Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sassy Gay Friend! Character stereotypes and archetypes

I am constantly rewatching Notting Hill, I can’t help it, I just love Richard Curtis! And there’s a character in that film that – despite an eccentric turn on it by Rhys Ifans, his breakout role – we’ve seen a million times before: the puckish (that's Puck from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream), irrepressible, slightly lunatic magical ally/mentor that's such an archetype in romantic comedy. I could really teach a whole class on this one character - the "asexual", usually meaning gay, friend who solves all the straight lovers' problems. (Now, in Notting Hill Spike is not gay, but definitely Puckish, and he got me thinking about the origins of this character and what it’s really about.)

Modern romantic comedy has really overused the gay best friend archetype (see My Best Friend's Wedding, He’s Just Not That Into You, Sweet Home Alabama, etc.), but it’s a centuries-old tradition - from Shakespeare and Commedia Del Arte, to Eric Blore, Erik Rhodes and Edward Everett Horton in Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies and Donald O'Connor in Singing in the Rain. These movies often ghettoized gay characters by making them buffoons and/or magical helpers for the heterosexual main characters - the exact role Spike Lee excoriated as the "Super-duper Magical Negro," a secondary African American character who seemed to live to help the white main characters solve their problems, still unfortunately extremely prevalent in Hollywood - see The Help as the latest lauded and extremely uncomfortable example. (And the uber-successful Hunger Games gives its heroine a gay African American ally/mentor. Just saying...)

Well, a few weeks ago at LCC I was thrilled to be introduced by my friend Elle Lothlorian to the ultimate satire of the character: Sassy Gay Friend!




And there are more:

HAMLET - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnvgq8STMGM&feature=relmfu 

EVE - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQhkzYVlLl8&feature=relmfu

OTHELLO - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKttq6EUqbE&feature=relmfu 

 I love these videos for satirizing the archetype, and because it's actually true. All these disasters could have been averted by a Sassy Gay Friend.

So yes, it’s a stereotype, but there’s something else working here as well. For one thing, the dance movies I mentioned above were largely created by gay men, and for them, I’m sure it was a way to layer a subversive gay perspective into movies in a time when homosexuality was actually illegal and censors were keeping close watch. (Take a look at the trio dances in Singin’ in the Rain: who’s really dancing with whom?)



There’s no excuse for the modern romantic comedies that keep these gay characters subservient to the heterosexual leads, and deny them a romantic life of their own to boot (with rare exceptions - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World).

But I do understand these lame attempts at working gay characters into the action. There is an archetypal resonance about homosexuality that is a powerful draw. These characters have been over the rainbow, so to speak, and they have wisdom beyond the ordinary world that the rest of us want. It’s not entirely surprising that lost het characters latch on to them looking for enlightenment, or at least advice for the lovelorn. Also at play is the powerful archetype of Puck, the fairy (I’d say bisexual, but who really knows? There were all KINDS of things going on in that play....) who both meddled in and solved human lovers’ problems in perhaps the ultimate romantic comic fantasy, Midsummer Night’s Dream.

It’s that same “outsider” knowledge that people are grasping for in some depictions we see of African Americans that more often that not fall into stereotypes. But some of them, I think, are at least reaching for archetype. I love the character of “the Oracle” in The Matrix: the priestess/seer/sibyl that Morpheus takes Neo to see in order to confirm if he is “The One.” She’s played by Gloria Foster with a kind of Billie Holiday flair, and to me she’s a quirky personification of the Black Madonna, Lady Wisdom, the black Universal Mother who has absorbed the sins of the world. I respond deeply to that icon of the feminine.

The point I’m trying to make is that there can be a very thin line between stereotype and archetype. As authors we have to be careful not to fall into stereotype, but at the same time we can’t be afraid to dig for archetype. So today – what are some character stereotypes that drive you crazy? And now – can you think of books, movies, plays that depict that same character, but raise the characterization to the level of archetype?

Here's a partial list of tropes to get you thinking!

