Friday, July 30, 2010

DO SUSPENSE IDEAS COME FROM SLIGHTLY DEMENTED MINDS?


I’d like to introduce Bryn Jones, a partner in crime (sorry about the cliché) over at Terry Burn’s client page. Bryn tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up on the mission field, surrounded by the Old World of Italy. While there, I started writing and drawing comic book super heroes. By the time I graduated from high school, my passion for writing drove me to write 10 screenplays, one of which was a quarter finalist in the Academy of Motion Pictures Screenplay Competition (1994). After college I wrote for church newsletters, company papers, and any other place that would let me. In 2001 I sold my first article to Discipleship Journal. I wrote about trusting God while facing first-time fatherhood. I now have four wonderful children who constantly challenge and inspire me. My first major fiction sale was to Focus On The Family’s Breakaway Magazine. After selling six short stories to Breakaway, I decided to write a thriller for my first novel. I'm currently building a web site for my work at
www.bryntjones.com, which should go live soon.

Bryn, whatever made you put on the hat of writer? We all know it’s not for the money, not in today’s economy.

I've always enjoyed making up stories. My Grandma Jones always appreciated my creativity. I think that, along with my dad doing freelance writing inspired me toward that role. And yes, it is not financially rewarding at this point. What I find rewarding is when a story comes out the way I 'felt' it when I got the idea. I usually will get a feeling of something that I want to convey, followed by a couple images, a character emerges and the story builds from there. But the story doesn't always come out exactly like I felt it initially. A few times, the finished product creates that same feeling and I know I've hit exactly what I wanted when I got that first glimpse of the story.

What do you write? After seeing your you tube promo, I’m assuming it’s along the line of suspense/mystery?


I write all sorts of speculative fiction in my short work. I tend to select the genre that best forms a vehicle for the theme I'm writing. The Next Chapter, the one Terry Burns is marketing for me, is a suspense/thriller with a ticking-time-bomb pacing and some elements of The Fugitive. The theme involves God's sovereignty amid unimaginable situations. My current work, The Hand of God, is more Indiana Jones meets '24' and has more quippy humor and adventure to it. My short stories have been futuristic/End Times, werewolf, fantasy and action-adventure. So, I guess I'm sort of all over the board.

Where do your ideas come from? I always tell people mine come from a slightly demented mind. Wanna admit to that or do you have another, more sane, answer?

I guess I'll go with the demented mind theory. I rarely accept things the way they are originally presented. Thus, I find that the world is far more interesting and humans are much more complicated than the nightly news might indicate. As I sift current events and study the Bible, I get fired up about our duties before God and moral truths. My best outlet for that excitement is my writing.

How much time can you give to your writing? Do you set goals for yourself, something to achieve in x-amount of time?


My time is hard to apportion. When I wrote short stories for Breakaway and wrote my novel, The Next Chapter, I had two kids (and felt very busy). Now I have 4 kids 9 and younger. So, my goal that used to be to write at least 5 pages a day has been hard to keep. But I'm getting back there now that the kids are not hanging from light fixtures, climbing on tables or getting their legs stuck in floor vents as much anymore.

We all know getting an agent is probably harder than getting a publisher . . . “Sorry son, no experience, no sales, see me once you’re pubbed.” What was your road to finding an agent like?

I tried getting an agent or production company to look at my screenplays when I first started out. But I knew nothing about writing and my screenplays were faint shadows of a glimpse of an idea that might be promising if I'd taken the time to learn to write. It wasn't till a few years later that I figured that out and decided to get published in magazines. I read Strunk & White's Elements of Style and nearly memorized it. Then I wrote a number of short stories, exploring everything. They were mostly crazy and pointless. I submitted one of them to a magazine and got rejected. I was afraid of further rejection, but I forced myself to write an article about trusting God. It came as an idea from when I taught swimming. I would teach kids to float by holding the back of their head and have them lie back and look up at me. I'd tell them, “Lie back and look up and you'll float.” Then it hit me that God tells us the same thing. I wrote up the article, shopped it around to every magazine I could find and ended up selling it to Discipleship Journal. Liguorian also wanted it, so the next year I sold it to them, too. From there I got a short piece sold to Evangel, a Methodist bulletin insert, then got in touch with Michael Ross at Focus On The Family. He said he loved my style. I didn't know I had one, but I was thrilled. He ended up buying more stories than they were able to publish before the magazine was shut down. After that, I wrote my novel, which took a year to write the final draft. I'd written a rough draft in a few months, but scrapped it all. I re-wrote it, researched for it and took my time. When I was done, I wrote a proposal and marketed it to every agent that might consider Christian novels. I had positive interest to my query the whole way and had a good number of requests for the full manuscript. One fairly well-known agent kind of went back and forth on it after asking for a re-write. I had Trident Media looking at it, too. But everyone seemed to be hot, then cold or offered a simple pass. My wife thought I might want to give up and just write short stories. But I hung in there and I got an e-mail from Terry Burns. It was a Wednesday, I think, which I found was a good day to get e-mails (Mondays and Fridays are always bad). Terry said he sat down to read my manuscript and read it all the way through. I had to read that e-mail three or four times before it really sunk in. Soon I had a contract with Hartline. As for that being easier than getting a publisher, that remains to be seen, I suppose.

