Sunday, October 30, 2011

Crossing Over - An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Happy Halloween! I hope you all took my advice and purchased All Hallow’s Eve by @crafty for $.99 during the Bestseller For A Day. Remember to keep the lights on while you’re reading. This week I would like to use M. J. Rose’s In Session as an inspiration to other writers wishing to use their established characters as a medium for cross-promotion.

In Session is an e-short story utilizing Rose’s recurring character of sex therapist Dr. Morgan Snow in three vignettes featuring three macho thriller stars in unlikely, and often vulnerable situations. The first story, Extenuating Circumstances, uses Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone in an interesting exploration into Cotton’s past and possible reason for his unstable relationships. Ms. Rose is obviously a fan (and friend) of Berry’s and has believably journeyed into Malone psyche although I believe Cotton should have seen through the subterfuge.

The second story explores Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, a character many of the readers of this best selling series would love to know in further depth. Reacher saves Dr. Snow from a bombing in her building but not before baring quite a bit of himself.

The third story involves Barry Eisler’s John Rain. Although I am not familiar with this character, his actions seem natural and consistent with the style of action oriented male persona central to these books.

In Session is a very entertaining and enjoyable read for only $1.99 but the main reason for the blog is to encourage other authors to “crossover”. One of the last shows I used to watch regularly was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which would regularly have episodes where it crossed over with Angel. Author can use this same concept, as M.J. Rose has, to use their fan base to expose readers to new authors and their characters and visa versa.

This has been done on a very small scale by Steve Berry, James Rollins, Brad Thor and Raymond Khoury. Berry has shouted out Thor’s Scott Harvath, Rollins gave Cotton Malone an anonymous nod in The Black Order, as did Khoury in The Templar Salvation. Berry has in turn mentioned Rollins’ Sigma Force but now it is time to take it to the next level!

Already there is discussion on twitter and face book of a Rollins/Berry collaborative e-short story involving one of each of their characters. This should just be the first step. The ITW (International Thrillers Writers) is a tight knit group and the potential for cross promotion cannot be denied. There are numerous Reacher Creatures who have not yet become Malone Clones. How about an ex-Seal Team Sixer joining Sigma for an adventure (Mr. Thor and Mr. Rollins?). Or may The Chess Team (Jeremy Robinson) joining forces with Tyler Locke (Boyd Morrison). Lets get this done!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

All Hallow's Eve by Cristyn West reviewed by mrneil98

In honor of the season, I am mixing my thrills with a lot of fright this week. Last year I read (and enjoyed) Ms. West’s Plain Jane and was even more impressed by her 30 Pieces of Silver written under her real name, Carolyn McCray. What better way to begin Halloween week than with a scary story taking place on that very evening! The timing could not be better since All Hallow’s Eve has been selected as the Bestseller For A Day on October 28th and will be available for $.99.

All Hallow’s Eve centers on the brutal murder of a priest in his own parish and the realization that this is actually the fourth in a series of seemingly unrelated deaths, all committed by a serial killer. Ms. West has a wonderfully creative way to tie together the killings and a potentially controversial direction her thriller could explore. My only regret with All Hallow’s Eve is that it selected, instead, the more familiar, well-trodden path of the serial slasher/thrillers. While reading the final half of the book, I could see the movie version playing in my head, a combination of Wes Craven’s Scream films and Tobe Hooper’s superior, underrated Funhouse.

The book has parallel stories of police detectives investigating the murders and some teenage relations of the investigators preparing for a secret rave on Halloween. The party is on an isolated island and hosted by a demonic rock star. The strength of the story are the relationships, some strong, some tenuous. The fragility of their nature and their ultimate fortitude is what will appeal to many of the readers. Ms. West does a remarkable job satirizing Goth-Metal with Diana Dahmer, a thinly veiled mockup of Marilyn Manson. The media is also skewered during the festivities but not as literally as many of the teens. Warning: This novel is rather graphic in its violence, like the slasher flicks the book is paying homage to.

Cristyn West’s All Hallow’s Eve is wonderful Halloween entertainment and if you can wait until October 28th, and the Bestseller For A Day, it can be yours for only 99 cents. Wow!! That’s a lot of thrills for very little money. If you can’t wait, you can get the book now for only $2.99. Enjoy and have a Thrilling Halloween!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer reviewed by mrneil98

     I finished The Inner Circle three days ago and my mind is still racing. The final third of the book has so many twists and turns I thought I was on a Disney ride, but the literary journey was far more enjoyable. I have been a fan of Meltzer since reading Book of Fate several years ago and found it quite to my liking. His next, Book of Lies was even better in my opinion so I’m am not certain why I had hesitated when The Inner Circle was released. Perhaps I was reluctant, fearing another political potboiler and not wishing to mix my thrillers with politics. I should have known better from Meltzer.

