IT’S TELEVISION TUESDAY
How to Sell More Books Through Reader Engagement
Geoff Symon is a 20-year Federal Forensic Investigator and Polygraph Examiner. His participation in high-profile cases includes the attacks on September 11, 2001, the War in Iraq, the Space Shuttle Columbia explosion, the 2002 bombings in Bali and the Chandra Levy investigation, among countless other cases.
He has direct, first-hand experience investigating cases including murder (of all types), suicide, arson, kidnapping, bombings, sexual assault, child exploitation, theft and financial crimes. He has specified and certified training in the collection and preservation of evidence, blood-spatter analysis, autopsies and laboratory techniques. You can reach him at GeoffSymon.com.
Want to add an autopsy that won’t kill your story? Death swings its scythe in every genre, from family funerals to crime scenes to creatures that won’t stay buried. This user-friendly, illustrated reference digs into all things posthumous and postmortem.
Presented as a research manual for the experienced writer, this “Forensics for Fiction” title offers practical approaches and realistic details by covering:
¤ Terms and techniques used during autopsy procedures
¤ Different postmortem professionals and their specialties
¤ The stages of decomposition in different environments
¤ Methods used to estimate the time of death
¤ Case studies in which autopsies cracked the crime
¤ Examples of how to use autopsies in any popular genre
Whether you’re writing about dissection or resurrection, this guidebook covers it all from cadaver to slab as an easy-to-understand resource for dead-on storytelling.
How did you get interested in history?
My interest must have begun in college, when a professor made history more interesting by telling stories which made past heroes real. Since then, I’ve learned that “truth is stranger than fiction”, and am regularly surprised by the limitless things that can happen in life. I also feel that great people of the past deserve to be remembered, and that we can learn from their lessons and mistakes. History is our connection with our ancestors, a continuation of life from our beginnings to our present to our future.
What fascinates you about the history of Ireland?
Ireland is one of the lesser-known, yet most fascinating places in the world. My interest began when I discovered my Irish ancestry, and with my first trip to Ireland I was so hooked, I felt more at home than in New York. Irish history is culturally rich, and archeologists are discovering sites and artifacts older and more advanced than the pyramids.
What’s your creative approach to writing a novel?
I never know where inspiration will come from. I was planning my first book to be about German immigrants in NYC, but on a bus tour in Dublin, our plans were changed from seeing Dublin Castle to seeing Christchurch Cathedral. That day changed my life. Visiting a place as old as the Vikings, feeling medieval tiles beneath my feet, and exploring the underground crypt gave me my first connection with ancient times. From then on, I decided to write about Ireland. I have been inspired by the most unexpected things, like fishing villages, plants, abandoned islands, and even an insane asylum in Wales (which I frequented as a visitor, I might add).
How has your writing process changed over the years?
I used to write from the seat of my pants, but found that subsequent editing required too many drafts, and plot and character fixing. Now I take my time—months–developing an inspiring idea, drawing an outline and doing research until I feel I really know my story and characters. That way, there are no major snags in the plot. Planning definitely shows in the development of the story, and the reader can tell.
How do you write the historical tone of Ireland into your writing?
Historical wording is something I’ve experimented with in various ways for the past few years. At first, I wanted the language to be as modern as possible, as I was addressing a modern reader, and wanted more than just historical readers to enjoy my books. Then I went more literary, striving for heightened language, but found the readers weren’t as fond of that. Now I’m returning to simpler language (with occasionally sprinkled historical words) with a more engaging plot. As far as historical Irish elements, I generally try to make the characters speak with the grammar and vernacular of the culture, as well as using cultural items and situations of the time.
What’s the historical context of Dingle Ireland, 1579?
Ireland of the sixteenth century was under the rule of Elizabeth I, who was fighting a war with Spain. Therefore, Dingle, a busy port, was subject to British rule, Spanish interference, and smuggling, as well as destruction by local Irish warriors fighting against Elizabeth and among themselves. My book talks about the struggle of Ireland’s “Black Earl”, who fought Elizabeth and his relatives to maintain the estate which had been in his family for centuries, a fight which resulted in Dingle being burned a few times.
What are some fun facts from your research that aren’t in the book.
Studying about Dingle revealed interesting facts about struggles from other time periods as well, such as the potato famine’s effect on the town, which brought the establishment of the notorious workhouses, as well as the battle at Smerwick Harbour, where Irish soldiers were decimated by the English. The most fun part of research is always the travel. Dingle is the most magical place in the world. A road winds along cliff-laden coasts where one can catch unexpected views of ancient ringforts, famine cottages, Celtic runes, and the abandoned Blasket Islands. There are few untouched places in the world, but because of an Irish tradition to respect what remains, old sites are not taken down.