Chosen One, Cinderella, Mysterious Stranger/Traveling Angel, Knight Errant, Boy Next Door, Girl Next Door, Femme Fatale, Seer/Sibyl, Christ Figure, The Fool, The Third Son, The Third Daughter, Whiz Kid, Final Girl, Absent-Minded Scientist. Byronic Hero, Bad Boy, Bad Girl, Gentleman Thief, Reluctant Hero, Sinner Who Becomes a Saint, Female Scientist/Academic Who Just Needs to Let Her Hair Down, Retiring Cop with Target on His Back, Supervillain, Shapeshifter, Trickster, Dark Lord, Evil Twin, Pissed-Off Brother (or Sister), Black Widow, Mad Scientist, Perverted Old Man, Mystery Villain, Witch, Crone, Evil Clown, Evil Wizard, Absent-minded Professor, Expert From Afar, Magician, Divine Fool, Wise Child, Seer/Sybil, Religious Nut, Hooker With A Heart Of Gold, Too Dumb To Live, Mary Sue, Manic Pixie, Martial Arts Master, Jedi Mentor, Cannon Fodder, Blonde, IngĂ©nue, Jailbait, Jewish Mother, Magical Negro, Dark Lady, Clown, Crone, Fairy Godmother, Monster-In-Law, Pompous Ass, Nerd, Supernatural Ally, Wise Old Woman/Man, Snooty Clerk or Waiter, Devoted Domestic. 

 - Alex

=====================================================

Screenwriting Tricks for Authors and Writing Love, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, II, are now available in all e formats and as pdf files. Either book, any format, just $2.99.

- Smashwords (includes pdf and online viewing)

- Kindle

- Barnes & Noble/Nook

- Amazon UK

- Amaxon DE (Eur. 2.40)




- Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)

- Amazon/Kindle

- Barnes & Noble/Nook

- Amazon UK

- Amazon DE

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What's the EXPERIENCE?

I taught a Screenwriting Tricks workshop at Left Coast Crime last week, which went very well, although they always do.

I had this fear going into the workshop that I might get, um, testy. The thing is, when I teach a workshop, I always ask the participants to do a little homework up front – some exercises all you regulars are familiar with:

I always like to get some info from workshop participants before the conference so I can tailor my examples to the people who are actually in the class. Obviously this isn't mandatory homework, but it will pay off for you to do it. ;) The whole principle of what I teach is that we learn best from the storytellers and stories (in any medium) that have most inspired us, and that we as authors can learn a whole new dimension of storytelling by looking specifically at films that have inspired us and that are similar to what we're writing. So here are a few questions/exercises to get you thinking along those lines:


1. Tell me what genre you're writing in. All right, yes, it's a mystery conference. So tell me what subgenre or cross-genre you're writing in.

2. Make a list of ten movies and books - at least five movies - that you feel are similar in genre and structure to your work in progress or story idea (or if you don’t have a story idea yet, ten movies and books that you WISH you had written!)


3. Write out the premise of your story. If you're unclear on what a premise sentence is, here's a practical explanation with examples:



Not everyone does the homework, but the answers I get give me some ideas of examples to work with when I’m going through the Three-Act, Eight-Sequence Structure. In a long workshop I can also work a little with the idea of premise; I’m not able to do that in a 2-hour workshop. This time I stayed away from much talk of premise; in fact it was a little hard to refrain tearing the class a collective new orifice. (Although with teaching, sometimes a good rampage is exactly what a student needs at the time; I’ve certainly been the beneficiary of some beneficial – and memorable - ones from my favorite teachers myself.)

Because I got a reasonable number of homework assignments back, and almost half of them went like this:

A professor (librarian, banker, accountant, divorcee) goes on holiday (to a high school reunion, to a Scottish castle, to his ex-wife’s wedding) and gets involved in solving a murder.

Uh huh.

