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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Admired People of 2013

The days leading up to the new year are always my favorite. They give me the opportunity to reflect upon the last year and to prepare for the coming one. I always enjoy the television shows about the most influential people of the year, and I always get misty-eyed when I see all the faces of those who passed away.

I didn't want this year to come to a close without weighing in on my own Most Admired List of People in 2013. Though I am not Catholic or Methodist or Jewish, there are people of those faiths on this list. Some people you have no doubt heard about, and others who you probably haven't. But all have influenced the world in a positive way in 2013.

#1 : Pope Francis

I've never been to the Vatican and will never be privy to the inner workings of the inner-most circle. But it has to be nothing short of miraculous for a Pope to lead followers in new directions, modernizing the church and banishing the old order. I admire Pope Francis for leading his people into a path of brightness. He will no doubt be recognized as one of the greatest popes who ever lived.

#2 : Nelson Mandela

It's easy to focus on those who have done us wrong in one way or another, and many of us stubbornly hold onto old prejudices and beliefs. Imagine how difficult it must have been for a man who was not treated as a man but as something less, to be imprisoned, forced into hard labor, beaten down both physically and mentally... To emerge victorious. Mandela showed the world what it is to forgive. His life was an example of a beacon that refused to be extinguished, and of a light that I hope will last far into the future.

#3 : Neelley Hicks

Neelley Hicks works for United Methodist Communications. In the past, she has worked toward eradicating malaria in third world countries and on improving the life of the poor throughout the world. She is now working on Information and Communications Technologies for Development (ICT4D), a project that can revolutionize the world as it brings the Internet, cell phone technology and computer technology to the poorest of the poor in the least advanced countries. She works tirelessly, giving of herself, her energy and her time, to improving mankind.

#4 : Michael Feinstein

Michael Feinstein is the CEO of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington (Washington, DC). I've known him for about twenty years and for almost ten years, he has mentored me. I know I am not the only one he mentors; he gives of his time and his energy without judgment, and he's shown patience when most folks would have been tempted to throw up their hands. Yet he never asks for anything in return. His work through JCCGW and personally is far-reaching and life-changing.

#5 : Mickey Gregory

Mickey Gregory is the Executive Director of the Lumberton Visitors Bureau in Lumberton, North Carolina. She works tirelessly to improve Lumberton and Robeson County, pulling together business leaders, community organizations and individuals from all walks of life. She seems to be everywhere at once: from early in the morning until well past evening, seven days a week, she is attending community events, making telephone calls, giving talks, answering emails - and never taking "no" as a final answer. She is undoubtedly one of the key players in taking Lumberton from a farming community into a new, exciting era as a tourist destination.

#6 : Mary Ann Masters

Dr. Mary Ann Masters is an Optometrist but she is on this list because of her vision for the Arts. She resurrected the Robeson County Arts Council, which had been dormant for several years, and has spear-headed efforts to revitalize Robeson County, North Carolina as an arts community. She has pulled together artists from theatre, the visual arts, the literary arts and more, helping to develop events that attract tourists from around the country, and profiling the vast talents of artists and artisans in this community.

There are many people, both well-known and obscure, both great and small, who help to make their communities and the world around them a brighter, better place to live. I salute each and every one of you!

Who has made a difference in your life this past year?

Monday, December 30, 2013

Top Ten Books of 2013

Earlier this year I began working with a publisher to edit books. I have also been hosting various virtual blog tours at www.bookemnc.blogspot.com. As a result, I've had the great fortune of reading new books by authors I hadn't discovered before. I look for superb storytelling, compelling plots, and characters I love (or love to hate). And I must admit that 2013 was filled with romance and romantic suspense genres! So here's my list of the Top Ten books I read this year (with click-thrus to the pages on amazon):

1. Through the Oracle's Mist by Aedan Byrnes

2. Saving Sandra by Shane Hayes (not yet released - to be released in the spring of 2014)

3. Ghost Lover by Liza O'Connor

4. Selkie's Song by Clare Austin

5. Captured Lies by Maggie Thom

6. Spirit of the Revolution by Debbie Peterson

7. Going Back for Romeo by L.L.Muir (and the entire Muir Witch Project series)

8. Stealing Fire by Susan Sloate

9. A Love Through Time by Terri Brisbin (and the entire MacKendimen trilogy)

10. The Laird by Sandy Blair (and the Castle Blackstone series)

What were the best books you read in 2013?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Drama and Conflict

People who know me well know that I dislike drama and conflict in my own life but such is not the case in writing. Regardless of the genre, the story is propelled forward through conflict. Without it, there's no point in reading it. Even inspirational books weave stories of conflict and drama through them, if for no other reason than to show the reader how they can come out on top in similar circumstances.

With suspense, nothing can be easy. And as the story unfolds, the noose must become tighter and tighter around the protagonist's neck until the reader doesn't know if that character can survive.

For years I had a sign in my office that read:

"She was born. She died. And somewhere in between, she encountered something so frightening and so threatening that she did not know if she would survive."

It's that occurrence that I write about in my suspense/thrillers. It isn't the story of how they were born, their early years, the things that happened to them that were good or heartwarming or positive - It's the conflict, the taking of an average person and placing them into extraordinary circumstances. It's the page-turning suspense and twists and turns that pulls the main character deeper and deeper into an abyss that seems impossible to climb out of. That is the stuff of suspense.

In The Tempest Murders, Detective Ryan O'Clery is working a serial murder case. He's a police detective so the case doesn't affect him personally, right? Well... not quite. He falls quickly and passionately in love with television reporter Cathleen Reilly, who appears on the scene to cover the unfolding homicides. But nothing can be easy in suspense. Through a wicked twist of fate, the relationship between Ryan and Cathleen is in danger of falling apart - just as he discovers a link from the killer to his own family. The serial murders are personal - and Cathleen is the killer's next target.

As the noose closes around Ryan, Hurricane Irene is barreling toward the coast, capturing Cathleen, Ryan and killer Diallo Delport in its grasp - and against the formidable winds, rain, flooding and devastation, three people battle for their lives.

Purchase The Tempest Murders from amazon by following this link. It placed as one of four finalists in the 2013 USA Best Book Awards!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Finding Contentment

On Tuesday, I posted a blog about being overcommitted and frazzled, particularly at this time of year. I received this tip, which I'm passing on to those women who contacted me, admitting they, too, suffer from overcommitment and the inability to say "no".

