CTG Reviews: #TheDefence by Steve Cavanagh

The Defence cover image

The Defence cover image

What the blurb says: “Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turned out the two weren’t that different.

It’s been over a year since Eddie Flynn vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn’t have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie’s back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter, Amy. Eddie only has forty-eight hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial – and win – if he wants to save his daughter.

Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his ‘client’ and ensure Amy’s safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible? Lose this case and he loses everything.”

The Defence is hands down the best legal thriller I’ve read in years. Eddie Flynn – con artist turned lawyer – is haunted by the last case he took to trial. He’s turned his back on the legal profession, taken up drinking and become estranged from his wife and child. Things seem pretty bad, but as the reader discovers from the very start of The Defence, things are about to get much, much worse for Eddie Flynn.

With his daughter abducted, and a bomb strapped to his own body, Eddie is forced to represent Olek Volchek – a man he has no doubt is guilty of murder. In order to buy enough time to figure a way out of the terrifying situation he’s in, Eddie has to draw on all his skills – both legal and criminal – and his friends on both sides of the law, as he gambles against increasingly higher risks in his attempt to get his daughter safe. Smart, courageous and driven by the need to protect his young daughter, Eddie makes for a compelling character – someone you can really root for.

This rapid-paced, page turner of a legal thriller has bucket-loads of action and piles of sky-soaring tension.

A fabulous must-read – highly recommended for all thriller fans.

 

To find out more about Steve Cavanagh and his books hop on over to his website at stevecavanaghbooks.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @SSCav

#ColdMoon Blog Tour: CTG interviews author Alexandra Sokoloff

Alexandra Sokoloff

Alexandra Sokoloff

Today I’m delighted to welcome author Alexandra Sokoloff to the CTG blog as part of her COLD MOON Blog Tour. Alexandra is the Thriller Award-winning, Bram Stoker and Anthony Award-nominated author of The Huntress FBI series. As a screenwriter she has sold original scripts and written novel adaptations for numerous Hollywood studios, and teaches the internationally acclaimed Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workshops. 

And so, to the interview …

Your latest book in the Huntress Moon series – COLD MOON – is out this month, can you tell us a bit about it?

Cold Moon is the third in the Huntress series, and I highly recommend that new readers start with Book 1, Huntress Moon, because the action is continuous, really a binge read! – more like a serial than a series. The books are intense psychological suspense, and take the reader on an interstate manhunt with a haunted FBI agent, on the track of what he thinks may be that most rare of killers: a female serial. But here’s the thing. Arguably there’s never been any such thing as a female serial killer in real life. The women that the media holds up as serial killers actually operate from a completely different psychology from the men who commit what the FBI calls sexual homicide. I wanted to use that psychological fact to turn the cliché of the serial killer novel and the tired trope of “woman as victim” completely inside out. Whoever she is, whatever she is, the Huntress is like no killer Agent Roarke – or the reader – has ever seen before. And you may find yourself as conflicted about her as Roarke is.

How did you get into writing thrillers – what was it about the genre that attracted you?

I have to admit, I love a good adrenaline rush in a book (in fact I pretty much require them, repeatedly!). And I’ve always had a dark turn of mind – I’ve always read and watched and written a lot of psychological horror, too. But a good thriller is so much more than that. I agree with Val McDermid that crime novels are the best way to explore the deep issues of society. I’m very passionately political, and I have a lot of social outrage built up from years working with abused and incarcerated kids in the California prison system. I learned a lot about what seem to me to be clear-cut issues of good and evil. And thrillers are a great vehicle to explore the roots of evil in a very emotional, visceral way. As long as you’re delivering great suspense, you can ask the hard questions – in the context of such a exciting story that people don’t even realize what you’re doing until they’re too hooked to put the book down!

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process – do you plot everything out first or dive right in?

I’m a total plotter. I use index cards and a three-act, eight-sequence story structure grid to start brainstorming a plot. I was a screenwriter for ten years before I wrote my first novel, and the index card method is a very common plotting technique in Hollywood because you have to come up with full story ideas so quickly, sometimes literally overnight.

trifold_story_board

But it’s also the fastest and deepest way I know to outline a novel, and a lifesaver if you’re writing thrillers with lots of subplots. I teach the method in my story structure workshops, on my blog (http://www.screenwritingtricks.com/) and in the two Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workbooks that I’ve written, and I definitely practice what I preach!

What advice would you give a writer aspiring to publication?

How much time do we have? J The best and truest advice I’ve ever heard about becoming a writer was from Willam Saroyan: “Find a small room in a big city and put your desk in front of the window and sit down in front of the blank page. And when you stand up ten years later, you will be a writer.”

The trick, of course, is that you have to STAY in the chair. For ten years. That’s not usually what people want to hear. What people want to hear is more like this: Find a system. Read a lot of books on writing, take a lot of classes, and when you find a writing system that makes sense to you, follow it. And then expand on that. There are some very, very good teachers out there, and some not so good, but you have to decide for yourself who is the best teacher for you at a certain time.

