Friday, January 28, 2011


Lately I've been reading a lot of books labeled as thrillers and I'm beginning to wonder what exactly a thriller is?  I mean some authors are no-brainers: Vince Flynn, Nelson Demille, Tess Gerritsen.  These writers all create carefully crafted thrillers.  Each chapter is suspenseful in their own way.  But recently I've read a couple of books which were slow on the suspense.  In particular I'm speaking of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Now, I realize this is taboo to suggest this novel is anything but a remarkable feat of literature, but I'm 120 pages into this thing and so far I got nothing.  I mean nothing.

Will it get better?  Of course it will.  The entire world can't be duped into reading garbage.  I guess I'm under the assumption a thriller is supposed to capture you from the first page and maintain the suspense throughout the novel.  The above authors know how to accomplish that.  You don't have to go any farther than this month's winner of the strongest opening contest, Luke Romyn.  His novel The Dark Path not only opens strong, but remains tense throughout the book.

The lines are getting blurrier, however, because of the cross-pollination from political thrillers to medical thrillers to legal thrillers, but if it has the word thriller anywhere near the description of the book, please, please, get to the thrilling part.  I guess if it's supposed to be a literary book, then I read it with a different frame of mind.  I think we all read Catcher in the Rye with different expectations than we do Moby Dick.  Just don't label something a thriller unless you mean it.  I realize it sounds more titillating, but don't get our engines all revved up ,then spend a hundred pages telling us about the financial system in Sweden.  Sorry Stieg, I know you're looking down on me shaking your head, but this is not your fault.  
Am I wrong about this trend?  I don't know.  I think I'll pick up a Donovan Creed novel and get on the rollercoaster.  

Sunday, January 23, 2011


In Donovan Creed, author John Locke has created a character you'd love to sit down with and share a drink--unless you bring your hot girlfriend.  Creed is an ex-CIA agent who moonlights as a hit man and loves the women.  If you like succinct, fast-moving thrillers with violent plot twists and razor sharp dialogue, then John Locke is the author for you.  He has three Donovan Creed novels out and is working on a fourth.  As of this post his latest thriller, Saving Rachel, is currently #15 on the Kindle Bestseller List.  That's an amazing feat for a guy who used be an insurance salesman, a rock & roll singer and a private investor.  Really, I'm not making this up.  In his spare time he's working on a formula to turn ocean water into draft beer. Okay that I made up.  I want to thank John for taking the time to play 5 questions with me.

1.      You're a successful businessman, who's owned an insurance company and became a private investor, yet you've been a Rock-n-Roll singer and a successful fiction writer.  How do you go from such a dry business career to flourishing as an artist?  And how did you contain all those creative juices for so long?

I love stories. Love reading them, love telling them, and always wanted to write some. But I’m one of those guys who “never got around” to writing a novel because I was too busy building my insurance company. I wasn’t frustrated creatively in the insurance business because I taught training and marketing seminars, wrote and gave speeches, self-published numerous marketing manuals, and two non-fiction books of the “How To” nature. After selling the company, I had more free time and NO creative outlet, a combination that generated the motive force for my becoming a novelist.

2.      If you had to choose between one of these careers, which would you want to do the rest of your life?

It would depend on which one I was best at. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a successful Rock-n-Roll singer? Haha.

3.      Good point.   What percentage of your workday is dedicated to writing?


      And a lot.

 Sometimes I go six months without writing a word. Other times, like this past Thursday and Friday, I wrote for eight and fourteen hours, respectively. In other words, I never sit down at my computer with the thought, “I’m going to write 500 words today.” That might be a smarter way to write, but for me, it would remove the element of fun. Instead, I write scenes, and/or transitions between scenes. I write the entire scene or the transition, or both—but it never comes down to a daily commitment. When the scene is in my head, completely worked out, I park it there until I have to put it on paper. Usually if a scene makes me laugh out loud, or gnaws at me in some other way, it’s ready to write.

       4. Where did you come up with the idea for your Donovan Creed character?

Creed was easy! He’s the man every guy wants to be, and every woman wants to fix. Everything beyond that premise is situational, but reinforces what each gender wants from him. For example, Creed is tough (guy) but has a tender side (woman). He’s irreverent (guy) with redeeming qualities that pop up when you least expect them (woman). He has relationships with hookers (guy) but he’s unfulfilled, and yearning for something he can’t quite put his finger on (woman).  Above all, Creed is unpredictable. If I do my job right as an author, you’re not sure how he’s going to react to a given situation, or what he’s going to say—but after he does or says it, you think “Ah, of course!"

