Tag: thriller

thriller

Writing As Therapy

“We’re professional worriers. You’re constantly imagining things that could go wrong and then writing about them.” Novelist John Green to The Late, Late Show host Craig Ferguson. I talked to my psychiatrist the other day about poop. The conversation, like everything I discuss in therapy, wasn’t what I wanted–or had intended–to talk about. It stemmed from my attempt to excuse my lateness for our session as the result of my elderly dog not relieving himself quickly enough during the morning walk. As usual, however, the Freudian philosopher in front of me seized upon my off-hand comment, attempting to draw a connection between some unrealized-yet-deep-seated childhood trauma regarding bodily functions that might help explain my persistent anxiety. “When were you potty-trained?” I scooted a centimeter back from the edge of his couch in response. I like to park my butt on the bleeding edge of the cushion so I can bolt upright in the event of an emergency. Not that I think there will be a sudden blaze in his dim basement office located in an older home that was surely constructed before new fire codes went into effect. Or that I spend too much time pondering how quickly his decorated-to-distraction […]

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3 Things I Know About The Future… From Dystopian Fiction

A critical part of creating fiction is a careful examination of the world. Storytellers, first and foremost, must be students of the human experience. We have to spend time learning about what motivates people, how different personality types tend to form and respond to situations, how various societies react to different stimuli and challenges, how the setting we all share (the earth) responds to our existence. Sometimes this intense study leads to forecasting rather than fiction. Here are three inventions by famous authors that look like they will definitely come true–for better or worse.  #1. Meat won’t come from live animals.  In her book, Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood writes about chicken that is grown in parts by machines. Her ChickieNobs don’t have eyes or beaks, though they have a mouth-like orifice for receiving tubes of nutrients. It’s meat without the animal.  Such “nobs” are not a reality–yet. But since the 2003 publication of her book, “cultured meat” has been cloned from the muscle cells of beef cows. The process isn’t exactly like the blobs with tubes sticking out of them that Atwood envisioned, but when you hear about the “tubes” of muscle tissue that are grown and stacked to create one of these burgers, she […]

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Let's Talk About Sex… Scenes

Continuing on my theme this week of how much of our human bodily functions should make it into fiction, I would like to discuss sex scenes.  Human beings have sex. If you’re a believer in Freudian psychoanalysis, it’s a primary reason why we do much of what we do. Freud postulated that how a person pursues intercourse, as well as what he or she does while having it, betrays that individual’s true nature.  “The behavior of a human being in sexual matters is often a prototype for the whole of his other modes of reaction in life,”-SIGMUND FREUD, Sexuality and the Psychology of Love  Even if a novelist doesn’t subscribe to Freud’s theories, they still have to deal with the fact that interactions between people have a physical component that can give rise to sexual tension.  With few exceptions, if a novelist wants to create believable fictional characters and show them over any length of time, interacting with anyone, they have to address sexual desire, attraction, and, sometimes, the act itself. And that means they have to grapple with how much to show or tell. There are different rules on how much detail to go into for different genres and sub-genres. In cozy mysteries, the action typically must happen off screen, if […]

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Why the pseudo?

Why the Pseudo?     It’s the question I get asked most when talking about my debut novel, I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU (Thomas & Mercer, 2018). If you look on Amazon, you’ll find the author of that book is “S.M. Thayer.” Which doesn’t match the name listed on  the byline of this guest post. So what’s up with that?  Until a couple years ago, I saw myself as a writer of wry absurdist fiction. Despite the efforts of several really good literary agents, none of my novels came close to being published though. The emotional toll of writing these failed novels was high. Something had to give—I either needed to stop writing to spare myself of the heartache of failure or drastically reconceptualize what I wanted to do. In January 2016, I read Paula Hawkins’s THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. It was my first dip into the domestic suspense/psychological thriller genre. Hawkins’s fast-paced twisty plot, her bevy of largely unlikeable characters, and the inadvisable choices these characters made, provided immense readerly pleasure. More than anything, I was struck by the novel’s narrative propulsion. I tore through the pages and then dweebishly Googled, “Books like GIRL ON THE TRAIN” to find similar books. The genre had me […]

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What's the Best Book You've Read Recently (in your genre)

Part of my job writing psychological and domestic thrillers is reading them. I read most of the top books in my genre every year, both because I love the genre and because reading them is necessary to understanding the market that I am in. I don’t want to write a story that will feel derivative, nor do I want to pen something so completely out there that my publisher might have difficulty getting it on bookshelves.   Most writers do the same. So my question this week to the MissDemeanors was: what book have you read recently in your specific section of the mystery/thriller community that you have really enjoyed. I know that since we all read a lot in our genres, I can trust their recommendations.  First up, my picks. A.J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window was great. Deep characterization, an unexpected but believable ending, and fantastic descriptions. It deserves the comparisons to Hitchcock. I really enjoyed Kate Moretti’s The Blackbird Season, recently, and Peter Swanson’s Her Every Fear. Moretti’s book is a twisted tale about love and friendship. Her vivid characters explore what bonds people and the stressors that can break them apart. The ending was interesting and flowed from the narrative. Also, her […]

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The Omnipresent Villain

Yesterday, I read a book (which will remain nameless) that made me want to bury it in the sand. The characterization was deep, the writing was vivid, and the villain was such a minor player that by the time he was revealed I felt betrayed.  In psychological and domestic thrillers/mysteries (the genres in which I write), the villain should be hiding in plain sight. Don’t tell me the butler that showed up every now and again to deliver a cup of tea is the kidnapper–especially not after making me suspect the victim’s mom. It will feel like the bad guy came out of nowhere and that the writer manipulated the reader’s emotions rather than actually created a puzzle able to be solved. In my opinion, the best mystery writers make the villain a POV character or close to it. He or she should be someone in many of the scenes, ideally someone even trying to help with the investigation. We should have a sense that we know who he or she is and what his or her motivations are. It should feel like we had a shot at figuring out that the person was, at least, hiding something.     