I was told to take two sheets of paper. At the top of one sheet, write:

Things That Make Me Content

At the top of the second sheet, write:

Things That Result in Discontent

"Happiness" is a term that seems to be elusive; when I ask women if they are happy, more than not they respond with, "What is happiness?"

But ask what makes you feel content, and the reaction is quite different.

Something that makes me feel content each and every time I do it is writing. That tells me I need to continue writing.

Something that causes discontent is being manipulated into doing something I would not ordinarily engage in.

For example (because I realize that last sentence was rather vague): I received an invitation in the mail to an engagement party - only the invitation appeared to have come from ME and it was at MY home at a particular date and time. I knew absolutely nothing about it. After making a number of phone calls, trying to run down the source, I found out that a party had indeed been planned without my involvement or consent and several dozen people had received their invitations on the same day that I received mine. Not wishing to blow a bad situation completely out of control, I put on my big girl panties and hosted the party. On the outside, I might have appeared calm or accommodating. Inside, I was seething. The party cost me time and money, and I already had other plans, which I had to cancel.

Lesson: put the brakes on manipulation. Others will try it; there's no doubt about it. But it does not make me content to be manipulated so whatever conscious decision I need to make to prevent it from happening has to be on my front burner.

Let me know if you try the "Content" and "Discontent" columns, and whether it becomes the first step to organizing your life the way it should be.

And I'll continue to post tips as they come in.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tis the Season... To Be Frazzled

There are just two weeks left in 2013. New Year's Day is always my favorite holiday. I spend the time leading up to the new year contemplating what my goals and resolutions were for the current year and establishing new goals and resolutions - and plans for achieving them.

This year as I look back on 2013, I realize what everyone else has been seeing all along: I am frazzled and completely overcommitted.

I am a people pleaser, which means it is very difficult for me to say "no". I have become an expert at staying so busy that I have no time for myself. I give away my time to friends in need, to authors in need, to volunteer groups, to animals, to people in all walks of life who lean on me on a daily basis.

I had an ah-ha moment this past weekend when I had a rare opportunity to read a magazine - and read an interview with Maria Shriver, in which she mentioned the number of women she's met who say they don't have time to wash their hair. For the first time that I can remember, I realized I am not the only one who is in this boat.

Women today are asked to do more than ever before. I know women who work long hours at high-powered and high-stressed jobs and who routinely go through fast food drive-throughs on their way home from work, because their family is waiting for their dinners - one woman in particular who has a stay-at-home husband, and she's still responsible for the cooking (or fast food pickups), the cleaning, the child-rearing, AND the bread-winning.

I know women sandwiched in between raising their own children and caring for their elderly parents who have moved in with them. I know women who must serve as nurses, spouses, mothers, caregivers, cooks, housekeepers, chauffeurs, secretaries... in addition to working full-time jobs.

And I know other women who work two jobs in an attempt to make ends meet, which is a constant challenge of juggling bills and "robbing Peter to pay Paul". One woman is working six days a week in a full-time job and has had to take on a second job on her only day off.

I know other women in their 50's, 60's and 70's who thought at that stage in their lives they would be taking it easier, coasting into or enjoying retirement, and instead are learning new careers, reinventing themselves, and stretching themselves to the breaking point.

So I know when I come up for air and take a rare look around me that I am not the only one who has ended up on a treadmill that goes ever faster. The question is how to rearrange my life so that I am not the last in a list - a list in which I rarely get toward the bottom - but near the top, or as many of my friends are striving for - at the top.

I have tried saying "no" and people are insistent. If I don't personally step in, this dog will die. Or that person will encounter catastrophy. Or someone else will be unhappy. Or angry. Or upset. Never mind that it means I won't get lunch that day, or that I won't have time to go to the bathroom, or I won't have the opportunity to rest for five minutes, or the exercise routine I just decided yesterday had to happen - won't happen for another year. Or two years. Or three. Or maybe never.

It has reached the point where everything I do, I must give up something else to do it. And that "something else" is always something for myself.

Yet I know I am not the only one. By far.

Are you finding yourself in this same boat? If so, I'd like to hear from you. I'd like to know if you managed to get off the treadmill, how you did it. If you're struggling, what you're contemplating doing. Where you find support.

In the coming weeks (if anyone is interested) I'll post what I'm doing to get balance in my life. And in six months or a year, we'll see if I am successful. It's my New Year's Resolution, after all. And they never fail... do they?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Through the Oracle's Mist


Today's special guest is Aedan Byrnes. There is no simple description for Aedan. Obsessive, dreamer, reclusive, compulsive, outdoorsman and wordsmith would be among the list if one were started. The displaced Gael lives in the upper Midwest with family between jaunts wherever the road takes him. A frequent traveler, he is as likely to be found rock climbing or spelunking as sitting fireside dreaming or aimlessly floating away.

A lifelong lover of words and writing, he claims a diverse reading appetite and his writing reflects the myriad influences. A self-proclaimed 'reader's writer', he looks for the emotional and the sensory in word combinations, not just the visceral comprehension of phrases in the stories he crafts and his love of all things literary shines through.


ABOUT THE BOOK

In the blackest night, with the moon and stars to guide him, she would always be there waiting…

Cyrenna thought she died the day she watched Tynan and his brothers jump through the banishment portal in an act of solidarity with Rigor. Little did she know, it would be the first of many deaths she would experience in her quest to claim his heart. She would surrender not only her immortal soul, but a mortal one repeatedly. Through a deal with the great Oracle, she has multiple mortal lifetimes to change the direction of her future and have a chance with Tynan.

Her journey spans the ages from the GenPei War in Japan and the Silk Road west, to Cromwell, the Three Kingdoms and modern times, bringing her one step closer to forever until she makes a misstep. Then, the burden falls to Tynan. The only thing that is absolute is her fervent hope that he will come, but there’s one big problem.

Through it all, he doesn’t so much as know her name.






AN EXCERPT

How many times can a man be broken? How many times can a man die and never have it be final? How many lost loves or lost chances at love will it take to undo any chance of ever becoming whole? In the purest sense…only one. Nothing I could imagine or ever endure would compete for the absolute punishing agony of her folding me into her arms to comfort me and hearing her whisper…

“I know.”