5.      With the changes digital technology has had on the publishing industry, where do you think the majority of readers will be finding your novels in 5 years?

I’m a 100% believer in the electronic book medium. It offers more than a level playing field for self-published authors—it gives us a game that is actually stacked in our favor! Readers are just starting to learn that ebooks can be created and sold at a profit for 99 cents. And this is going to make them re-think their buying options, and their attitudes toward value. If you and I can electronically publish a book for 99 cents and still make a profit, and the giants in the business like James Patterson, John Grisham, Stephen King and Dean Koontz have to charge $9.95 for their ebooks, the onus is no longer on Gary Ponzo and John Locke to prove our books are just as good as theirs. It’s on them to prove their books are TEN TIMES better than ours! And Gary, in a game like that, I like our chances!

Sunday, January 16, 2011


By now we all know how important it is to draw the reader in from the very first line.  Below are the openings to three different novels which do just that.  All three have a thriller undertone to their storyline and move at a rapid pace.  If you're not familiar with these writers, you should be.  They're part of a growing number of writers who understand how to keep up the pace.

Readers can vote on their favorite opening scene to the right side of the page and at the end of the voting I'll be sending one of my followers a free copy of the winning novel.  Enjoy.

A-  SHAKEN, by J.A. Konrath 

This guy isn’t a killer, Dalton thinks. He’s a butcher.

Dalton isn’t repulsed by the spectacle, or even disturbed. He stays detached and professional, even as he snaps a picture of Brotsky tearing at the prostitute’s body with some kind of three-pronged garden tool.

There’s a lot of blood.

Dalton wonders if he should have brought color film. But there’s something classic, something pure, about shooting in black and white. It makes real life even more realistic.

Dalton opens the f-stop on the lens, adjusting for the setting sun. He’s standing in the backyard of Brotsky’s house, and his subject had been kind enough to leave the blinds open. From his spot on the lawn, Dalton has a clear view into Brotsky’s living room, where the carnage is taking place. Though Brotsky has a high fence and plenty of foliage on his property, he’s still taking a big risk. There are neighbors on either side, and the back gate leading to the alley is unlocked. Anyone could walk by.

It’s not a smart way to conduct a murder.

Dalton has watched Brotsky kill two hookers in this fashion, and surely there have been others. Yet the Chicago Police Department hasn’t come knocking on Brotsky’s door yet. Brotsky has been incredibly lucky so far.

But luck runs out.

At least Brotsky has the sense to put a tarp down, Dalton thinks.

He snaps another photo. Brotsky’s naked barrel chest is slick with gore, and the look on his unshaven face is somewhere between frenzy and ecstasy as he works the garden tool. He’s not a tall man, but he’s thick, with big muscles under a layer of hard fat. Brotsky sweats a lot, and his balding head gives off a glare which Dalton offsets by using a filter on his lens.

Brotsky sets down the garden tool and picks up a cleaver.

Yeah, this guys is nuts.

B- THE DARK PATH, by Luke Romyn

Antoni knew he had failed. This knowledge burned bitterly through his mind, but he refused to admit defeat. The child had no one else, and Antoni wouldn't turn his back on her. Blood oozed down his left arm, leaving a grisly trail behind him as he shuffled slowly down the tunnel carved out beneath the mountain.

The flow had slowed now, but Antoni knew his loss of blood had rendered him nearly useless. The Four had proven invulnerable, while he had only his mortality to challenge them with.

He had cast aside his armor along with his equally ineffective weapons, after barely escaping from the battle into this tunnel. The only thing he retained was the package wrapped and hidden securely within his clothing.

Blurred images flowed before him; he tried to refocus, but found it no use. Despair coursed through Antoni for the hundredth time, and he paused against the wall, hoping to regain some strength. Never before had the knight failed. Throughout his many battles during the Crusades, at times facing impossible odds, he always managed to prevail.

This time was different.

He was dead; his body simply hadn't realized it.

C- VIGILANTE, by Claude Bouchard 

The old man was drunk again. That usually meant trouble.

The boy backed away into the recesses of the attic, his secret place, as he called it. There, he would be safe as long as he remained quiet because the bastard turned violent when he got drunk.

The youngster worried about his sister though, who had arrived ten minutes before their stepfather had. He had heard, then seen her through the ventilation grill set in the ceiling of her room but she didn’t know he was there. Nobody knew about his secret place. They never used the attic.

“Where the f**k is everybody!” the old man hollered angrily as he plodded up the stairs.