Tell us about the present story you’re shopping around? Mainly for men or for a mixed market? Want to give us a taste of what’s to come?

The Next Chapter comes from an idea I had of a writing game in which whatever is written would really happen. So, Sal Russo, a successful writer, gets a package that details a girl's abduction. The chapter ends with instructions for him to write the next chapter in her life, or she'll die. To convince him that this is for real, the killer includes bagged heart with the chapter. Sal remains skeptical until he sees breaking news about a girl abducted just like the chapter described. From there he finds himself being set up for various other girls who had been abducted years before. His only hope is to keep the girl alive somehow until he can find her, rescue her and clear his name.

My next book, The Hand of God, involves the discovery of a fragment of the original Ten Commandments that were shattered at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Various groups want to recover all the fragments for different reasons and the adventure will push the characters to face a truth they all find hard to accept. Is that vague enough? I'm in the process of writing it, so I can't really be more specific.

Your imagination is awesome and I can’t wait to read your first novel. You write a lot like my son who has the same, can’t write with kids situation, only so far, he plans to wait a few more years, but the writing sounds so similar. Yup! Demented minds. Runs in our family.


Bryn, thank you so much for joining us.
Hopefully, the next interview
is just around the corner when
your first book is released and you're
hearing rave reviews.

Monday, July 26, 2010

DON’T SCREAM AND MAYBE I’LL LET YOU LIVE

Hang up the phone, he’s in your house!
Don’t look out the window . . .

What one-liner sets your nerves tingling?
Do you have a favorite?
Do you watch thrillers? Suspense? Cozies? Horror?
Tell one scary thing that can keep you from falling asleep.
Are you a worrier by nature?
Afraid spiders are falling from the ceiling once the lights go off?
How about a few suggestions that might find their
way into my next suspense novel.

Help me out here.
Scare me so bad I can’t sleep.


Okay, this is a suspense blog, stop the whining.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

MURDER’S GREAT IN THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER!

Aren’t these nasty dog days of summer perfect for writing murder, or abduction, or maybe something far more sinister?

What ideas are sizzling through your mind today?

These hot mamas are the perfect time to imagine an abducted orchestra director confined in a sweltering room with no a/c. A rusty, squeaky fan over his head squawks its complaints every revolution and reminds him to wipe his forehead, but he can’t. A burlap hood is tied too tightly at his neck and he simply has to sit as the squawk increases the drip, drip, drip down his eyes and over his mouth. As he waits . . .

Or an afternoon storm knocks out, not only the a/c, but all the electricity in a small town in rural Georgia. The old couple inside, alone and dependent on each for many years, must decide whether to brave the 104 degrees outside or to hide in a hotter than humane closet after they hear scraping noises coming from under their front porch. Is it their drug-addicted son returned to steal from them again, or an animal trying to burrow under the house, away from the sizzling heat?

With bugs more plentiful, and grass the color of wheat, a woman bags up a lunch and her favorite book. She limps to her car, deposits her crutches in the back, and drives to the lake a quarter mile from her home. There, her nineteen-foot sailboat beckons her to skim over the water and feel a breeze for the first time in two weeks. Having been holed up in her tiny apartment, a poor substitute for the sprawling house she's about to lose in a nasty divorce, she longs for a few hours on the open water. Waves of heat slither up her legs as she makes her way over the dock. A couple hundred feet from shore, the wind dies, but a boat pulls alongside. It’s her ex-husband’s best friend, Jason and . . . a girlfriend? Can't be, Jason's never hidden the fact he's not into girls. She waves and the boat pulls even closer to reveal Jason, her ex-husband, a thick coil of marine rope . . . and a gun.