Two words. Who knew that two words would be all that it would take to loose the storm? Hardly two words really, only five letters. Five little letters with extreme power. Five little letters to rob Zeus of his most lethal bolt, focus the strike, and rend me in pieces. The surge had pushed past my pride and leaves me sobbing for the loss I had yet to experience. A loss I knew would take my breath, but I cannot die. How cruelly ironic that death has become my sole wish now?

My internal emotional upheaval is a flash storm out of place beneath the cloudless sky. The cacophony of my noisy tears and transition scatter the small creatures for miles. I have no control and shift without grace. Rage and pain coalesce to an explosion, angst roaring as the internal battle is waged and the war lost before the call to arms is done sounding. My thunderous eruption screaming against the fading light, with a rising silvery moon and shimmering stars to bear witness to my destruction. The metamorphosis from man to beast is abrupt. I shift, not with the flexing of bone and the stretching of skin, but with the crack of a gun blast and a single pull to form. It is razor wire across my senses and I am bloodied raw without a trace to be found.

A testament to her, she stands still. Not frozen, but placated to let me render the fury that must come out as I cannot hold it in. The beast from within is enormous, but not big enough to hold so much. I warned her. I told her. I had made her aware almost cruelly that first time I let my inner wild out that this day might come…could come…would come and that it would be ushered in on an unseen tide that would sweep our perfect world away. I had wanted her to be afraid. She wasn’t. She had believed, but had also naively assured me that the day would be long into the future and we would enjoy the time until then.

She had been wrong. There was nothing to say now. ‘I’m sorry’ would be a hollow sentiment and ‘I was wrong’ would do nothing as the last thing I would want to hear and know about this was that I had been right.

LEAVE A COMMENT - AND WIN A PRIZE

Aedan will be awarding one of two journals (with the winners' choice of covers) to two randomly drawn commenters and an Erian Crest necklace as a grand prize to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour.Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here:



Twitter: @AedanByrnes


Friday, December 13, 2013

Musings on the Reviewer's Responsibilities

Last week I received a review on my latest book, The Tempest Murders. The review was complimentary and positive and mentioned no negatives. I should be flattered, right? So what's the problem?

Well, the review was based on the reviewer reading only the first five pages of a 265-page book.

That's right. Five pages.

It prompted me to think of the first five pages I've read of other authors' works. Clive Cussler's book, Sahara, begins in April 1865 in Richmond, Virginia. Yet the bulk of the book takes place in the present day. Many of his writings are slip-stream, the same genre as The Tempest Murders. I can't imagine reviewing that book based on the one scene that took place in 1865.

Yet that's precisely what this reviewer did with The Tempest Murders. Though she praised the first chapter, she admitted in the review that she had no clue why the second chapter began in North Carolina nearly two hundred years later, or what it had to do with the scene from 1839 Ireland. She said the only physical description she had of Rian Kelly was that he had black hair - but she didn't read beyond the fifth page to see whether the character was fleshed out as the story progressed (which it was; I very rarely describe a character in his or her entirety all at once, which slows down the action). If she'd read the synopsis or the back cover of the book, she would have known more than what she admitted knowing in her review.

While I appreciate any and all reviews, it made me wonder: as a reader, what do you expect from a reviewer? Do you read the reviews anticipating or assuming that the reviewer read the entire book? That they've read enough to know if the book gets better, gets worse, wraps things up or falls apart at the seams? Or at least enough to know the plot?

How much of your own reading is based on the reviews of others? Or do you ignore reviews altogether and go strictly by the book's description? Or the author's reputation?

To read more about The Tempest Murders including the plot and reviews, visit this page. The book placed as one of four finalists in the 2013 USA Best Book Awards!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Attraction

Yesterday's post was all about creating evil characters, but there are just as many layers of goodness that can be added to characters we wish to portray as positive. One of the most common threads in a variety of genres is the girl-boy relationship. The entire book can center around their relationship (as in the romance genre) or the relationship could be another thread in a more complicated plot (such as an action-adventure or suspense/thriller).

I just finished reading a book in which the male lead instantly thinks of the girl without her clothes on, the moment they meet. Though the author was attempting to portray the female as a love interest, the affect was sleazy and superficial. It didn't have the desired affect. Why not?

Because we are attracted to people in a multitude of ways, some of which are subtle and some more profound.

Attraction can be depicted with the simple touch of a silky-smooth hand, which creates a surge of electricity in the one the woman touches.

It can be the mesmerizing way the woman runs her fingers through her hair, the man brushes his stray locks off his forehead, the way his collar brushes against the back of his neck or the way a blouse caresses a woman's wrist.

It can be the sensual aroma of a woman's skin, described as spicy or sweet, depending on the rest of the character's persona. Or the fresh or slightly wild scent of a man - perhaps he is an outdoorsman and athletic, or a Wall Street power broker wearing a musk-based cologne.

In The Tempest Murders, Ryan O'Clery is mesmerized by a dragonfly tattoo on Cate's ankle. Her jeans are ankle-length so when she's sitting, the pants ride up slightly, exposing more of the tattoo. She also dangles one stiletto heel as she sits with her legs crossed. Dangling a shoe and exposing the heel of the foot is actually one of the sexiest things men list for a woman to do, according to a recent survey of sexual attraction.

Cate doesn't hit Ryan over the head with her sexuality; yet the most subtle gestures heighten the attraction he has for her. It also heightens the reader's reaction; as any good book progresses, the gestures can become broader, deeper, or more profound, building to the point where the two characters take their relationship to a more intimate level.

Have you read any books where the couple remained with you long after you put the book down? What triggers did each character provide to the other in a subtle but telling way?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Evil Characters

Whether a book is a romance, a mystery, an adventure, a fantasy... There is always at least one thing in common. They each contain at least one character who makes the protagonist's life miserable.

It might be easy to portray an antagonist as something so evil that he or she has no redeeming qualities. In the show, don't tell rule in writing, this could be depicted as a child abuser, animal killer, or spouse abuser.

But sometimes, it's the little things that make the greatest impact.

It could be the way in which a spouse requires all the cans to face with their labels outward, as in Sleeping With the Enemy... When main character Lara Burney escapes from her marriage, we know her husband has found her when all the cans are reorganized with the labels outward.