Okay, I get the amateur sleuth fantasy about vicariously solving a murder. And maybe that’s all there does need to be to it to attract a certain type of reader. Maybe just that one situation in an infinite variety of settings really does get the job done, sort of like porn for the mystery-oriented mind. I’ve even picked up books myself that could be summed up the same way. Except that they happened to be written by Agatha Christie or Elizabeth George or Ruth Rendell, and I knew I was going to be getting my money’s worth.

But why would anyone buy a book described like that by someone they’d never heard of? And I’m not talking just readers – but how does that book even get read by an agent or editor to begin with?

I understand that people have problems with loglines, or premise sentences. Believe me, I do. I would teach a class on writing premise if it weren’t so damn hard to do that it exhausts me too much to teach it. After all, teaching is just this fun little sideline for me, and why should I wear myself out teach something so hard when there are much easier and more fun things to teach?

But look. Where’s the hook? Is it the quirkiness of the detective? Is it the fantasy aspect of the setting? Is it the jeopardy to the detective or to an excruciatingly sympathetic victim? Is it the startling and topical arena? It is an untenable moral choice the protagonist will be forced to make?

I guess what is really missing for me in most of the premises I read – ever – is the EXPERIENCE that the story is going to give me. Now, any of us know what that experience is going to be with an author we are already familiar with. I don’t need anyone to spell out what the experience is that I’m going to get from a Mo Hayder book - I know that I will be wrung out emotionally from the experience of human evil so overwhelming it might as well be supernatural. And call it masochism on my part, but that’s why I buy her books.

As authors it’s not just our job to know the experience that our books deliver, and that readers buy us for, it’s our job to be able to communicate that experience in the logline or premise sentence of our books. Myself, if I’m not making the hair on the back of people’s heads stand up when they read my flap copy, I’m in trouble.

Some of that knowing about the experience comes with – experience. Readers TELL you what they buy your books for, and that makes it easier both to deliver it in the next book, and to get a feeling of that experience into your promotional material.

But you have to know it to say it.

So the question today is, authors, what is the EXPERIENCE you feel you deliver in your books?

And readers, what is the EXPERIENCE you look for in some of your favorite authors’ books?

Alternately, tell us about a great rampage you got from a teacher or mentor that changed your work or life!

- Alex

=====================================================

Screenwriting Tricks for Authors and Writing Love, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, II, are now available in all e formats and as pdf files. Either book, any format, just $2.99.

- Smashwords (includes pdf and online viewing)

- Kindle

- Barnes & Noble/Nook

- Amazon UK

- Amaxon DE (Eur. 2.40)




- Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)

- Amazon/Kindle

- Barnes & Noble/Nook

- Amazon UK

- Amazon DE

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Something has to happen

I've been participating in a huge thriller e book giveaway this week. And because I've been checking the Top Ten pages and watching my rankings (both The Harrowing and The Price made #1 in Kindle Horror, thank you!) I've also been tempted by and have downloaded a bunch of books myself that looked interesting.

Well, I read through a bunch of first chapters last night, a couple dozen books at least, and it was pretty shocking how few of them grabbed me enough for me to want to keep reading.

Now, I'm not saying these books are badly written. The prose is fine, really. I'm just like everyone - there are very few books out there (proportionately) that I'm actually going to take the time to read. I like certain things in a book and if they're not there, I'll move on. Nothing wrong with that AT ALL - the wonderful thing about books is that there ARE books that deliver the exact or almost exact experience we're looking for. So of course we look for those over less satisfying ones. I'm perfectly aware that just as many people discard MY books after the first few pages because I'M not delivering the experience they're looking for. I'm certainly not for everyone's tastes.

But there was something I was noticing in book after book that I started and then discarded last night that was just a structural error that could so easily have been fixed to - I think - increase the number of people who would want to keep reading. It's pretty simple, really.

I couldn't figure out what the book was about.


Or why I should care, either.

What was missing in the first ten, or twenty, pages I was reading was the INCITING INCIDENT (or the term I prefer - CALL TO ADVENTURE).