And of course everyone is welcome and encouraged to check out my Screenwriting Tricks for Authors blog, which I have been told is a gold mine of information for free.

Lastly, I have to say – Read everything you can about the options in indie publishing as well as traditional routes to publication. I think the rise of indie publishing is best thing that’s ever happened for writers. It means that if an author is willing to work hard, they have unprecedented access to distribution, and can cut out the often crippling middleman of traditional publishing. It’s devastating to authors how much traditional publishers charge for e books. Indie publishing allows you to control your own prices. I’m both traditionally published and indie published, and that diversity has made for a much larger readership and much more stable living for me. Make sure you know the options before you sign a contract!

COLD MOON cover image

COLD MOON cover image

And, finally, what does the rest of 2015 have in store for you?

So much! Of course I’m working on the fourth book in the Huntress Moon series.

I’m also starting a new, dark crime series set half in Scotland and half in Los Angeles – I live with the Scottish noir author Craig Robertson, so I have someone to vet the Scottish parts!

In August the textbook version of my writing workbooks will be coming out – Screenwriting Tricks for Authors: Stealing Hollywood. I’ve doubled the material from the ebooks, and this version will have ten full story breakdowns. The e workbooks are being used in college film classes and it’s about time I had a full print textbook version available!

And I’m very excited to be working with a writer/producer I love and have worked with before to develop the Huntress series into a TV series. I am sick to death of the misogyny in crime series like True Detective. But I also think there is some absolutely brilliant television being made these days, on HBO and Showtime and FX, and I would so love to see a series that gives equal time and depth to female characters and deals with crimes against women and children as the evil they are. We couldn’t have made this happen just ten years ago, but I think finally, finally, it’s time.

Huge thanks to Alexandra Sokoloff for stopping by to answer our questions today. I can thoroughly recommend her excellent Screenwriting Tricks for Authors blog and books – they’re packed with great tips.

Be sure to check out Cold Moon (you can read my review here) and the rest of The Huntress FBI series at

Amazon US http://amzn.to/1z3pSh5
Amazon UK http://amzn.to/1wEwxZo
Amazon AU http://www.amazon.com.au/Huntress-Moon-FBI-Thrillers-Book-ebook/dp/B00NKTTDH4

And find out more about Alexandra and her books on her website at www.alexandrasokoloff.com and her amazing blog www.screenwritingtricks.com

You can also catch her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/alexandra.sokoloff and follow her on Twitter @AlexSokoloff

Also, don’t forget to check out all these great stops on the tour …

Cold Moon Blog Tour Poster

CTG Reviews: COLD MOON by Alexandra Sokoloff

COLD MOON cover image

COLD MOON cover image

What the blurb says: The hunt for mass murderer Cara Lindstrom is over. FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke has been working for this moment: the capture of a killer who savagely hunts the worst of humanity. But Roarke remains traumatized by his own near-death at the hands of the serial killer who slaughtered Cara’s family…and haunted by the enigmatic woman who saved his life.

Then the sixteen-year-old prostitute who witnessed Cara’s most recent murder goes missing, and suddenly pimps are turning up dead on the streets of San Francisco, killed with an MO eerily similar to Cara’s handiwork.

Is a new killer on the loose with a mission even more deadly than hers? In the pulse-pounding third Huntress/FBI Thrillers book, Roarke will have to go on the hunt…and every woman he meets, even those closest to him, may prove deadly.”

COLD MOON is the latest instalment in Alexandra Sokoloff’s fabulous The Huntress FBI series and it’s published today.

This is a serial killer story with a difference – this killer is female. Driven by the need to confront ‘It’ – evil – Cara Lindstrom targets those in society who prey on the innocent and the helpless. The story starts with her awaiting trial for murder, but it soon becomes clear that she may not be the only person fighting back against those men who prey on vulnerable women. Detective Roarke – the man responsible for Cara being in jail – is conflicted about the upcoming trial. On the one side he knows Cara is a killer, on the other he is becoming increasingly sympathetic to her cause. And he cannot deny that he’s attracted to her either.

As the trial gets closer, the media and bloggers pick up the story, igniting a growing group of protestors against Cara’s incarceration to take to the streets. Then some new evidence comes to light which changes everything.

Set in California, COLD MOON shows the glamour and the grime, the privileged (and those who abuse that privilege) and the disadvantaged. It’s highly atmospheric, with compelling, dynamic characters and vivid, rapid-paced action.

It also puts real issues front and centre – human trafficking, child prostitution, and corruption and abuse within the prison service – which makes for a gritty and thought provoking read. Like Jeff Lindsay’s DEXTER, Cara only kills those that have committed unspeakable crimes – and so although she is a serial killer, she’s a highly compelling character who I wanted to spend time with.