It could be the way in which a spouse "edits" everything the other says, correcting and requiring them to speak in a specific manner.

Or it could be the way in which a parent turns a deaf ear to a child in need, refusing to hear or respond to their physical or emotional needs.

Every human being is multi-faceted. Sometimes the way evil sneaks up on a person is to portray them as someone we might have liked; someone whose characteristics draw us to him or her. But when we're sucked in, we find there are other layers, terrifying layers, perhaps sociopathic in one extreme or disconnected in another. Perhaps it's someone who seems normal on the surface but who is incapable of feeling pain - and has a quiet obsession with seeing it in others.

There are careers for those who want to live outside normal society. Mobsters, assassins or mercenaries are just a few that come to mind - careers in which the sociopaths are surrounded by others of their own kind. While Hitler undoubtedly laid the groundwork for hatred and crimes against humanity, it took more than one person to carry it out - sometimes those evil characters are found in the guise of doctors, soldiers, or otherwise ordinary civilians - more than 200,000 in all who participated in crimes against humanity under the Nazi regime. We think of a doctor as someone sworn to help save other human beings from pain or death, and yet many have crossed the line into something sinister and evil.

As an author, I must create a composite of each evil character in my book. I have to know as much about the way they tick as I do the protagonist. I have to find their good qualities as well as shine a spotlight on their evil qualities.

In The Tempest Murders, I introduce a character named Diallo Delport. He is a sociopath, a killer, a man who is patient enough to plan his crimes to the most minute detail. He is formidable, physically intimidating: 6 foot 4, 230 pounds, solid muscle. He is also an albino, his eyes a mixture of light purple and cornflower blue, his skin unusually pale. Perhaps a most alarming characteristic is a scar that runs under one eye and continues almost the length of one cheek; a scar that looks like a teardrop. It will be the last thing that many women see just before he murders them.

As an author, I am a people-watcher. When I see a character who disarms me, a character who frightens me or causes me to fear for my safety, I want to know why. The character of Diallo Delport was created in part on a character from the television series Justified. Brilliantly portrayed by actor Neal McDonough, the character of Robert Quarles is chilling, sadistic, mesmerizing, and terrifying.

What evil character portrayed in the arts has made a lasting impression on you?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday Musings - Love and Hate

Like millions of people around the world, I admire Nelson Mandela and all he was able to accomplish in his lifetime. Perhaps the most profound thing I heard about him over the past few days had to do with a speech he gave at Howard University in Washington, DC a few years after he was released from prison. Students who had been there for that speech spoke of what Mandela meant to them and what they had learned from him.

One student quoted a passage from his book, Long Walk to Freedom, in which Mandela said, "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

There are many prejudices in this world. There is hatred of races different from our own, hatred of religions that do not agree with ours, hatred of cultures that vary from ours. There is hatred of people who have more than we do, of those more beautiful than we see ourselves, of those more intelligent or intellectual. There is even hatred of people who remind us too much of ourselves.

Yet what Mandela said is true. We are not born with hatred. It is learned.

Perhaps one of Mandela's legacies is to stop and look at ourselves, to question why we hate, why we discriminate, why we feel prejudices. And to understand that if we can learn an emotion that will destroy not only others but ourselves, we can also learn to love, to accept, to forgive, to embrace.

What did Mandela mean to you?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Musings... Traveling the World

Today marks the start of another virtual book tour. I always enjoy them, because I have the opportunity to connect with fans all over the world.

Today Queen of All She Reads is hosting me with a book review of The Tempest Murders. The book recently placed as one of five finalists in the 2013 USA Best Book Awards in the cross-genre category. Come on over by following this link, read the review and leave a comment for me.

The Tempest Murders is also featured today at Romance with Flavor. Pop on over and read an excerpt from the book.

I feel very blessed to be able to do what I love the most: write. From the time I was a young girl, I always wanted to write full-time. I have always been attracted to suspense and adventure and in recent years as I have connected more with my family's ancestry, I love weaving Ireland into my plots.

What countries and backdrops do you love reading about the most?


Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday

Now that Thanksgiving is over, a number of my friends are braving the crowds at stores around the country, trying to get those best deals. Some began as early as 5 am, and on last night's news I was astonished to see film footage of crowds and long lines on Thanksgiving Day. One lady was even eating her Thanksgiving dinner on a paper plate in a parking lot, between shopping.

I don't remember ever being actively engaged in Black Friday and shopping deals. And for more than a decade, my holiday ritual has been to create a family calendar, which I give to each of my relatives. The calendar has photographs of family members in each month. I used to beg for new photographs and then scanned them, but with Facebook it's become so easy to pop onto my relatives' pages and save the photographs I want to use.

My father spent many, many years working on our genealogy and I add those dates, as well as wedding dates, birth dates, and other important dates, to each month. I use Microsoft Publisher, which has a great set of calendar templates. Afterward, I email the file to my wonderful neighborhood PostNet in Lumberton, North Carolina, and they make the copies I need on 14" long by 11" wide paper, staple it, and punch the holes for hanging.

I won't do much if any shopping in stores, and for those things I'll buy, the Internet loves me. :)

However, I remember when my writing career was just beginning how I was scheduled to sign books from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. My first suspense was published when I lived in the Richmond, Virginia area. Within 30 minutes of my home there were scores of book stores, from small independents (who were fabulous to work with, and who frequently recommended my books when I wasn't there), to chain stores like Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, and the now defunct B. Dalton, Waldenbooks, and Tower Books.

Visit the Page on amazon
I began book signings in earnest on Black Friday, and was scheduled at four different stores on that day alone. One signing at Potomac Mills led to the plot behind Ricochet, my third suspense. I was also scheduled at a Barnes and Noble on a Friday evening at 10:00 pm once, because they were located in the mall's outparcel and when the mall closed, the crowds descended on their store, which remained open until midnight.

From Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, I signed in too many stores to count, primarily on Friday evenings, all day Saturday, and Sunday afternoons.

Since moving to Lumberton, I find with the closing of Waldenbooks that we don't have a book store in the entire county. The closest one is 45 minutes away in Fayetteville. Others are more than an hour and a half away in Wilmington, Myrtle Beach or Raleigh. I used to travel throughout the United States on book tours but in recent years, I've been doing many more virtual book tours, where I can visit with fans and readers from all over the world.