Who is Englishwoman Norma Le Blanc and what is she dealing with?
Norma is a fictional character who believes her religiousness makes her superior to everyone, but a carefree, Spanish smuggler who arrives poses the greatest challenge to her ideas. Norma is lonely without her family, who live in England, and finds companionship in Vicente, despite their differences, until she realizes she’s in love. They both have something to learn from one another, as Vicente struggles with his mother’s wish to maintain faith in a God, when it seems as if God has failed him. Through their relationship, Norma learns humility, while Vicente regains his ability to believe.
What did you enjoy most in writing The Smuggler’s visit?
Finishing it? Ha! I always enjoy writing, and every book is different, but the first draft was most enjoyable with this one. Because my outline was established, I went off to a cabin in upstate NY and typed away to my heart’s content, finishing the first draft in two weeks. The editing process took much longer.
What were the most challenging aspects?
Finding detailed information about Dingle’s history was a challenge. Irish history isn’t as well-published as in other countries, and much of the Dingle info was in books or documents in their local library. Thanks to a local historian, I was able to get what I needed.
Do you have a favorite quote?
I collect them and have so many! But I came across this the other day, by Einstein: “Failure is just success in progress.” I think that’s a good thing for us to remember, every time we challenge ourselves to do better.
What’s your creative approach to writing?
I treat it like a job, these days. It may sound unromantic, but writing one or two novels a year takes discipline. I tend to research, write and edit for eight hours, every week day.
Outlining or pantsing?
I like to outline, but always veer away from my plan! I wish I could stick to my blueprint, but I get distracted by better ideas, or juicier characters, so my plans are constantly changing.
When you write crime fiction what comes first? The crime, character, idea?
First the location, then the theme. I fell in love with the Isles of Scilly as a child, for their wild remoteness and knew I had to set a series there.
How do you get to know your characters?
I write detailed profiles, so I know all of their quirks.
What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
Lack of confidence. It doesn’t matter how many books I write, I always reach a point, midway through the writing when my belief takes a nosedive. It takes one heck of a lot of stamina and a robust ego to stay in the writing game.
How has your writing process changed over the years and books written?
I began life as a poet, writing longhand, but now use my computer for pretty much everything. With poetry you have to agonise over every word because the form is so precise, but prose is much more discursive.
Did you write poetry before novels?
I surely did. Two collections, Reversal and The Alice Trap, both published by wonderful London press, Enitharmon.
What do you enjoy most about poetry?
Its impact. If a poem is doing its job well, it can be like a bullet of truth, straight to the heart.
Can you share one of your poems?
Not right now, I’m afraid, I’m deep in the middle of a crime novel, but my poems are floating around on the net if you go looking for them.
What next for you?
Two more books in my Hell Bay series, published by Simon and Schuster, which I’m enjoying enormously.
KATE RHODES is a full-time crime writer, living in Cambridge with her husband, a writer and film maker. Kate used to be an English teacher and has published two award winning collections of poetry. In 2015 she won the Ruth Rendell short story prize. Kate is the author of the acclaimed ALICE QUENTIN series, with the fifth book, BLOOD SYMMETRY published in 2016.
In January 2018 Kate will publish the first novel in a new series, HELL BAY, a crime novel set on the remote Cornish island of Bryher, featuring DI Ben Kitto.
The award-winning author of The Music of the Primesexplores the future of creativity and how machine learning will disrupt, enrich, and transform our understanding of what it means to be human.
Can a well-programmed machine do anything a human can―only better? Complex algorithms are choosing our music, picking our partners, and driving our investments. They can navigate more data than a doctor or lawyer and act with greater precision. For many years we’ve taken solace in the notion that they can’t create. But now that algorithms can learn and adapt, does the future of creativity belong to machines, too?
It is hard to imagine a better guide to the bewildering world of artificial intelligence than Marcus du Sautoy, a celebrated Oxford mathematician whose work on symmetry in the ninth dimension has taken him to the vertiginous edge of mathematical understanding. In The Creativity Code he considers what machine learning means for the future of creativity. The Pollockizer can produce drip paintings in the style of Jackson Pollock, Botnik spins off fanciful (if improbable) scenes inspired by J. K. Rowling, and the music-composing algorithm Emmy managed to fool a panel of Bach experts. But do these programs just mimic, or do they have what it takes to create? Du Sautoy argues that to answer this question, we need to understand how the algorithms that drive them work―and this brings him back to his own subject of mathematics, with its puzzles, constraints, and enticing possibilities.