With super-charged tension and nail biting suspense, this is a real page turner of a read.

Highly recommended for all thriller lovers.

 

And be sure to stop by on Thursday 10th July when we’ll be hosting a tour stop on the COLD MOON blog tour in the form of an interview with Alexandra Sokoloff about her books and her writing process.

In the meantime, check out the other fabulous stops in the blog tour here:

Cold Moon Blog Tour Poster

Guest Post: Author Sinéad Crowley talks about writing a Cop Duo #AreYouWatchingMe

 

cover image

cover image

Today I’m delighted to hand over the reins of the CTG blog to Sinéad Crowley. Sinéad’s debut thriller – CAN ANYBODY HELP ME? – was a bestseller in Ireland and shortlisted for Crime Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards 2014. Her second novel – ARE YOU WATCHING ME? – is published this week and is another gripping read. So, over to Sinéad …

Good cop – better cop?

I didn’t set out to write a classic ‘cop duo’ story. Mind you – I didn’t set out to write a police procedural either – whoops! My first book, ‘Can Anybody Help Me?’ looked at the relationships between women on an internet parenting forum, and my original idea was to have the central character, a young woman called Yvonne, solve the mystery herself. But Yvonne was a new mother and quite a shy person, living in a new country and feeling, at times, totally overwhelmed. It wouldn’t have made sense to have her leap away from the computer, Nancy Drew style and start solving crimes. So, I needed a copper. And to keep things simple for myself – write what you know, eh? – I made her a woman. A pregnant woman, at that, who ended up falling into the internet parenting world herself.  Even at that stage, however, Claire was a background character, a means to an end, until my lovely and very astute agent read an early draft of the book and asked if she could she brought more centre stage. My agent, of course had her eye on a sequel – see what I mean by astute? – but she also saw something in Claire that I hadn’t fully recognised. A spark, something different. That indefinable thing that editors and agents look for and writers often don’t realise they have created at all.

So, I wrote more about Claire, and found myself warming to her. She’s a fascinating character to work with, not always likeable, but that’s part of the fun! Meanwhile, as I was writing her opening chapter, Philip Flynn walked into the room, completely unannounced. There was no need for him to be there at all. Claire was sitting in her office, moaning about feeling fat and hungry and all that needed to happen was that somebody had to give her a piece of information. It could have come via phone call or email, the method of passing it on was no big deal. But as I scribbled away in my usual ‘first draft’ style – throwing ideas down on the page in the hope that they would make sense later – in walked Philip Flynn to deliver the information in person. Philip, never Phil, a young ambitious guard with a neat haircut and an overly formal manner. When I looked up I realised I had written two paragraphs about this man who didn’t really have a part in my story at all. But I liked him, and he stayed.

So there I was, with a police procedural on my hands and two police characters who seemed, on the surface, to be like a thousand other police duos. One male, one female. One junior, one senior. One determined to play everything by the book, the other fully prepared to ‘go rogue’ to get what she wanted. But that’s where it got interesting, for me anyway. What SHE wanted. It was Claire who was the older, more experienced cop, and it was she who was prepared to do whatever it took to solve the crime. Even if that meant going against medical advice. Flynn meanwhile stuck to the rules, and concentrated on what he thought of as ‘real policing’. The questions and the answers, the door to door stuff. None of that internet malarkey. As a duo, they made sense.

Returning to them while writing ‘Are You Watching Me?’ was lovely. I won’t pretend writing a second book was easy, everything you’ve heard about ‘Second Book Syndrome’ is true. But revisiting Claire and Flynn was a joy. I really wanted to catch up with them, to find out how life had been in the six months or so since we’d last met. Claire of course is a mother now and finding out just how interesting life can be when your newest family member has a habit of yelling at you at three am. And Flynn has grown in confidence, both in his work and his personal life. One major murder investigation later, they have grown to trust each other and can bounce ideas off each other, and there’s a really useful professional relationship there now. They have each other’s backs. They’re not friends, not yet. But they are getting there. That might just be a job for Book Three…

Huge thanks to Sinéad Crowley for taking over the reins of the CTG blog today and telling us all about writing a duo. Her fabulous second novel – ARE YOU WATCHING ME? – is out this week.

To give you a taste of it, here’s the blurb: “Liz Cafferky is on the up. Rescued from her dark past by the owner of a drop-in centre for older men, Liz soon finds herself as the charity’s face – and the unwilling darling of the Dublin media. Amidst her claustophobic fame, Liz barely notices a letter from a new fan. But then one of the centre’s clients is brutally murdered, and Elizabeth receives another, more sinister note. Running from her ghosts, Liz is too scared to go to the police. And with no leads, there is little Sergeant Claire Boyle can do to protect her …”

To find out more about Sinéad and her books, hop on over to her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/cananybodyhelpme and be sure to follow her on Twitter @SCrowleyAuthor