Are you braving the Black Friday crowds today? Will you buy most of your holiday gifts in stores, or online? And will you buy books as gifts?

I'd love to hear your comments on the holiday season and your buying habits.



Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thursday Thoughts - The Tempest Murders Honored

I haven't posted anything on this blog for about a month, because I've been very busy with the launch of my latest book, The Tempest Murders. And late last week, I learned that the book has placed as one of five finalists in the 2013 USA Best Book Awards, in the cross-genre category.

It has been an amazing month with blog stops all over the world. As a result of The Tempest Murders plot, I've been interviewed about subjects as diverse as Ireland, soul mates, and even reincarnation. If you missed any of the interviews and guest blogs, here is a partial list:







October 22: (getting to know my characters) http://hywelalyn.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-tempest-murders.html














The lucky winner of the beautiful Celtic bracelet given away during my tour was Teena of Toronto, Canada. Congratulations, Teena, and thank you for following my tour!

My next book tour begins in less than two weeks. The stops can be found here:


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

WIP Wednesday - Colors


I often say that I am a product of my environment, as colors tend to have a dramatic effect on me. I’ve noticed the same thing happens to readers; much of it is subliminal.

For example, suppose you have a scene where two people have just entered a room. The walls are pastel, robin’s egg blue with bright white trim. Photographs on the wall depict beach scenes and serene seascapes. A pair of flip-flops is beside a cottage chair, and a beach towel is draped over a white-washed kitchen chair.

Now stand at the threshold again. As you enter the room again, the walls are covered in a burgundy and gold wallpaper. The trim is walnut. Photographs depict black and white villages of times gone by, of a law office, doctor’s office and five-and-dime from the early 20th century. Beside an over-stuffed chair is a walnut curio table, upon which is a crystal decanter. A dining room table sits off to the side; it is also walnut, and the chair cushions are burgundy and gold.

How did you feel as you envisioned the first room? How was that different from the second room?

A good writer can evoke feelings in the reader simply through the description of their surroundings. The events that follow, however, must tie into the scene that is depicted.

Has there been a scene in a book that has stayed with you for years after reading it? How did the description affect the feelings it invoked in you?

 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tuesday Teaser - Does Age Matter?


Does Age Matter?

I noticed something as I was reading a romantic suspense novel. The main character—the heroine—was fifteen years old. And I just couldn’t get into the story. This was not a YA novel; it was definitely meant for an adult audience. But the main character was not only young; she was completely immature. Her reactions were that of a girl, not a woman, and I couldn’t put myself in her shoes.

I think it’s important that the reader can identify with someone in the book—either the male or female lead. They have to be able to place themselves in their shoes, to feel what they’re feeling.

In The Tempest Murders, Rian Kelly begins the story in Ireland at the age of 29. Flash forward to Ryan O’Clery nearly two hundred years later, and he also is 29 years old.

Twenty-nine is the perfect age. It is young enough for both the male and female to be fit, sportive and energetic. Yet they are old enough to have been around the block, to think clearly and with maturity, and to know the consequences of their actions.

In the Black Swamp Mysteries series, the main characters—Dylan Maguire, Vicki Boyd, Brenda Carnegie and Christopher Sandige—are all in their twenties. They have their entire lives ahead of them, yet they are still young enough to be in peak performance.

What age do you prefer the main characters in the books you read?

 

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Release of The Tempest Murders

On September 30, The Tempest Murders was officially released. This week marks the start of a three-month virtual book tour, in which I'll be participating in interviews, guest blogs, and you'll read a number of reviews of this book, my 16th release.

This book is tied with Dylan's Song as my favorite. It actually means a lot to me personally, and when I wrote it I thought that women would enjoy it much more than men. It has surprised me, however, as men have really enjoyed it more than any other book I've written, and are eager to see it as a series.

The book has been nominated for the 2013 USA Best Book Award as well as the 2014 International Book Award, both in the cross-genre category.

It is the story of Irish immigrant Ryan O'Clery, who is a detective working a series of murders when he stumbles upon a journal kept by an uncle who died nearly two hundred years earlier. Rian Kelly detailed the same type of murders, and as the case unfolds, Ryan realizes the victims, the unique method of death and even the killer's description matches his ancestor's almost perfectly.

What's more is at the height of the worst storm in Ireland's history, Rian Kelly lost his soul mate to the killer. Now, as Hurricane Irene barrels toward the North Carolina coast line, history is poised to repeat itself.

This is the story of soul mates found, lost and reunited... And of the lengths one man will go to change their destinies.

Follow my first virtual book tour here, where you'll see each stop listed toward the bottom of that page. The book is carried by all fine book stores. It is available in the UK on amazon, and is also available on amazon in the United States in both Kindle and Paperback editions.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

WIP Wednesday - On Political Thrillers

I am putting the finishing touches on The Pendulum Files, the fifth book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series, before it leaves my hands for the editor's. The book is a political thriller and as I've seen events play out with the government shut-down in America, I am reminded once more of how polarized our country has become and how important it is to resist the temptation to convert fans to a particular point of view.

For the record, I am an Independent. I thoroughly research each candidate I vote for, whether they are local or national. I look at their past voting record, the bills they've sponsored or blocked, and I look for candidates who I believe will place America on the best track. I often vote for both Republicans and Democrats in the same election (for different posts, of course) and I do not believe in partisan politics.

When I write my political thrillers, I am very much aware of the divide in this country. I know if I made the bad guy either Republican or Democrat, I would lose half my fans in either case. I don't believe readers have come to my books to learn of my political leanings or affiliations, so I check them at the door. What I believe does not matter within the pages of my books.

When writing political thrillers, I am careful not to mention party affiliations for either the good or the bad characters. I stay away from polarizing topics in which readers can guess which party the characters follow. I look at democracy as a whole and those things we as Americans hold dear - and also those things we fear.

But I have to admit, I long for the old days when politicians would reach across the aisle and compromise for the good of the nation. We need to stop identifying ourselves as this party or the other. We just need to be Americans and learn to work together.



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tuesday Teaser - Diallo Delport

Advance readers of my latest release, The Tempest Murders, have told me that serial killer Diallo Delport is one of the most frightening adversaries they've seen - on a par or exceeding the terror of Joseph Gabucci, the hired assassin in my book, Exit 22.