The Inciting Incident is basically the action that starts the story. The corpse hits the floor and begins a murder investigation, the hero gets his first glimpse of the love interest in a love story, a boy receives an invitation to a school for wizards in a fantasy. (More discussion on this key story element here).

SOMETHING HAS TO HAPPEN, IMMEDIATELY, that gives us an idea of WHAT THE STORY IS ABOUT.


You can do this to some extent by setting mood, tone, genre, hope and fear, and an immediate external problem, but there is something about that first action that lets us know, at least subconsciously: "Oh, I get it. That teenage girl was murdered and that cop is going to find the killer." "Oh, I get it. There's a shark out there off the coast eating tourists and that police chief is going to have to get rid of it somehow."

And once we know that, we can relax. It is a very disorienting and irritating thing not to know where a story is going.

Which means in general you should get to your INCITING INCIDENT and CALL TO ADVENTURE as soon as possible. Especially if you are a new writer, you cannot afford to hold this back. And I would argue it's critical to get it out there if your book is or has any chance of being an e book, too, because it's just so easy to go on to the next e book on your reader.

Genre fiction is popular because we go in knowing pretty much what the story is going to be about. The kid is kidnapped and the detective has to get him back. The house is haunted and the new residents are going to have to fight to survive. But setting your book in a certain genre does not always guarantee that the reader is going to know what the story is going to be about (as evidenced by what I was reading last night.)

So I'm suggesting - find a way to get that critical inciting incident into the first few pages or at the very least, strongly hint at it right up front.

Reading a bunch of first chapters in a row points out a lot of common errors, actually. So here’s a brief list.

1. Inexperienced writers almost inevitably START THEIR STORIES IN THE WRONG PLACE.

Now, please, please remember – I am not talking about first drafts, here. As far as I’m concerned, all a first draft has to do is get to “The End”. It doesn’t have to be polished. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but you. Screenwriter and novelist Derek Haas refers to his first pass of a story as “the vomit draft”. Exactly. Just get it all out – you’ll make sense of it later. (for more on this: Your First Draft Is Always Going To Suck)

BUT - when you’ve gotten to the end, you will probably want to start your story 20, 30, 50 pages later than you do. And this is partly why:

For some reason newer writers think they have to tell the whole back story in the first ten pages. Back story is not story. So -

2. NEVER MIND THE FUCKING BACKSTORY!!!!!

With almost no exceptions, you should start your book with an actual scene, in which your main character (or villain, if that’s who you start with) is caught up in action. You should put that scene down on the page as if the reader is watching a movie – or more specifically, CAUGHT UP in a movie. The reader should not just be watching the action, but feeling the sweat, smelling the salt air, feeling the roiling of their stomach as they step into whatever unknown.

We don’t need to know who this person is, yet. Let them keep secrets. Make the reader wonder – curiosity is a big hook. What we need to do is get inside the character’s skin.

Here are two tips:

3. IDENTIFY THE SENSATION AND EXPERIENCE YOU WANT TO EVOKE IN YOUR READER – AND THEN MAKE SURE YOU’RE EVOKING IT.

I cannot possibly stress this enough. We read novels to have an EXPERIENCE. Make yourself a list of your favorite books and identify what EXPERIENCE those books gives you. Sex, terror, absolute power, the crazy wonderfulness of falling in love? What is the particular rollercoaster that that book (or movie) is? Identify that in your favorite stories and BE SPECIFIC. Then do the same for your own story.

Now that you know what the experience is that you want to create, start to look at great examples of books and films that successfully create that experience FOR YOU. In other words - Make A List.

4. USE ALL SIX SENSES.

A great exercise is to make sure that every three pages you’ve covered specific details of what you want the reader to see, hear, feel, taste, smell, and sense. All six categories, every three pages.

5. SHOW, DON’T TELL.

This is one of those notes that always annoys me until I have to read 15 pages of “telling”. Then I realize it’s the essence of storytelling. If your character has a conflict with her brother, then let’s see the two of them fighting – don’t give me a family history and Freudian analysis.