     The Inner Circle is more about relationships (personal and family), teenage angst, fears and triumph than about politics. The protagonist is Beecher White, a 30 year old working at the National Archives in DC, who looks back at the past to avoid thinking about his uncertain future. His life is forever altered when his first crush, Clementine, unexpectedly reenters his life. Together they stumble upon the Culper Ring, a secret society formed by George Washington to assist the president with “delicate” matters. The ring has survived for over 200 years and is using the archives to pass secret messages to the current president.

Complications ensue and allegiances become blurred with Beecher not knowing who to believe or even trust. Meltzer is a master of secret and mysterious societies. He is the creator and host of The History Channel’s Decoded series, which had an episode in Season 1 on George Washington’s Inner Circle. His historical research aids lends creedence to the activities but what elevates The Inner Circle are the characters that make us care. Clementine is a walking dichotomy, tough and independent, yet vulnerable and in need of assistance. Beecher is honest and honorable, yet has to question his alliances and morals. Even the president is a multifaceted character, delicately balancing country and family.

The Inner Circle, recently released in paperback, is a wonderful way to while away the time as the days become shorter and the evenings become cooler. Hunker down with a thriller that keeps you guessing, but also caring, until the end.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Petroplague: A Review and Interview with author Amy Rogers

     One of the my favorite rewards of writing for ThrillersRockT is the opportunity to discover new authors. Amy Rogers is one of those pleasant surprises, and her debut novel, Petroplague, has earned a spot in the top five on my Best of Twenty-Eleven list. Amy uses her extensive science background and research connections to create an intense thriller (or SciThri borrowing from Forrest J. Ackerman) that balances technology with well defined, likeable and believable characters.
     The novel centers on Christina Gonzalez, a doctoral student, researching genetically modified oil-eating bacteria which break down unusable tar sands and produce usable natural gas. After sabotage by an environmental group, the bacteria are released into central LA and bring the city to its knees.
     The presentation of the scientific information never resembles a lecture but is an organic development of the plot similar to Crichton or Rollins works. The thriller is elevated above the norm by the wonderful characters that are battling the Petroplague. Christina is a multidimensional woman battling her conscience as well as her bacteria. Her sister, River, is a well-intentioned activist who is also conflicted with feelings of cause and guilt. The novel broaches ideas of family bonds and betrayals, while maintaining the urgency to contain the bacteria and find a solution.

     Amy has graciously agreed to answer some questions about herself, her book and her beliefs regarding our nations dependence on fossil fuels. For more information you can go to or (Preview the first chapter) To purchase Petroplague for half the price of a paperback visit amazon, or barnes and noble.

Tell us a little about yourself. Do you have a scientific background?

I’ve been passionate about science since elementary school; I competed in science fairs every year from 3rd grade on, and wanted to be a scientist for as long as I can remember. I went to Harvard and studied biochemistry as an undergraduate. But that wasn’t enough! I continued my education with the MD/PhD program at Washington University in St. Louis, specializing in immunology.

2.  While reading Petroplague I was reminded of Michael Crichton's works. Who were your influences when it comes to writing?

You make my day, putting PETROPLAGUE and the Great One’s name in the same sentence.
Yes, obviously, Michael Crichton is my #1 inspiration. In our novels we both link a high level of scientific accuracy to a sense of how technical achievements can go horribly wrong, even with the best of intentions. While I strive to imitate Crichton’s mastery of suspense on every page, I have my own voice and style. Other writers whose work I try to learn from include Richard Preston (THE HOT ZONE and Crichton’s beyond-the-grave November release MICRO), his brother Douglas Preston (RELIC), James Rollins (Sigma force novels), Jeremy Robinson (Chess team thrillers), CJ Lyons (“thrillers with heart”), and debut novelist Paul McEuen (SPIRAL).

3. Petroplague contains quite a lot of scientificinformation, both chemical and biological. What kind of research did you conduct for this thriller?

Having taught microbiology at the university level, I have an awful lot of technical information in my head already. Most of the rest I get directly from the scientific literature. For PETROPLAGUE, I did have to venture outside my areas of expertise and consulted directly with people from the oil industry.

4. Christina is a doctoral student working on her dissertation in biofuels. When you write, are you putting any of your own characteristic into the protagonist or supporting players, like River, her sister?

Writers synthesize characters from our own personalities and the personalities of people we’ve met, which is not to say that a particular character is ever “based on” a particular real person. In general, I’d say I’m more like Christina than River. Like Christina, I’m a stickler for following the rules; but also like Christina, I’ve learned to recognize the times when breaking the rules is the right thing to do.