Diallo Delport resembles another killer, one who lived nearly two hundred years earlier and half a world away - in Ireland. When he shows up in Lumberton, North Carolina, Hurricane Irene is barreling toward the Atlantic coastline and Irish Detective Ryan O'Clery is trying to solve a series of murders. Ryan suspects from the moment he meets Diallo that he is the killer, but he has no evidence. While he attempts to gather it, more murders take place - and Ryan's lover, Cathleen Reilly, becomes the killer's next target.

There are two physical characteristics that immediately set Diallo apart: he is an albino, and his face bears a scar just beneath one eye that is round and raised like a keloid the size of an ice pick. Coming from that scar is another, long, narrow one that ends in a teardrop shape on one cheek. It looks identical to a description of the killer in 1839, except that killer's scar was a birthmark.

Ryan enters his passport information in both domestic and international databases: 6 feet 4 inches tall, 245 pounds, thirty-five years old; and Ryan notices he sports a muscular frame like a serious bodybuilder. He is a formidable opponent - both physically and strategically.

Who would I want to play the role of Diallo Delport, should The Tempest Murders be made into a movie? It would require a transformation to make him albino with light cornflower blue eyes and that distinctive scar, but hands-down, Joe Manganiello has the presence to pull it off.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

WIP Wednesday - Darkness

It's hard to believe that it's already October. In a few weeks, we'll be turning ahead our clocks and within a month, it will be getting dark by 5:00 pm.

I used to dislike winters because of the number of hours of darkness. As a suspense writer, however, I find them inspiring.

Who is afraid of something in broad daylight with a bright, cheerful sun shining down upon us?

Take us to the same location, however, in the dark of night with tumbling, roiling clouds that block the moon, owls hooting in the distance or wolves howling, visibility down to barely seeing your hand in front of your face... And now you have the makings of a spooky setting.

There is also something sinister about trees that have lost their leaves, especially when their skeletal limbs are shown against a full moon... Something evil about the wind howling past us, bending the trees toward us as if they are reaching for us in the darkness... And the snap of cold as it claws at our skin. These are the things that make us look over our shoulder, shiver against the dark and the cold, and walk just a bit faster...



Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thursday Thoughts - Finding My Voice

I was reading a book recently in which the two main characters - one male and one female - sounded so much like one another that it was difficult to tell them apart. This was compounded by the fact that the scenes switched back and forth between the characters, and each told their story in first person.

Every character in a book should have their own distinct voice. But how do you find it?

I often find that I must write about people with characteristics very different from me; yet, I have to get into their heads deeply enough to be able to write convincingly. One way I train my mind to think like another is by researching personality traits.

One of my favorite reference books is Linda Goodman's Love Signs. It doesn't matter if you believe in astrology. Just reading about women under each of the twelve zodiac signs provides a wealth of information. A Virgo woman will respond very differently to a set of circumstances, for example, than a Taurus woman. They maintain their homes quite differently. They speak differently, move differently, and they have very different strengths and weaknesses.

Add to that mix the twelve zodiac signs of males, and you have a treasure trove of possibilities.

An Aries man and a Virgo woman develop one type of relationship, while a Scorpio man and an Aquarias woman develop a very different one. Depending upon the plot, you can choose two people who are similar or compatible... or who become arch enemies in a heartbeat.

If you are a writer, what tools do you use to ensure each character is distinctly different?

If you are a reader, are there books you remember vividly because the characters left an imprint on your mind or your heart?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

WIP Wednesday - Setting

I am currently finishing up the fifth book in my Black Swamp Mysteries series, which takes place in Lumberton, North Carolina. This is a real town that straddles Interstate 95 in North Carolina from Exits 14 through 22.

My latest release, The Tempest Murders, contains completely different characters and plots, but it also takes place in Lumberton.

There are some places that stand out, and Lumberton is one of them. When you venture to the historic downtown area, it feels as if you're stepping into yesteryear. The Carolina Civic Center Historic Theatre, for example, was recently completed renovated in a style reminiscent of the days in which people dressed up to go to the movies... And a piano was played before every performance. The theatre is featured in Vicki's Key, the second book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series, when psychic spy Vicki Boyd encounters a ghost walking across the theatre balcony.

In The Tempest Murders, it is featured again when Detective Ryan O'Clery investigates the killing of a young woman who had come to town with a theatre group.

The Robeson County Courthouse straddles two blocks. When you're driving across the Lumber River bridge into the historic downtown area, you are facing the courthouse steps. In The Tempest Murders, Ryan investigates another homicide along those river banks - and turns around to find people gathered on the courthouse steps, watching him.

I like writing about small towns. Readers can become familiar with them and the people who live there... And in a series, they can feel as if they're coming home when they open a book and remember the streets, the houses, and the descriptions of landmarks from past books.

I was recently reminded of this when I was reading a series that took place in a Scottish village during the 1500's. I began to feel as if I'd been to the village and visited the people there; they'd become that familiar.

If you have the chance, please join me in Lumberton, North Carolina next February 22, 2014. I'll be there with more than 75 authors, publishers and literary agents for the Third Annual Book 'Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair. It's free and it's open to the public. For more information, visit www.bookemnc.org.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tuesday Teaser - Cathleen Reilly

Last week I disclosed the actor's name who I thought would play an awesome Ryan O'Clery in my latest release, The Tempest Murders. Kevin Ryan is currently playing on the BBC America series Copper, but alas, just a few days after my blog, I learned that Copper is being cancelled.

The role of Ryan O'Clery's love interest, Cathleen Reilly, is more elusive. I wasn't able to think of any actress I'd have in mind for her - until I saw a recent episode of Copper in which a minor role played by Kendra Anderson brought to mind the late, great Vivien Leigh.

Cathleen Reilly is described with long, brunette hair with a touch of chestnut highlights. Unlike Vivien Leigh, however, she doesn't have green eyes but blue-gray eyes, the color of the Irish Sea.

When Cathleen appears in Ryan's back yard, searching for the Detective in charge of the serial murders in North Carolina, he thinks he's dreaming - because she is a dead ringer for the woman he's dreamed about ever since he can remember.

And when he stumbles upon a journal left by an uncle five generations back, he discovers the woman Rian Kelly loved and lost also looked identical to Cathleen. Convinced he is the reincarnation of Rian Kelly and Cathleen is the reincarnation of Caitlin O'Conor, his dreams blur with reality as the he discovers Rian was also investigating a series of murders--nearly two hundred years earlier and half a world away. Those murders ended with the loss of his beloved Caitlin.

