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ITW’s Fifth Annual Online Thriller School

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Last year’s Thriller School was a great success and students came away with many new skills for their writing toolbox. And this year will be just as useful to writers of all skill levels.

This year’s seven-week program begins April 2nd, 2018, and as before the craft of thriller writing will be front and center. Each instructor will teach an aspect of the craft through a real-time, Facebook Live video available exclusively to the students who are registered for the Online Thriller School.

Students will have an opportunity to ask questions of each week’s instructor either during or immediately after the video presentation. The video will be available for the entire week in case some students are unable to make the live presentation on Monday. Any questions that aren’t answered on Monday of each week will be addressed on Thursday either through a follow-up Facebook Live video or in writing (instructor’s choice).

All videos and Q&As will be available throughout the entire course, and for approximately 6 months thereafter.

Every writer knows that learning to write well is a life-long pursuit and writers must never cease improving their craft. There are many wonderful books, classes, and online sources that will help you improve your storytelling craft, but where can you learn directly from the best? From New York Times bestselling and award-winning authors?

Right here. At ITW’s Fifth Annual Online Thriller School.

We have assembled a cadre of excellent teachers and topics so please join us and let us help you take your writing and storytelling to the next level.

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The Current Class Schedule:

4/2/18: Storytelling: The Art and Craft Of Story—Steven James

4-9: Plot: What’s Happening Here?—Grant Blackwood

4-16: Character: The People Who Drive The Story—F. Paul Wilson

4-23: Point Of View: Whose Eyes Are You Looking Through?—HP Ryan

4-30: Dialog: It’s Not Like Real Conversation==James Scott Bell

5-7: Setting, Mood, Atmosphere: Bringing the Right “Feel” to Your Story?—Gayle Lynds

5-14: Voice: What Does A Good Story “Sound” Like?—DP Lyle

Attendance is limited, and we sold out last year, so register today!

Details: http://thrillerwriters.org/thrillerschool/

Register: http://thrillerwriters.org/thrillerschool/register/

 

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Posted by on January 20, 2018 in Writing

 

Improved GHB Testing

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NMR Spectrograph

GHB is one of the so-called Date Rape Drugs—along with Ecstasy, Rohypnol, and Ketamine. I have an article on these on my website (See Below).

GHB has been difficult to detect, primarily because it’s rapidly metabolized (destroyed) by the body. But new techniques employing Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectroscopy allow the detection of GHB metabolites (breakdown products) as much as 24 hours later. This gives investigators a longer time period to uncover GHB in a victim.

GHB can also often be found in the victim’s hair up to a month or more after exposure, but this testing is not as yet perfected.

https://www.forensicmag.com/news/2017/08/chemists-discover-marker-date-rape-drug-testing

http://www.dplylemd.com/articles/date-rape-drugs.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25433016

More on the fascinating world of Forensic Toxicology can be found in FORENSICS FOR DUMMIES:

http://www.dplylemd.com/book-details/forensics-for-dummies.html

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Getting Lost in Your Own Home

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What if you couldn’t navigate your own home? What if your child is calling for you in another room, but you can’t figure out how to get there? You just might have Developmental Topographical Disorientation (DTD). Some resort to making detailed maps of their home just to navigate life.

An odd neurological condition for sure.

The Atlantic article: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/05/when-the-brain-cant-make-its-own-maps/392273/

New Scientist article: https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn25578-mindscapes-the-woman-who-gets-lost-in-her-own-home/?full=true&print=true#.U4neU16aGzA

Medical Daily article: http://www.medicaldaily.com/getting-lost-what-happens-when-brains-gps-mapping-malfunctions-245400

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2018 in Medical Issues

 

Guest Blogger: Lance Mason: The Mechanics of Showing

The Mechanics of Showing

This essay was inspired by, and is based on, a discussion with the novelist and teacher Lee Martin at the Vermont College of Fine Art’s 2016 Postgraduate Writers Conference, directed by Ellen Lesser.

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Show, don’t tell is a recognized dictum of the writer’s art and the editor’s science, aimed at a product that breathes on the page.  Yet the vivid pictures that writers must draw when showing are not photographs or etchings, oil paintings or cinema, but mental images conjured from words, so the work at which writers daily pound away will always be an assemblage of written language, and the reason we call it story-telling.  The good telling, though, becomes showing.  This happens when the written form, merging skill, insight, and experience, coaxes the reader out of sentence structure and the alphabet and into the reader’s private imagination.  The writer then helps the reader navigate that place and find—or even create—his/her own bank of images, hoping to ignite those visions for the reader that best capture the intent of the writer’s words.  The writing then burns more brightly when (paraphrasing from Stephen King’s On Writing) the reader reads what’s in the writer’s mind, i.e. what the writer is showing.

Why can this be a vehicle of enjoyment for both reader and writer?  When the work stirs true intimacy in the heart of the reader, he or she feels validated for having the imagination to see what’s in the writer’s creative effort, much as a music buff feels validated in the grasp of Beethoven’s Fifth, or a viewer senses the embrace in Rodin’s The Kiss.  Perhaps this “bridge to intimacy” is why Jane Austen’s writing exerts so much power 200 years on, or why The Iliad does after three millennia.

For the writer, this “image ignition” will prove that his/her invention works, that this “machine of words” does carry to another person the ideas created in the writer’s mind and written on the page.  It has done what its inventor intended: to bring enjoyment, even ecstasy, to the reader.  Seeing the bulb light up is as joyful for the writer as the one that lit up for Thomas Edison in Menlo Park.

Still, this machine and its incandescent bulb are built from words, leaving the writer’s mind and, if stirring enough in efficacy, rising off the page and into the reader’s thoughts and emotions, riding into his/her mind and re-appearing there as pictures that show the writer’s intent.  Yet where does the author find the concoction that will transport to the reader the story-image the writer means to depict?