5. Petroplague sets up a devastating scenario for a fossil fuel reliant nation. Do you see any hope for America and its dependency on oil? What direction should we be heading?

The research I did on Peak Oil for this book left me in a state of suppressed panic for some time. The consequences of a decline in global oil production are frightening, yet it is inevitable that at some point the decline will come. The hotly debated question is when will the peak occur? And will we be ready for it by having switched to renewable energy sources? Of course no one knows.
The best hope is that we will gradually make the shift away from petroleum before it’s too late to avoid massive economic disruption. That shift may be prompted by a gradual increase in the price of crude oil over time, by mandatory restrictions on carbon emissions, by political events that affect our ability to import oil from foreign countries, or by technological advances that make alternative energy competitive with oil.
Let’s all hope technology is the solution (as it is the least painful), and that it emerges sooner rather than later.

6. You are a member of the ITW. Can you tell us what their function is?

International Thriller Writers is the world’s finest organization for authors, fans, and industry professionals with a stake in writing page-turning stories of suspense. Primarily, ITW supports authors with networking, publicity, and their “summer camp for writers”—ThrillerFest, held every July in New York City. ThrillerFest includes two days of superb instruction in the craft of writing, a chance for aspiring writers to pitch their work to literary agents in person, and the highest density of NYTimes bestselling authors you’ll find anywhere. MrNeil, you were there last summer so you know fans are welcome! [See Photo of me with James Rollins and Steve Berry's arm. I will be there in a greater capacity next July.]

7. What is  next for Amy Rogers? Another science thriller or a venture in another direction?

The next (untitled) Amy Rogers science/medical thriller will be released in the fall of 2012. A physician/scientist couple withering in a loveless marriage must relive their greatest tragedy and confront their greatest fears when their gene therapy trial threatens many lives—including their own. Readers can count on plenty of cutting-edge biotechnology, ripped-from-the-headlines events, and fact-based medical science, including the most important medical problem men don’t want to talk about. In the meantime, I’ll continue working to make the premier destination for fans and authors of thrillers with scientific or medical themes.

Thanks Amy, and we are anxiously awaiting your next SciThri!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The New Paper or Plastic? by @mrneil98

In my life, I am asked one question more than any other, “Paper or plastic?” It always leads to a serious debate; is paper really more environmentally friendly? Will a plastic bag out live my grandchildren? Within the last decade, a new debate has emerged, “e-book or traditional book?” Some use the same environmental arguments, with both sides claiming to be “greener”. Traditional books last longer and are biodegradable, but e-readers can hold an entire library.

I consider myself a traditionalist, haunting the local libraries and reserving new thrillers months before their release date. Perusing garage sales and thrift stores, I’ve amassed my own library, which crowds my bedroom nightstand and ultimately fills boxes on my basement shelves. Sticking my nose in a musty paperback with pages dog-eared by multiple readers has always been my favorite past time. Then last November, I was cajoled by my family to take the leap. I am now hooked on my Nook. It is easy to use, convenient and allows me to purchase a book and begin reading within minutes.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the e-reader phenomena has been the ability for independent writers to get their works distributed to potential readers. For the last century, publishers have decided whose work was worthy enough for the masses, but e-publishing has turned the system on its ear. With support networks like the Independent Book Collective (IBC) and the Independent Author Network (IAN), writers not only have a path to publishing their work but also assistance with finding a market.

Through these networks, I’ve discovered authors like Carolyn McCray (30 Pieces of Silver), Cristyn West (Plain Jane), Doug Dorow (The 9th District) and many others who are now a part of my electronic library. Another bonus is that these books were purchased for a fraction of the cost. Next week, I will be reviewing “Petroplague” and interviewing its author, Amy Rogers. Amy is a member of the International Thriller Writers and her blog can be found at

I truly have become an e-book convert and at this summer’s Thrillerfest, I shamelessly asked my favorite writers to autograph my Nook, which surprisingly has become a fairly common request at these gatherings. As for my personal collection, some I will donate to my high school, others to the local library, but the hard covers and paperbacks signed by Rollins, Preston and Child, Morrell and Boyd Morrison, I will hang on to for a while.

In recent years, I skip both paper and plastic and bring my groceries home in a reusable cloth bag. I have also discovered a third way for getting my “thriller rocks on”, the audio book. I tend to listen to novels that I’ve previously enjoyed and I’m often surprised and entertained by the vocal talents’ interpretation of the action. So what’s the best way to experience a good read; paper, plastic or spoken word? You tell me! Leave a comment.