a glossy façade, and I imagined what the door might mask and what it could have concealed over the last 150 years: nasty, shameful secrets, possibly a poor family’s misfortune and tragedy, rotten crimes and heaven knows what other unholy messes … and a story began to form.
I researched the origins of the house. I drafted thumbnail sketches of my main protagonist and her beautiful new home and, slowly, she came to life. Very soon, I was hosting a whole colony of characters in my head.
Set in 1983, The Red Door is about the new owner of a Sydney mansion ‘Rosalind’, who begins to believe she is being watched by one of her tenants, the mysterious resident in Number Three, a reclusive man who happens to share his name with two teenage sisters, victims of a sinister and brutal murder which took place in the 50’s. Her peace of mind slowly erodes as a fascination with the unsolved crime becomes obsession – consuming her life, shaking relationships with her newfound friends and leaving a trail of devastation.
As the story unfolded, I’d paint a picture to illustrate exactly what the chair in Beadles’ window looked like or how the iconic Balmain Garage used to look before developers tore it down.
A reviewer said of The Red Door “… I found the observational style reminiscent of Henry James’ novels – fine detail and expertly written dialogue …” After I collected myself up off the floor and back into my chair, I thought: Wow! I’m glad I was able to successfully convey the language and landscape of inner city Sydney with words because, quite frankly, it’s far easier to turn to a No. 10 Filbert and a tube of paint when I’m struggling with commas, clichés and characterisation!
Does it help to observe with an artists’ eye? I think so. We are taught not just to look, but to see. Just as Amsterdam has its own pearly and intimate light, perfectly captured by Vermeer and de Hooch, and the English countryside its own gentle grey-blue drifting clouds, so masterfully interpreted by Constable, Sydney has a particular atmosphere of its own. The sky’s blue is so startling it can burn retinas, the edge of every leaf is knife-sharp, the heat can singe nostril hair and our birds don’t twitter or chirp – they screech.
I suppose having a portraitist’s eye also helps: watching how people integrate with their environment and each other, the inter-personal dynamics, mannerisms, the tilt of a head, a finger rubbed nervously across a philtrum. Another peculiar thing: characters will take on a life of their own – just when you’ve got the plot sorted, the little buggers wander off and do anything they bloody please! Halfway through the story, my main girl’s infuriating behaviour was driving me spare, so I tore up all the old sketches and painted my protagonist as I preferred her – a no-nonsense woman with tenacity and resilience – and slowly she started to come around and see it my way …
It was a joy to write and illustrate The Red Door. Readers who also love the pictures can easily hop online and order their very own limited edition print or giclée.
And yes, there’s a sequel. Again, it’s based around an old house in Sydney. No, I won’t tell you much more, but here’s how I’m developing one of the characters on canvas:
Readers are invited to come along on the journey as I illustrate, to watch how drawings and paintings develop – some make the cut and some simply end up in pile on the floor, next to the purple prose and alliteration – you can follow my progress on Instagram @rosafedele or good old-fashioned Facebook @rosafedele.artist.author.
I certainly hope one day someone will love my books well enough to handle them until dog-eared and tattered, or gleefully take to the illustrations with a packet of coloured Derwents.
And, lovely readers, if you ever see me lurking in front of your beautiful old mansion, please do invite me in for tea.
The fun begins as Mystery Thriller Week 2017 (#MysteryThrillerWeek or #MTW) kicks off tomorrow. This is the biggest mystery event for the genre!
Below is the lineup I have for the event. Each day for the next 10 days I will be hosting a number of authors, each contributing a guest post from writing mystery to a how to guide when working with audiobooks. There is a little something for everyone!
A big thanks to all the authors who participated! It has certainly been an exciting adventure and opportunity.
Day 1 – Mystery
10AM – Kristina Stanley
12PM – Mahrie G. Reid
Day 2 – Cozy Mystery
8AM – Mary Angela
10AM – Hope Callaghan
12PM – Elizabeth Spann Craig
2PM – Jean Rabe
Day 3 – True Crime / Crime Fiction
8AM – Stephen Bentley
10AM – Daithi Kavanagh
12PM – L M Krier
2PM – Kimberly McGath
Day 4 – Thriller
8AM – Scott Bell
10AM – Sandra Block
12PM – D.M Barr
Day 5 – Romance
8AM – Vicki Batman
10AM – Zaheera Walker
12PM – Lily Black
2PM – Leslie Tentler
Day 6 – Paranormal
8AM – Stephen Morris
10AM – Brian McKinley
12PM – Scott Lerner
Day 7 – Writing
8AM – Rayne Hall
10AM – Anne Janzer
12PM – Kris Keppeler
2PM – Karen A. Wyle
4PM – Michael Smorenburg
Day 8 – Historical
8AM – Suzanne Adair
10AM – Maggi Andersen
12PM – Edwin Herbert
2PM – Assaph Mehr
4PM – Geoffrey Monmouth
Day 9 – Psychological
10AM – Rosa Fedele
10:30AM – Guest Review of Rose Fedele’s book The Red Door
12PM – Mary Ann D’Alto
2PM – Valerie Joan Connors
4PM – Sue Coletta
Day 10 – YA/Middle Grade
8AM – Jackie Amsden
10AM – Robbie Cheadle
12PM – Carrie Cross
2PM – Stephen C. Perkins
4PM – Shelley Pickens
6PM – Laura Wolfe
Click here to visit the main site for M.T.W and see what other bloggers, reviewers, and authors are up to!