And now Detective Ryan O'Clery must stop the killer in present day North Carolina - before history repeats itself.

The Tempest Murders is now available in paperback and in eBook. If you live in Lumberton, you can also purchase it from Just Teazin' Salon on Roberts Avenue.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Can You Ignore the Rules?

I recently read a book where the climactic scene - a murder - came 2/3 of the way through the book. The book had dragged a bit in the middle but if it had ended shortly after the climax, I would have considered it a good read.

But it didn't. It went on for nearly one hundred pages - with wrap-ups.

There are rules to writing. Some are written; some are taught at universities and through online writing courses. Some are unwritten and simply understood by the industry at large.

One of those rules is the climactic scene occurs near the end of the book. It is followed by a wrap-up, but the wrap-up needs to be tight and short.

When I asked the author about it, I discovered he'd self-published and his attitude was he didn't have to follow any rules, because he was his own publisher.

Ah. Is that so?

The problem with such maverick thinking is the arguments most often don't work in reality. The name of the game is selling books - and unless an author has millions of personal acquaintances or a platform similar to a celebrity's, it means often people will read the book who have no ties to the author. They expect a certain rhythm, which includes a climactic scene toward the end of the book and a short cool-down period - "the wrap-up". When the book goes on and on explaining what should have occurred prior to the climax, what incentive exists for the reader to continue reading? There is no suspense. The story is really over. Why explain what we just read?

Have you ever read a book like that? How did you feel about it?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

WIP Wednesday - Haunted Houses

I love haunted houses. So I am having a lot of fun writing about the old, rambling home that Vicki Boyd shares with Dylan Maguire - and occasionally with her sister, Brenda Carnegie - in the Black Swamp Mysteries series. In The Pendulum Files, set for release next spring, the house comes alive again with ghostly activities.

I am often asked if I believe in ghosts. The answer is yes. And I guarantee that you will, too, once you've seen one.

I do believe there are times when a soul has unfinished business on Earth. It could be because their life was cut short due to an accident...or a murder. It could be that the threads that bind them to another are so strong, the soul can't let go. Perhaps there is a child left behind or a spouse, and the deceased feels the need to watch over them to make sure they're okay.

Just as living beings can be good or evil or anything in between, I believe ghosts are the same way. Some times they are benevolent... sometimes malevolent... sometimes they are compassionate and protective... sometimes they are satanic.

You'll have to read The Pendulum Files to find out which type of ghost haunts the old home now that Aunt Laurel Maguire is no longer walking the halls late at night...


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesday Teaser - Ryan O'Clery

I was asked recently if The Tempest Murders was made into a movie, who would play the lead?

I have to say one Irishman has grabbed my attention: Kevin Ryan. Kevin is currently playing Francis Maguire in BBC America's series Copper. Francis and The Tempest Murders' protagonist Ryan O'Clery are a bit similar. Both can be rough and tumble, capable of murder when the circumstances warrant it. Yet both are incredibly passionate and capable of deep love.

Ryan O'Clery is an educated man from Dublin whose family has a long history of working in law enforcement. In The Tempest Murders, he is a detective with a small town police department in present-day North Carolina. He's working a series of murders in which every victim bears a striking resemblance... And when Ryan discovers the journal of an uncle five generations before his time, he discovers he was also working a serial murder case - nearly identical to Ryan's.

The official release date is September 30, 2013, but the book is available in advance on Kindle. It will soon be available on all eBook platforms as well as in print.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Suspense: It's All in the Timing

I was reading a suspense this weekend that had me on the edge of my seat. There was a series of arsons being set and the suspense was ramping up. It took place in a rural area before the invention of electricity so when night fell and darkness descended, each family was left to their own devices as some evil force was roaming the hills and the valleys, torching thatch roofs and burning the crops that would mean life or death to a starving population...

Then I reached this sentence:

Months passed. And in the darkness, there were eyes...

What?

Months passed?

You have me on the edge of my seat, not knowing whether the evil forces will strike tonight - who they will strike - whether they will destroy everything the villagers work for and live for - whether they will rip apart two lovers - who will die and who will live and whose lives will be destroyed because of them --

And then months passed?

Really?

This author lost me with those two words.

You see, suspense is all in the timing. Three Days of the Condor was originally Seven Days of the Condor - but it was shortened to three action-packed days because suspense heightens when time shortens.

Out of Time is masterful at showing what can happen in the briefest of periods; how the suspense can have the reader literally on the edge of their seats, afraid to fall asleep, and not wanting to set the book aside.

When the author wrote "months passed" it had the effect of saying "nothing happened... for MONTHS." The suspense died. Then the next sentence, "And in the darkness, there were eyes..." just wasn't creepy anymore. It wasn't frightening. The whole edge-of-my-seat experience had to start all over again, months later.

A good editor would have caught that. A good editor would have tightened up that book into a shorter time frame so the readers would be on a roller coaster ride the whole way.

If you're an author reading this, the lesson should be: suspense heightens when time shortens.

If you're a reader, have you ever encountered an experience like mine?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

WIP Wednesday - The Pendulum Files

With The Tempest Murders out of my hands and heading into the book stores, I have turned my attention to the final editing of the next book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series, The Pendulum Files.

Ironically, I discovered my last two books both have nautical-themed covers: in the case of The Tempest Murders, it depicts a scene out of the book when Ryan O'Clery has stolen a boat to reach the Outer Banks of North Carolina before a serial killer reaches his lover, Cathleen Reilly.

In The Pendulum Files, the cover depicts something quite different: an international plot to stop goods from reaching the United States. Ships are being bombed in the open seas and no one seems able to stop the attacks. Vicki Boyd and Dylan Maguire team up again in another CIA assignment: to find who is responsible for the bombings - and stop them.

Vicki is expecting a child with Dylan Maguire, and the old, rambling house they live in has come alive once more. But this time, each time apparitions make their appearance, Vicki hears the constant, rhythmic ticking of a pendulum...

This book is the fifth in the Black Swamp Mysteries series, and is scheduled to be released in the spring of 2014.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tuesday Teaser - Kindle Release of The Tempest Murders

The official release date for my latest book, The Tempest Murders, is September 30. However, the book is now available at Kindle and will soon be available in all eBook formats.

