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Friday, September 19, 2014

What Dreams May Come

I was asked recently which authors or books have influenced my writing, and one of the books that came to mind was What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson. I read the original hardcover book more than 20 years ago. It was the first book I'd ever read cover to cover without stopping even for a five-minute break. When I was finished reading it, I flipped back to the first page and read it again.

I ended up analyzing that book. One of the most important things I learned about it is that each chapter ended with a cliff-hanger. I would glance forward, see that the next chapter was just a few short pages and I would make the decision to read only to that point. But once I got there, the last two or three paragraphs would entice me to keep reading... And so it went, until I'd read the entire book.

I would categorize the book as a Romantic Fantasy. It begins when Chris Nielsen dies unexpectedly in an accident, separating him from his soul mate. And I do mean that's where the story begins. It takes us through Chris' life after death, and when Annie needs him the most, he risks Heaven and Hell to get to her. It is a powerful book, and it inspired the movie starring Robin Williams as Chris Nielsen and Annabella Sciorra as Annie.

For those interested in New Age teachings, Richard Matheson spent years researching stories of life after death, incorporating common memories or themes from those who had near death experiences into the plot line. It makes for a powerful and riveting read.

Richard Matheson, it turns out, is one of the authors who influenced Stephen King's writing, and when one of his short stories was filmed, a young Steven Spielberg directed it. Perhaps you know him best as the author of I Am Legend, The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Omega Man, or a number of Twilight Zone episodes, including my personal favorite, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The White Devil of Dublin

My 18th release, The White Devil of Dublin, officially released this Monday, September 15. It is the sequel to The Tempest Murders, which placed as one of only four finalists in the 2013 USA Best Book Awards (cross-genre category), and brings back Irish Detective Ryan O'Clery, who is now married to Cait and has twin girls, Darby and Dee.

When a noted historian claims to have discovered information about Ryan's ancestors, he arrives for their meeting to find her murdered and her computer stolen. His investigation will lead him to 12th century Dublin, to a time of the Viking conquest on the cusp of the Norman invasion, and to an albino known as Hvitr Bard, or The White Devil. It will also uncover a secret his family had kept hidden for more than eight hundred years. And it will bring him face to face with a serial killer he thought was gone forever, but who is back to finish the job he started.

For a short time, the eBook is on sale for only $2.99. In another week or two, the price goes to $6.99 so this is a perfect time to buy it! It is available on amazon, in the iBooks store, on Nook, and all other major eBook formats. It is also available in paperback for $16.95.

If you don't see the book in your book store, please ask for it! All stores can stock it but not all stores have them on their shelves.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Does Facial Hair Matter?

Last week I posted a fun set of pictures with the same male model with different eye colors. I received so many comments about it on social media - and especially the video with the Musketeers from BBC America's hit show - that I thought I'd try another fun experiment.

This one involves facial hair, and in particular on Santiago Cabrera. Santiago plays Aramis on The Musketeers and I have to admit that he has inspired a character in a book I am currently writing, entitled The Ghosts of Brackenridge Castle.

Here is Santiago in his role as Aramis:

And clean-shaven:

With a five o'clock shadow:

With a mustache (okay, there is a bit of a beard but the mustache is more prominent):

And with a full beard:

How do you think the absence or addition of facial hair affects his appearance? Which do you prefer?

As a writer, this is just one of the characteristics I ponder about each male character.

For more information about this sexy actor, visit IMDB or BBC America's Musketeers website.

And just for fun, here are some reasons why you should love Aramis:


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Making of a Psychic - Part 18

Remote viewer or psychic spy?

This is a question our government asked themselves when they established the psychic spy program.

Concerned that the general public would not understand the use of the word "psychic" in an official government program, they came up with the term "remote viewer" - someone who views what is happening from a remote location.

In 1994, The Washington Post broke the story that the United States government was using psychics. They seemed to focus only on the negative aspects of the program and not on its successes, and because of that, many thought the program would die. However, the media storm only lasted a few days - a blink of an eye in media terms - and the program resumed just as it had before.

Although some government backers of the program initially distanced themselves out of fear of what their constituents would think of them, others rallied behind the cause. Officially, some of the programs were disbanded but in reality, other groups with more cover resumed the work.

It's important to note that psychic spies are used under strict scientific conditions, and each fact is checked by analysts and by boots on the ground. The more accurate a spy tends to be, the more assignments they receive. They also land larger and more important assignments. Those who have a rate of accuracy more in line with guessing soon find themselves out of the program.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Eyes Have It

How much does eye color have to do with the attractiveness of a person?

At the right side of this blog, you'll see a survey where I'm asking which eye color you'd most prefer to see a leading man or woman have. Just for the fun of it, we took the cover of my latest book, The White Devil of Dublin, and tried different eye colors.

The photograph is of a real man who lives in Nashville, Tennessee. It was taken in black and white:

The eye color was changed to blue for the front cover of the book, because The White Devil has blue eyes:

Here is the same photograph with green eyes:

And here it is with brown eyes:

Which do you prefer?

For the record - the person who posed for this photograph has green eyes.

And to see The Seductive Stare, this is a terrific clip from BBC America's television series, The Musketeers (which I highly recommend!)

The White Devil of Dublin can be preordered for just $2.99 in any eBook format! (Price after the book launches will be $6.99 and the paperback retails for $16.95. Follow this link to order from amazon, and this link to order from the iBooks store. All other eBook formats are available by following this link.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Making of a Psychic - Part 17

One of the toughest parts of a psychic spy's journey is learning how and when to stop the outside influences from permeating their psyches. It is similar to opening a door in which all manner of thoughts, actions, people and events will pour through. Without knowing when to close the door and how to get rid of all that excess clutter, a psychic can easily get burned out, become less effective or even resort to destructive behavior.