The boy could hear the stupid drunk bounce off one wall, then the other as he stumbled upwards. Laying flat on his stomach, the youth quietly started inching back towards the ventilation grill. Doors could be heard slamming open and closed in the upstairs hallway. He reached the grill and peered down through it at his older sister, wishing that there was some way he could magically beam her up to him, like they did in Star Trek.

She was seated on the bed with knees gripped under her chin, huddled in the corner and trembling with intense fear as she stared at the door. She visibly stiffened as the footsteps approached, causing a nauseous wave to wash over her brother as he secretly but helplessly watched on. The footsteps stopped on the other side of the door and silent seconds went by, serving only to increase each sibling’s private terror.

‘Please go away! Leave her alone!’ the boy pleaded in his mind, biting his knuckles to keep from screaming.

At that moment, door crashed open, causing his sister to jump with fright.

“Howya doin, girly?” their stepfather snarled with a leering smile. “Didn’t ya hear me callin?”

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Suzanne Corso is an author, a playwrite, a film producer and has written two feature film screenplays.  Her debut novel, "Brooklyn Story," is an autobiographical tale about a fifteen-year-old girl with the desire to leave her abusive boyfriend and dysfuntional family behind and cross that bridge.  She's received wonderful praise from places like USA Today and San Francisco Book Review.  She also took some time out of her busy schedule to play 5 questions with me.

1- In "Brooklyn Story" your protagonist, Sam, has a Jewish grandmother, a Catholic mother and an abusive mob boyfriend. All of these happen to mirror your own real life story. Because it's so autobiographical, how concerned were you about the consequences of your candor?

I did nothing wrong just lived the life that I was handed, and dealt with it in stride and integrity. The entire time I just wanted to get out and make a better life for myself which I finally did and got over the bridge.

2- Do you think you would have been a writer had you not come from such a dysfunctional family?

What a fabulous question. Possibly not. The writing came to me since I had no therapy to get me out of my dysfunction, so the writing became therapeutic for me. The greatest thing I ever mastered. It made me so secure with the woman I became and the little naive girl I left behind.

3- Looking back at your teenage years, how much did you yourself long to cross the Brooklyn Bridge for Manhattan?

One hundred percent of myself wanted to leave. It wasn't Brooklyn. I loved it. It was those few people who were so stifling, I wanted and needed out. I created my character Samantha as an escape.

4- If you had to choose between producing films full time or writing novels, which would you prefer?

Wow! I love to write and I love to produce. The producing is more a colaboration, a team effort. Several great creative minds at work on one project. Its amazing and so rewarding for me. Writing is more isolating, but fulfills the soul. So, my answer is that I'm not choosing one. I want both!

5-Best of luck with Brooklyn Story. What's on the horizon for you?

Thanks.  I'm currently writing the sequel for Brooklyn Story and trying to sell the screenplay. Olympia Dukakis, Lorraine Bracco and Armand Assante are already involved with the project.

Monday, January 3, 2011


There's an old saying in the business world, "Nothing happens until someone sells something."  That's really true. Until someone sells that new beer, you don't need factory workers, administrators, etc.  The same can be said for writing.  When you're listening to that catchy tune on your iPod, remember someone wrote those lyrics.  The last time you saw a really good movie try to remember why it was so good.  Was it the special effects?  The beautiful setting?  Or was it the dialogue?  My money is on the dialogue.  Someone wrote those words which came out of that gorgeous actress's mouth.  Probably some balding, pot-bellied writer who knew what words would resonate in the confines of that particular scene.  The same type of guy who who wrote half of Brittany Spears songs.  What, you thought she wrote, "Hit Me Baby One More Time?"  Sorry to ruin it for you.

Any this isn't just restricted to guys.  Some of our best movies are written by women.  At the 2008 Academy Awards, four of the five nominees for original screenplay were women.  Including the winner, Diablo Cody.

So as we sit in front of our keyboards, we imagine our words making an impact on the minds of our readers.  Maybe even sticking there for years.  I'll never forget Raymond Chandler's description of a beautiful blonde lounge singer: "She had a voice like an angel and a body that would make a bishop kick a hole through a stained-glass window." And I read that over 30 years ago.

So what does this mean?  It means even in the digital age, we're swinging for the fences.  As writers, we're searching for that one true story, or that one line which will resonate in the reader's mind for decades.  The bond between writer and reader is stronger than ever and that's why we write.  Because it's our desire to make our mark in the world of fiction.  And if you don't believe me, well, "You can't handle the truth."