6. DETAIL THE INTERNAL DRIVES OF YOUR CHARACTER AND SET THE GENRE.

You don’t need to detail the family tree or when they moved to whatever house they’re living in or their great love for their first stuffed animal.

What we need to know their DESIRE and WHAT IS BLOCKING THEM. We need to feel HOPE AND FEAR for them. We need to get a sense of the GENRE, a strong sense of MOOD and TONE, and a hint of THEME.

So tell me - have you noticed this lack of inciting incident problem in some of the free books you've been downloading? Or in general? Do you know where your inciting incident is? Do we KNOW where your story is going by page ten of your book?

And for more discussion and examples of all of these terms, see ELEMENTS OF ACT ONE.

- Alex


=====================================================

=====================================================

Screenwriting Tricks for Authors and Writing Love, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, II, are now available in all e formats and as pdf files. Either book, any format, just $2.99.

- Smashwords (includes pdf and online viewing)

- Kindle

- Barnes & Noble/Nook

- Amazon UK

- Amaxon DE (Eur. 2.40)




- Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)

- Amazon/Kindle

- Barnes & Noble/Nook

- Amazon UK

- Amazon DE

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Space Between & The Price free today!

Due to some glitch I am still trying to figure out, some of you are getting this April 5 post and free book offer almost four months after I posted it!  Please just e mail me directly: alex AT alexandrasokoloff  DOT com and let me know which book you're interested in, and in which e format, and I'll send it, but I'm currently out of the country and will not be able to respond until I'm back, August 27.  Thanks, and mystified!   - Alex

As most of you know by now, this week I'm teaming up with some thriller writer friends: Zoe Sharp, Brett Battles, Mel Comley, Aiden James and Scott Nicholson in a huge Kindle giveaway this week: free e books for everyone and the chance to win one of three Kindle Fires and five gift certificates!

The Harrowing went to #1 in Kindle Horror and in Mystery/Thrillers, and made the Top Ten of all free books in the Kindle store.

The Price. is free today, currently #1 in Kindle Horror and in the Top Ten of all free books, genre fiction and Mystery/Thrillers in the Kindle store.

Today and tomorrow I'm also giving away my very dark thriller The Space Between - it's for older teens and adults.

And go to E Book Swag to browse other free books and enter to win a Kindle Fire or a gift certificate!

Sixteen-year old Anna is having terrible dreams of a massacre at her school. Anna’s father is a mentally unstable veteran, her mother vanished when Anna was five, and Anna might just chalk the dreams up to a reflection of her crazy waking life — except that Tyler Marsh, the most popular guy at the school and Anna’s secret crush, is having the exact same dream.

Despite the gulf between them in social status, Anna and Tyler connect, first in the dream and then in reality. As the dreams reveal more, with clues from the school social structure, quantum physics, probability, and Anna's own past, Anna becomes convinced that they are being shown the future so they can prevent the shooting…

If they can survive the shooter — and the dream.


Click to download your free copy now:

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon DE
Amazon FR
Amazon ES
Amazon IT

"Alexandra Sokoloff has created an intricate tapestry; a dark Young Adult novel with threads of horror and science fiction that make it a true original. Loaded with graphic, vivid images that place the reader in the midst of the mystery and danger, The Space Between takes psychological elements, quantum physics and multiple dimensions with parallel universes and creates a storyline that has no equal. A must-read. "
-- Suspense Magazine

I am definitely portraying the darker side of high school here - the book is for older teens (and younger ones whose reading tends toward Stephen King and Shirley Jackson!) and adults.


Also free today:


What would you give to save your child? Your wife? Your soul?

Idealistic Boston District Attorney Will Sullivan has it all: a beautiful and beloved wife, Joanna; an adorable five-year old daughter, Sydney; and a real shot at winning the Massachusetts governor's race. But on the eve of Will's candidacy, Sydney is diagnosed with a malignant, inoperable tumor. Now Will and Joanna are living in the eerie twilight world of Briarwood Hospital, waiting for Sydney to die, and both going slowly mad with grief.