How big a role does weather or conditions of any kind play in your writing? Do you base an entire scene around it? Do you start with . . . it was a dark and stormy night?

Ooh, I hope not.

Or do you treat specific conditions like salt to sprinkle and flavor the writing?
Whatever you do, don’t waste these dog days writing about skiing in Colorado. Feel the heat as you bump off the elderly couple, the musician, or the woman whose settlement depends on whether or not she lives to get to court.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

MEDICAL SUSPENSE WITH DR. MABRY



Dr. Richard L. Mabry
MEDICAL SUSPENSE WITH HEART
A retired physician and author of fiction and non-fiction,
Dr. Mabry is with us today to discuss his debut novel,
Code Blue and the second in his Prescription for
Trouble series, Medical Error.


Dr. Mabry, welcome to Suspense Sealed with a Kiss. From the first words of Code Blue, it sounds like you’re a perfect fit for my suspense site. I can’t wait to have a read of this novel and the next. What makes a man retired from the medical community decide to write such a suspenseful novel?

I sort of backed into writing fiction. After the death of my first wife, I wanted to use my journal entries as the basis for a book about grief and the loss of a spouse. That’s when I discovered that one doesn’t just “write a book.” I attended a writer’s conference, and not only began to learn the fundamentals that helped me put together what ultimately became The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse (Kregel, 2006), but was encouraged by some excellent authors, including James Scott Bell and Alton Gansky, to try my hand at writing fiction. It wasn’t until I’d completed three novels that didn’t sell that I discovered my true writing voice: medical suspense with heart.

And that leads us to the fact you’ve also tweaked your novel with a bit of romance. I was surprised reading your site about the twist of romance. Not generally the man’s genre. What piqued your interest to want to add the romance angle?

I discovered that the vast majority of Christian fiction readers are women, and that they appreciated both a female protagonist and a bit of romance. I hadn’t done a very good job of including these in my first three (unsuccessful) books, and decided to remedy that. With the help of my wife, Kay, who is my first reader, I took off in that direction, and apparently I succeeded.

I couldn’t help noticing the huge smile on your face when you held the first copy of Medical Error. Which was more exciting, the first release, Code Blue, or the second, knowing that people loved your work enough that the publisher believed in you for a second book?

Oh, that’s like asking which child is your favorite. The answer is generally the one you’re holding at the moment. I got a tremendous thrill from seeing my hopes and dreams come to fruition with the publication of Code Blue. The way in which that one-book contract became a three-book commitment from Abingdon Press is sort of a God thing, so holding the first copy of Medical Error was special as well.

Medical thrillers have so much to offer the reader, both men and women. What makes yours stand out? If I go to the bookstore and put down my money, what would make me pick your novel instead of, say, Robin Cook? (just as an example)

I read a lot of medical fiction, both Christian and secular. I enjoy the writing of Robin Cook, Tess Gerrittsen, and my friend, Michael Palmer, and am flattered when a reviewer (in this case, Colleen Coble) says, “Move over, Robin Cook.” Other than the Christian worldview, which I try to incorporate without hitting my readers over the head with it, I suppose the difference is that I try to offer what I call an easy read: Enough medical details to be interesting without being gory. Enough romance to be realistic without being mushy. Enough suspense to keep a reader’s interest without making them sleep with the lights on.

Do you have any advice you’d like to pass along to new authors that might offer them a word of encouragement in this crazy career called writing?

I wrote three books (four if you count the one that I completely broke down and rewrote), received forty rejections, and quit writing once before I signed with my current agent (Rachelle Gardner) who sold my novel to Barbara Scott of Abingdon Press. I look on that period before I was published as a training course, something to prepare me for the eventuality of publication. God’s timing isn’t the same as ours, but His is perfect. As you wait, keep on improving your craft. And remember that if no one except you reads your work, it’s still affected one person.

Dr. Mabry, thank you for stopping by and sharing with us.
Please join Dr. Mabry on his blog and at his website where links to purchase his books are available.
http://www.rmabry.com and http://www.rmabry.blogspot.com/

Sunday, July 4, 2010

LET FREEDOM RING

God bless America, one nation, under God.
Hope you all have a Happy Fourth,
please remember those who died for your freedom!