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Creating Multi-Ethnic Characters and Landscapes in American Crime Fiction… (Alt. Title: Can Crime Fiction in America Be Post-Racial?)… A True Story

  “What are you?” Growing up in small town New Jersey in the 1990s, I stared down that question on a near-weekly basis. Parents, teachers, strangers at the mall—all would ask shortly after requesting my first name. “Catherine” didn’t reveal enough about me. It was too generically biblical. Every land to ever encounter a missionary doled out the moniker like a Christmas fruitcake. The name defied easy categorization. And, back then–as like now–seemingly everyone needed racial classification.  I’d often answer, “American. Born in Queens.” My stock response invariably frustrated my interrogator. Here I was, a plain-old Catherine, with olive-skin and dark curls that, incongruously, could not speak Spanish. My straight nose, which hooks when I smile, had been keeping plastic surgeons employed across cultures since the invention of rhinoplasty.  And, now, I was telling someone—attempting in as PC-a-way as possible to figure out my race—that I’d been born in one of the most diverse cities in America.  “No, but what are you? Are you Black or White?” My usual follow-up sounded even more insolent. “Both.” The answer had the virtue of being true. Nearly all my paternal relatives trace their history back to Europe, specifically Ireland. My maternal ethnicity is more complex. A Jamaican-born […]

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The New Social Media Frontiers

We all know about Facebook, Twitter and (hopefully after my last post) Instagram. But what about all the other ways to interact with readers online? How do we reach readers on new platforms?  Today, at 4 p.m., I’ll be doing something that I never tried before. I’ll be participating in a Ask Me Anything interview on Snapchat. I am hoping that the questions will focus on my books and the writing. But, it’s Ask Me Anything, so we’ll see.  According to one of the organizers of the Snapchat AMA, Author Joe Clifford, that last AMA they hosted resulted in 51,000 tweet impressions and 12,700 video views. That was nearly 6X the engagement that the author usually received from tweets.  I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow.  In the meantime, here are some must follow book snapchatters that I learned about this morning, courtesy of BookRiot. On their list is MyBookBath, a snapchat by a Vancouver book blogger who takes videos and photos of beautiful book swag and bookshelves. BookRiot has a snapchat too that’s made lists on blogs such as iDiva. And, if you’re joining the snapchat book community, there are some lenses to try that will spruce up your posts. Barnes & […]

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The Right #: A Bookstagram Guide

Forget Facebook. The book community is on Instagram and you can find them if you follow the right tags.  The first one to use and search for is #bookstagram. The reader community uses the hashtag to mark anything book related on the site and it’s been used more than 15 million times on the site. It’s basically the goto search term to find photos of books that folks are reading and tons of reviews. It’s not the only one, though. When posting about my books I often use the tags #thrillerbooks, #suspensebooks, and #suspensethriller, too. I’ve also seen plenty of folks use #mysterythrillerbooks and #mysterybooks. The latter hashtag has the mosts posts associated with it, so it’s a good catch all for the mystery/thriller community that gets significant search traffic.  Another useful hashtag, if you have a pet and a book to market, is #readingbuddy. People love their pets. They love their books. They combine them on instagram to adorable and wonderful marketing effect. Thanks to petbookclub for this post!  Another great hashtag is #bookfetish. Use this one for all posts involving love of books or when you buy a book. And, if your book is on one of the lists, always mark it #bestseller.  Tomorrow, I’ll mention some of my favorite bookstagrammers! 

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Talismans and Tall Tales

I am sick and starving. It’s been twenty-six hours since my last meal, a sorry bowl of bran cereal with a splash of contraband milk. Dairy isn’t allowed two days before my procedure. Food of any kind is banned for a full day before the test. I have eight more hours until they put me under.  Things could be worse. Three years ago, after having my first colonoscopy at the age of thirty-three, I worried that I’d be delivered a death sentence. I wasn’t though. And my mother swears it’s all thanks to a good luck charm she’d bought in Turkey.  I told the story for a spoken word event called The Gnat several years back. The Gnat is like The Moth, a famous non-fiction storytelling event that brings thousands of people to each performance–only smaller. In honor of colonoscopy day, I thought I’d share it:  I was raised to believe in bad omens. My mother is Jamaican. Most people know Jamaica as the birthplace of Bob Marley, Usain Bolt and a robbed Ms. Universe contestant. But it’s also the home of Obeah. Like voodoo, Obeah has its roots in African religions. But, in Jamaica, the religious practices were pulverized from centuries of criminalization until what […]

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