In some instances, psychic spies have turned to drugs or alcohol to mute the voices and turn off the images. There were even officially sanctioned experiments with drugs to determine their effectiveness. The end result, however, is the more drug-free and alcohol-free a psychic spy is, the more efficient and the more reliable they are in their missions.

For this reason, psychic spies undergo extensive testing - not only of their abilities but of their own hold on reality and their own sense of self.

Meditation has been proven extremely effective at keeping the psychics centered and for clearing their minds after a mission.

Physical activity has also proven effective, though the psychics must be careful because their sense of psychic "footing" and stability will be off-center following a mission. Something that would not be harmful, such as walking, is effective until they begin to feel more of a sense of reality. Something such as tennis would not be recommended because their reflexes don't match the level of their psychic activity.

Some psychics listen to classical music, watch movies or participate in a hobby - from stamp-collecting to sewing, from painting to bird-watching.

In Vicki's Key, Vicki is often very tired after a mission and requires sleep. This works well as long as the psychic "turns off" the psychic activity before sleeping; otherwise, they may continue to dream about the mission, its location and events. This occurs often with Vicki throughout the series, and she's begun to realize that her dreams should be taken as seriously as the mission during wakefulness.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Making of a Psychic - Part 16

In Vicki's Key, I mention some of the side effects of working psychic missions. Vicki witnessed a fellow psychic spy walking out of a building at Fort Bragg after a session, and he almost seems to be sleep-walking. She finds, also, that she requires sleep afterward, as the effort drains her energy.

The side effects were straight from real psychic spies' recollection of what it felt like to perform these missions or witness others doing them. Sleep-walking through the day seems to be a very common thread, as spies feel like they have one foot in one dimension and other foot barely in the physical present.

Here is an excerpt from Vicki's Key after her CIA boss, Sam, and a coworker drop her off a few blocks from her house after a mission to Afghanistan:

The van stopped at the corner of 13th and Walnut Streets as Sam slid the door open.

“You okay?” he asked as he stared at her intently.

“Of course I am,” Vicki replied, though she felt far from okay. As she climbed out of the van, she was almost angry with them for leaving her on the street like this. She knew, and they knew, that it was a common side effect for remote viewers to feel drugged after a session. Today was no exception. It felt intensified, she thought foggily, and she wondered if she was so out of practice that her sessions were throwing her body into a major turmoil. It was similar to awakening in the middle of a particularly vivid dream and feeling as if the dream was reality and her physical world was not. But when awakening, there was still the realization that she had been dreaming, whereas at the moment she felt as though she was still in the Hindu Kush. The little girl’s image was emblazoned in her mind, making her more tangible than Sam, who continued to stare at her or Julia, who, with a push of a button, was rolling down the passenger side window.

Regardless of Sam’s opinion, Vicki knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the little girl had seen her. It didn’t make sense; even as dazed as she felt, she knew it was completely illogical. And yet she knew it was real.

Julia reached across the front seat and handed her a package through the open window. “You got this at Johnny’s hot dog stand,” she said. “The band playing in the Plaza at lunchtime was Black Pearl. They played Love Will Keep Us Alive and Blues is My Business and Business is Good. You sat next to the fountain on a brick wall and listened to them.”

Vicki nodded silently. The information was emblazoned on her mind as if she’d truly spent the afternoon next to the fountain’s mist. She could even hear the songs as they might have been played.

“Elm Street is two blocks over,” Julia continued. “That way.” She pointed to the west.

“Got it,” Vicki answered.

After what felt like a long pause but in reality might have been mere seconds, Sam slid the back door closed. She heard it latch as Julia returned to the driver’s side and the window was rolled up as if she was being dismissed. Vicki stood with her arms hanging limply by her side, watching in a stupor while the van pulled away from the curb and turned north on Walnut Street.

She remained there for a moment longer like a sleepwalker awakening, trying to get her bearings. Her lungs felt strained with the thick, humid air. As she struggled to return to the present, she wondered if the tightness in her chest was due to the coastal humidity of North Carolina or the rapid change from the thin air of the Hindu Kush. Then she shook her head in disbelief. She hadn’t really been there, she reminded herself. It was a dream. It was all a dream.

She strolled down Walnut Street. Her eyes began to focus on her surroundings and yet, even as she faced her reality, she knew it hadn’t really been a dream. It was as real as the beautiful yellow house with the hanging ferns on the front porch. In contrast to the starkness of the Hindu Kush, Lumberton was alive in a medley of colors. She felt like Dorothy closing her eyes in the black and white imagery of Kansas only to open them to the kaleidoscope of Oz. And yet, it didn’t mean that Kansas—or Afghanistan—had been a dream.

Other side effects that psychics have reported include: 

the inability to focus on a conversation afterward; 

not realizing that they've "zoned out"; 

not remembering where they were or what they did directly after a mission;

missing an important appointment or commitment, such as a school event for a child or a commitment with a spouse;

bumping into things, tripping over sidewalk curbs, stumbling or seeming to move as if drunk;

absent-mindedly putting something in the wrong place--one instance reported a psychic tossing his car keys into a dumpster (fortunately for him, coworkers witnessed it and fished them out), or putting something in the freezer that didn't belong there;

exhibiting physical ailments that are related to the body's struggle to reunite with the psyche, such as headaches, stomach upsets, muscle aches and pains;

or overlooking serious symptoms because the psychic self-diagnoses that the symptoms are part of their psychic mission.

  Because of these side effects, each psychic mission also involves a handler; someone who not only witnesses the mission and makes certain it is audio-recorded, visually taped, or notes are taken, but someone who can keep an eye on the psychic until they have their bearings once again.