Then a mysterious, charismatic hospital counselor named Salk takes special interest in Will and Joanna's plight… and when Sydney miraculously starts to improve, Will suspects that Joanna has made a terrible bargain to save the life of their dying child.

Click to download your free copy now:

Amazon US
Amazon DE
Amazon FR
Amazon ES
Amazon IT

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Here's The Price trailer, from Shelia English and Mark Miller at Circle of Seven Productions (The trailer won a Black Quill award for Best Dark Genre Trailer.)







"Some of the most original and freshly unnerving work in the genre."
- The New York Times Book Review

"A medical thriller of the highest order... a stunning, riveting journey into terror and suspense."
- Bestselling author Michael Palmer

"This heartbreakingly eerie page-turner paints a vivid picture of the struggle between reality and the unknown."
- Library Journal

"A psychological roller coaster that keeps the reader on edge with bone-chilling thrills throughout."
- Bestselling author Heather Graham

"Beyond stunning, it is harrowing in the real sense of true art."
- Bestselling author Ken Bruen


Wednesday, April 04, 2012

More free e books!

I'm teaming up with some thriller writer friends: Zoe Sharp, Brett Battles, Mel Comley, and Scott Nicholson in a huge Kindle giveaway this week: free e books for everyone and the chance to win one of three Kindle Fires and five gift certificates!

The Harrowing went to #1 in Kindle Horror and made the Top Ten of all free books in the Kindle store.

Today and tomorrow I'm giving away my spooky thriller The Price.




What would you give to save your child? Your wife? Your soul?







Idealistic Boston District Attorney Will Sullivan has it all: a beautiful and beloved wife, Joanna; an adorable five-year old daughter, Sydney; and a real shot at winning the Massachusetts governor's race. But on the eve of Will's candidacy, Sydney is diagnosed with a malignant, inoperable tumor.

Now Will and Joanna are living in the eerie twilight world of Briarwood Hospital, waiting for Sydney to die, and both going slowly mad with grief.

Then a mysterious, charismatic hospital counselor named Salk takes special interest in Will and Joanna's plight… and when Sydney miraculously starts to improve, Will suspects that Joanna has made a terrible bargain to save the life of their dying child.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Go to E Book Swag to browse other free books and enter to win a Kindle Fire or a gift certificate!

______________________________________________________________________________

All right, this post isn’t all BSP – I have some relevant things to say.

I just taught a workshop at Left Coast Crime and I got a lot of questions on premise afterward and I thought I’d use The Price as an example to illustrate some points.

The Price is a variation on one of my favorite personal themes – the deal with the devil. This would be one of the recurring themes I recognized early on in my own half-baked ideas and in the films and books on my master lists, when I started doing these brainstorming lists we've been talking about.

I believe that as authors we only have a few themes that we’re working on, or working out, over and over again, and the deal with the devil is probably on the top of my list. Part of that obviously comes from working in Hollywood for so long!

But Satanic characters just do me: Al Swearingen in DEADWOOD, Stringer Bell in THE WIRE, Hannibal Lecter, Al Pacino in DEVIL’S ADVOCATE… who could resist these guys? And that’s the point of the devil, isn’t it? Someone who makes you an offer you can’t refuse, usually in a package you can’t refuse?

And I particularly like to put a man, a woman, and a Satanic character into a triangle situation. Oldest story in the book – well, in the Bible, anyway. Because… I can kind of see Eve’s point of view. The devil’s promising her the wisdom of the ages… Adam is as happily oblivious as the rest of his sex… you’ve got to admit, that’s some powerful temptation, there.

But the core concept that so compels me is the idea of what you’re willing to do for what you want, the choices you make, good or bad. We give up one thing to get another – all the time. And who here hasn’t whispered a little prayer that possibly is not meant for God to hear… about what we would really do for what we want?