This book introduces Irishman Ryan O'Clery. Born and raised and educated in Dublin, he moved to North Carolina when his sister Claire decided to go to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ryan is from a long line of law enforcement officers, including a great-uncle five generations before his time named Rian Kelly. He's the man Detective Ryan Kelly O'Clery is named after. And when Ryan discovers Rian's journal detailing a series of murders identical to homicides he's working now, he begins to wonder if he isn't the reincarnation of Rian Kelly himself.

In 1839, Rian Kelly lost his soul mate, a woman he was set to marry during the Night of the Big Wind, a storm with hurricane force winds that swept the Atlantic Ocean from Ireland's western shores all the way to the Irish Sea. Before the water rushed in, taking everything in its path, the killer was seen just outside her door.

Now he's back in 2011 North Carolina as Hurricane Irene is slamming ashore. As Ryan tries to close in on the killer, Diallo Delport closes in on Cathleen Reilly, the woman Ryan has fallen madly in love with.

Is history destined to repeat itself?

Or can Ryan stop the killer and change their destinies?


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Thursday Thoughts - What a Mouth!

When reading a book, we are often more focused on what the character is saying than on how their mouth appears, but the way in which a character's jawline and mouth is described can round out the image the reader has of him or her.

A jawline can be set and rigid, firm and unyielding, square and determined.

Or it can be soft, angular, receding...

Or fleshy, sharp, covered in hair, or waggling.

Lips can be thick, voluptuous, puffy, like pillows, or swollen...

Or they can be thin, nearly invisible or non-existent, pale, weak, set and straight...

The lines around a character's mouth can show a lifetime of laughter or of sadness; they can be down-turned, deep, dimpled, upturned...

And they can be red or pink, anemic-white or pale, chapped, smooth, silky or rough...

A character's mouth can draw you in or push you away, and it can change your perception of them from one scene to the next.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

WIP Wednesday - Sight

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but when a writer is conjuring the image of a scene in the reader's mind, every word must count.

Though descriptions are comprised of all the senses, the one used the most is that of sight.

At any time, there are hundreds if not thousands of images in front of you. Your mind filters those images so you see what you want to see. But look more closely and you might become more aware of the hard, sleek lines of your computer monitor... The color of your desk and those things on top of it... The walls around you, or the scene outside your window...

You may see the fields in the distance or the uneven bark of the tree in front of you... Lush pink blossoms or the bees and hummingbirds attracted to it... Technology, such as phones, eReaders, televisions, radios, printers... Or papers, calendars, pens, eyeglasses...

What a writer describes in each scene must have significance, either to set the stage or to provide information that will be significant in that scene and upcoming ones. If they describe every little thing, the reader becomes overwhelmed with what they should remember versus what may be insignificant.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tuesday Teaser - Sam Mazoli

This is the fifth Tuesday in which I'm profiling the main characters in my Black Swamp Mysteries series. Today it's Sam Mazoli, the head of the psychic spy program for the CIA.

There was never any doubt in my mind who would play Sam Mazoli, the head of the psychic spy program for the CIA, Vicki’s boss—and also the man who adopted her—as well as Dylan Maguire’s boss.

I always pictured Robert De Niro when I thought of Sam. Sam is brusque, no-nonsense, the kind of boss that you don’t joke around with and you don’t even attempt to take liberties. He is experienced, jaded, a cynic and a skeptic. He also has an eye for talent, whether it’s taking a 12-year-old girl with psychic abilities and turning her into a spy—or recognizing the opportunistic, chameleon-like qualities of an Irishman who can pretend to be someone else.

There is much to Sam just below the surface but carefully hidden lest people discover his true nature. He can make life-or-death decisions, interrogate suspects, turn a blind eye to torture, and appear bored even during the most sensitive and gut-wrenching missions. But he can also rescue a cat down-on-her-luck, care for angelfish and their babies, recognize an illegal immigrant’s dilemma and give her a job, and help care for a dog who needs a friend.


Sam first appears in Vicki’s Key and continues through the rest of the series, sometimes making life difficult for everyone involved, sometimes lending a hand when it’s least expected… and always arriving with a new CIA mission in hand.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thursday Thoughts - The Nose Knows

Noses are frequently overlooked when describing characters, but they can conjure up an image faster than almost anything else.

Consider these descriptions and what images come to mind as you read them:

He had a bulbous nose with purple veins;

His nose waggled when he spoke, as if it had a mind of its own;

Her nose was fleshy and soft, and turned down at the end;

Her nose appeared like it was taken off a parrot and I couldn't seem to stop staring at it;

His nose was patrician; perfectly shaped;

His nostrils flared when he spoke;

His nose seemed to have a golf ball shaped lump at the end of it, which reddened as the day wore on;

Her nose was so flat, her nostrils seemed to be lodged in the skin just above the lip;

Her nose turned up at the end, which always made her appear haughty and conceited;

He was much taller than me and I always seemed to be staring up his nostrils when he drew near.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

WIP Wednesday - Sounds

Sounds are an integral part of a scene, helping the reader to determine whether the main character is alone, with a few people, or in a crowd.

The character can hear the sounds of laughter or arguing... Feet shuffling when they should be alone in the house... Steady, heavy footsteps on stairs... The sound of a refrigerator kicking on... Or the overwhelming sound of silence when electricity goes dead...

They can hear macaws or monkeys, conjuring immediately the image of a jungle... Or of seagulls and dolphins laughing, transporting the reader instantly to the ocean... The heavy-handed sound of a truck blasting its horn or a train whistle splitting the darkness...

It can be the sound of phones ringing and people talking... of music playing in the background... The sound of something crashing to the floor, but you don't know what...

Sound can draw you in or push you away. It can evoke feelings of security or terror. It can raise the red flag that something isn't right. Or it can lull you into complacency...

It can be the sound of surf hitting the sides of a boat, rolling in at intervals so unevenly spaced that it keeps you on edge...

The sound of the wind in a growing fury as a hurricane nears...

It can be the sound of a lover screaming for help in the darkness, their voice bouncing off the wind and the rain so you don't know from which direction it came...

The sudden, violent sound of thunder...

Sound rounds out a scene like no other sense can do.