While most recent books on AI focus on the future of work, The Creativity Code moves us to the forefront of creative new technologies and offers a more positive and unexpected vision of our future cohabitation with machines. It challenges us to reconsider what it means to be human―and to crack the creativity code.
Mark Dawson has worked as a lawyer and in the London film industry. His first books, The Art of Falling Apart and Subpoena Colada, have been published in multiple languages. He is currently writing three series. The John Milton series features a disgruntled assassin who aims to help people make amends for the things that he has done. The Beatrix Rose series features the headlong fight for justice of a wronged mother–who happens to be an assassin–against the six names on her Kill List. Soho Noir is set in the West End of London between 1940 and 1970. The first book in the series, The Black Mile, deals with the (real-life but little-known) serial killer who operated in the area during the Blitz. The Imposter traces the journey of a criminal family through the period; it has been compared to The Sopranos in austerity London. Mark lives in Wiltshire with his family.
Janice Cantore is a police officer turned writer. She retired from the Long Beach (California) Police Department after twenty-two years—sixteen in uniform, six as a noncareer employee. She is currently writing romantic suspense for Tyndale House, and her newest release, Lethal Target, second in the Line of Duty series, following Crisis Shot, is set in a small town in Oregon.
Police Chief Tess O’Rourke thought she’d taken care of her small town’s drug problem last year. But now Rogue’s Hollow residents are up in arms over a contentious vote on legalizing the sale of marijuana within city limits. And when an eighteen-year-old is found dead of a possible overdose, Tess wonders if the local pot farms might be involved and begins to fear that a new, deadlier drug supply chain has cropped up. As tempers flare and emotions boil over, Tess faces the possibility of losing the town’s support.
With her relationship to Sergeant Steve Logan on shaky ground, Tess could really use a friend, and she feels drawn to Pastor Oliver Macpherson’s quiet presence. But the anger she holds over her father’s death prevents her from embracing his faith and finding peace.
Battling storms within and without, Tess is shocked when a familiar face from her past shows up in town to stir up more trouble. And his threats against Tess may prove lethal.
What led you to apply to the police department?
I had just earned a degree in physical education and I was looking for a career that would challenge me. I didn’t want to teach, and I didn’t want to be locked inside. I do like to help people, so law enforcement seemed a good choice.
*Where did you develop your sense of justice, and did that play a role in your applying for law enforcement?
My stories are always faith based, and so I would have to say that my sense of justice comes from my faith. I don’t like to see the weak or the innocent exploited or hurt. When I was a police officer, the best part of the job was stopping a bad person from hurting an innocent person.
*Did you ever think you’d be author one day?
When I was a kid I wrote horse books, and I did want to be writer. But my father didn’t think I could make a living at it, so I chose a different career path in college. The desire to write never went away. After working the Rodney King riots, which truly impacted me, I started to write about experiences at work. That led to my imagination taking over, I started asking the “what if” question and novels were born.
*How would you define justice?
Fairness, accountability, bad people being punished for doing bad things, and the innocent and weaker individuals being protected.
*In the Line of Duty, Cold Case, and Pacific Justice series, is there a certain underlying theme?
In Pacific Coast Justice, the theme that wove through all the books was forgiveness. Woven through the series was the story of Carly and Nick, the restoration of their marriage as Carly learned to forgive. In the Cold Case series, it was justice, catching the killer that had evaded the law for years. Abby’s parent’s killer had gone free for thirty years. And in Line of Duty, after Tess’s shooting, it was about recognizing that God is sovereign and trusting him even when things go terribly wrong.
*Who is Tess O’Rourke and what motivates her?
Tess is the daughter of a police officer who was killed in the line of duty. She has the goal of becoming the first female chief of police in Long Beach. But when she is involved in a controversial shooting, her life is turned upside down. The story becomes one of redemption, faith, and community. Tess is motivated by justice, doing what is right and being the best officer she can be to honor her father’s memory.
*What’s your experience like writing the Line of duty series versus the others you’ve written?
The writing process for me is the same, asking the “what if” questions. But Line of Duty is set in a very rural area, in stark contrast to where I worked in Long Beach. I made up my own town and police department. It was great fun. I really wanted to develop a small town and the sense of community.
*Your newest book is Lethal Target. Name the most challenging things during the writing process.
The most challenging part of any novel is the writing the end. I always have a hard time writing the end, making sure it’s plausible and satisfying for the reader.
*What’s next for you?
Author of the psychological thriller, Incalculable: The Rousing of Mia
Author of the Commune Series
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