I've always thought that just as God is supposed to, the devil knows you - knows the depths of your soul - knows the things that you want that you would never breathe a word about to another human being. So that's the tension that draws me again and again to Satanic characters: the idea of an overwhelmingly erotic and all-knowing figure who knows you to your core - knows you well enough to offer you your most secret desire - at a premium price.

So obviously this was a story concept that I could sink my teeth into.

But here’s an interesting thing about this story, It’s made me more money, a lot more money, so far than any of the rest of my books, and I think that’s because of the premise. The Price is an example of high concept.

Here's my premise sentence for The Price:

In the eerie twilight world of Briarwood Hospital, an idealistic Boston District Attorney begins to suspect that his wife has made a terrible bargain with a mysterious counselor to save the life of their dying child.

But you could also pitch it with this key concept:


The devil is walking around the halls of a Boston hospital, making deals with desperate patients and their families.


What has grabbed editors, producers, and executives about this concept is that it contains a strong “What would YOU do?” question. What would YOU give to save the life of a loved one? Or your own life?

Because we all say, of course, that we’d give anything. But what does anything mean? Specifically? What is the exact price of your soul?

That’s the kind of question that can get readers and audiences thinking – and talking.

- Alex

-----------------------------------------------------


Here's The Price trailer, from Shelia English and Mark Miller at Circle of Seven Productions (The trailer won a Black Quill award for Best Dark Genre Trailer.)







"Some of the most original and freshly unnerving work in the genre."
- The New York Times Book Review

"A medical thriller of the highest order... a stunning, riveting journey into terror and suspense."
- Bestselling author Michael Palmer

"This heartbreakingly eerie page-turner paints a vivid picture of the struggle between reality and the unknown."
- Library Journal

"A psychological roller coaster that keeps the reader on edge with bone-chilling thrills throughout."
- Bestselling author Heather Graham

"Beyond stunning, it is harrowing in the real sense of true art."
- Bestselling author Ken Bruen


Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Harrowing and Kindle Fire giveaway

I'm teaming up with some thriller writer friends: Zoe Sharp, Brett Battles, Mel Comley, and Scott Nicholson in a huge Kindle giveaway this week: free e books for everyone and the chance to win one of three Kindle Fires and five gift certificates!

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday you can download The Harrowing for free here.

Go to E Book Swag to browse other free books and enter to win a Kindle Fire or a gift certificate!


Five troubled students left alone on their isolated college campus over the long Thanksgiving break confront their own demons and a malevolent presence – that may or may not be real.



Nominated for the Bram Stoker Award (horror) and Anthony Award (mystery) for Best First Novel.






Mendenhall echoes with the footsteps of the last home-bound students heading off for Thanksgiving break, and Robin Stone swears she can feel the creepy, hundred-year old residence hall breathe a sigh of relief for its long-awaited solitude. Or perhaps it's only gathering itself for the coming weekend.

As a massive storm dumps rain on the isolated campus, four other lonely students reveal themselves: Patrick, a handsome jock; Lisa, a manipulative tease; Cain, a brooding musician; and finally Martin, a scholarly eccentric. Each has forsaken a long weekend at home for their own secret reasons.

The five unlikely companions establish a tentative rapport, but they soon become aware of a sixth presence disturbing the ominous silence that pervades the building. Are they victims of a simple college prank taken way too far, or is the unusual energy evidence of something genuine - and intent on using the five students for its own terrifying ends? It's only Thursday afternoon, and they have three long days and dark nights before the rest of the world returns to find out what's become of them. But for now it's just the darkness keeping company with five students nobody wants -- and no one will miss.



“Absolutely gripping...It is easy to imagine this as a film. Once started, you won’t want to stop reading.”
--London Times

“Poltergeist meets The Breakfast Club as five college students tangle with an ancient evil presence. Plenty of sexual tension... quick pace and engaging plot.”

--Kirkus Reviews

“The Harrowing is a real page-turner, a first novel of unusual promise.”

-- Ira Levin, author of Rosemary's Baby