Tag Archives: Suspense

Advice for New Authors from Samuel Jay

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The biggest piece of advice I have for new authors is to do your homework, that is, learn the craft by studying it first. Find books on the profession; there are many to choose from. Also, go to classes held by the pros. For example, I went to one held by David Hagberg, a bestselling author, who scrawled this note on a first chapter I handed in: “Your scene-setting sucks.” After this, I decided to take a Writer’s Digest 6-month correspondence course, which included a mentor review of my draft outline and chapters into Shadow of Guilt with suggested revisions. Two years later Hagberg sent me this note about Shadow of Guilt: “Wow, have you come a long way.” And a review: “An intriguing premise, tight plotting, and well-defined characters who the reader cares about.” Not bad. Read, read, study, study, and go to writers’ conferences to listen to successful authors and meet editors and agents, learning what their interests are.

Surprises in Shadow of Guilt

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On a night he could’ve been home and protected his family, prominent PR man Chip Keller (I’m a PR guy – you write about what you know!) finds himself alone in his office with his secretary after a fundraising event, a beautiful secretary, who, under the influence, attempts to seduce Chip, who nearly succumbs but he surprises us with how he deals with the temptation.

Unknown to him an arsonist out for revenge does the deed behind Chip’s home (Do not want to tell you too much of the story, rather you buy the book and enjoy the suspenseful actions and events). Chip arrives after the arsonist’s revenge. Now what? Will he overcome his guilt? I leave that surprise to you. And will he help a woman who also is drowning in guilt? And if he does, will he rescue her?

Secrets from My Upcoming Novel

My upcoming suspense novel, Deception (title subject to change due to several others with similar titles), will be published in the very near future following publisher edits, cover design, reviews, etc.  But I wanted to share a little bit about it with my readers. The heroine, Diane Gannon, a rising New York journalist, is excitedly waiting for her fiance, Lt. Jack Morro, to return from the Vietnam war in 20 days. But in the very next scene, we see Jack leading a squad as ordered by company commander Captain Jim Ivy, who eyes Jack and makes him the victim of ‘friendly fire.’

Why? Jack knows about a bribe Ivy took years earlier to deliver arms to Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolution. The bribe was provided by American media giant, Roberto Vidal, a Venezuelan emigre and Castro supporter, who, having contact with journalist Diane, is in love with her.

Receiving a report that Jack is dead (false, he’s only been wounded and is in prison), Diane is shattered into alcohol and depression. Rescued by Vidal, they marry, and then Jack escapes, coming home to the bitter news that the woman he loves is married. Twists and turns until the conclusive battle between Jack and Vidal.

Will be available via Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

My Favorite Suspense Novels

Among my favorite suspense novels, Lie Down With Lions, by Ken Follett (a favorite author) has to rank at or close to the top. It’s a romantic triangle about two men on opposite sides of the Cold War and the woman they both love, who is torn between them. This novel has  a fundamental basis for suspense. How will the passion of characters and the deception inherent in war play out? Who will win over Jane, who loves both men? How about the Cold War? Where is that going? It’s one of Ken Follett’s best novels.

Then there is the classic, And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie. We have ten strangers lured to an isolated island mansion. At dinner, a recorded message accuses each of them of having a guilty secret. The prose also helps send a message to the reader, namely, that each of these ten is vulnerable. Their vulnerability is even more apparent as they begin to die. The captivated reader wants to know how this is all going to turn out. Thus the suspense as the characters go down, one by one.

What Makes a Good Suspense Novel?

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What makes a good suspense novel? Simple. Open with a life-threatening situation that makes you wonder how the  will deal with it. And walk them through it, scene by scene, until the threat hits and you show the characters reacting in defense, sometimes physical, sometimes emotional. For example, Shadow of Guilt opens with an arsonist out for revenge on the hero hiding in the moonlit shadows of a treeline behind the hero’s home. And there’s his wife in the house, vulnerable and unsuspecting, along with the daughter. And the hero? On a night he could’ve been home, he’s doing a fundraiser for hospitalized kids.

What’s going to happen? Will he come home on time to defend his household? Or will he be delayed by meeting with and consoling his troubled secretary after the fundraiser (another move by a suspense author, namely, introducing a complication that delays the sub-climax).

So it’s a combination of incidents and character reactions that compels the reader to want to read more, to see how this is going to turn out. But it keeps going. Sub-climax to more complication as the characters try to defend themselves.
Sub-climax as the characters react to those around them.