The cheap answer is “Many places,” but renowned author, teacher, and novelist Lee Martin (The Bright Forever, Late One Night) espouses three necessary elements for every story: a) the chronology of events, b) the cause-and-effect forces at work, and c) the consequences of (characters’) actions.  The inspiration, imagination, and erudition by which the writer tells these to the reader will determine the efficacy with which he or she shows the story through the images evoked.

Naturally, with someone like Martin campaigning this triumvirate, we all can see its necessity.  Once the master artisan has shown me how to nail on the bootheel, the method is self-evident—no deep mysteries to it, right?  Yet the process is worth a disciplined look because creative eliciting of what I will call Martin’s Triad can put real magic into a story, memoir, or essay.

Chronology is simply the order-in-time of all the events that will be revealed.  The chain of cause-and-effect puts weight into the showing with details of each event’s timing, breadth, and outcomes.  Outcomes (consequences) derive from the intersection of chronology and causes, intended and unintended; they are the penalties or rewards, big or small, final or intermediate, which answer the question, “What happened?”  Without that answer, there is no story, but without Martin’s formula of: a) an orderly chronology plus b) a logical chain of cause and effect, the c) consequences are neither inevitable nor believable.

Of course, a flawless sequence-in-time, an inarguable series of causal links, and a logically connected set of outcomes do not guarantee a wonderful—or even bearable—story.  Lee Martin wouldn’t say so.  However, without them, you almost surely will not have one.  (It should—but doesn’t—go without saying that these three “story struts” must be imbued with conflict, the fuel that makes them glow with energy and emotion.  A train’s timetable, the traction of the locomotive, and the stations on the route are just scribblings on a schedule; but put a bomb on the tracks, a criminal gang in the baggage car, and a Pinkerton Agent in pursuit, and you have a story.)

How, then, do we use these three struts to fashion the story of our dreams?

First, in a seeming contradiction, there is no need to use the Triad logically or sequentially in the storytelling (though we also must not violate them).  The narrative may open with the chronology’s last act, rather than the first.  It may reveal characters’ actions that, initially, have no apparent ties to cause-and-effect.  A consequence may impose itself from an origin nowhere in sight, or in a way that seems illogically rendered.  However, good writing, rewarding to the writer as well as the reader, will execute this apparent jumbling in a way that doesn’t confuse or humble the reader, stint on the action, or, ultimately, violate the chronology, cause-and-effect, and inevitability of the (often unexpected) consequences.

Wonderful writing can cascade from the imaginative disassembly-reassembly of these three components, flowing into a narrative that satisfies the basics of a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Further, if you want to introduce the “Big Five” early (main characters, MCs’ goals and motivations, your “hook,” plot expectations, and launching the story), you may need to defer until later the orderly chronology that will eventually complete the story, and much of the causality tied to that opening.  In addition, we may open with consequences, but give evidence for their cause or justification much later.  Yet, in reassembling the narrative order you choose to use for Martin’s Triad, the ultimate integrity of the three must be protected.  The underlying logic and causes must remain intact and, in fact, be bolstered, even if in ways only gradually revealed.  In the end, the three elements must be resolved and kept whole, for they are the mechanics of the showing.

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BIO: Raised in rural California, Mason worked blue-collar jobs during his studies at UCSB, Loyola (BSc), and UCLA (doctorate).  He has taught at UCLA, the National University in Natal, Brazil, and Otago University in New Zealand; has presented at UCSB’s College of Creative Studies; attended VCFA 2016 Post-grad Writers Conference on scholarship.

Mason’s work has appeared in Upstreet, The Santa Barbara Independent, The Packinghouse Review, Newborders, Solo Novo, Travelers’ Tales, Tales to Go, The Roar, The Evening Street Review, Sport Literate, New Millennium Writing, and several other magazines and professional journals. ]

Pieces of Mason’s nonfiction were selected for 2017’s The Soul of a Great Traveler, an anthology of award-winning travel memoirs; The Best Travel Writing, Vol 11 (2016); Sport Literate’s Best of 2016.  His first publication a piece in Voices Of Survival, (Capra Press, 1986), alongside Arthur C. Clarke, Indira Ghandi, Carl Sagan, and the Pope.  His most recognized short piece is “The Train to Harare,” an African travel memoir with half a dozen awards and honors.

Published in 2016, A Proficiency in Billiards is a book-length collection of essays and memoirs that has met with favorable reviews.  The writer is completing his fifth novel Loan Star, on the power and greed of banking and political corruption in America.  He has also completed The Killing of Chuy Muro, The China Contract, its sequel The Eunuch of Shanghai, and The Brass Ring.  Mason and Gary Byrne, PhD, published The Seven Paths to Poverty, a guide for young adults to avoid financial hardship.

Mason has spent forty years exploring, living, and working overseas, including a half dozen round-the-world trips by every conveyance from boots to bicycle to dugout canoe.  Mason lived in New Zealand for thirteen years, the setting for portions of several long and short works.  Rugby, cycle-racing, live theater, wine, and fishing have all interfered at times with his writing life.

Lance Mason Website: https://lance-mason.com

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Posted by on January 4, 2018 in Writing

 

Guest Blogger: Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.: Review of Criminology of Homicidal Poisoning

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The Subtle Art of Poisoning

Expert discusses investigative criminological toxicology.

In 1993, Glenn Turner, a police officer in Georgia, named his wife, Lynn, as the beneficiary on his life insurance policy. After she began an affair with a firefighter named Randy Thompson, Turner grew sick and died. The medical examiner ruled it natural. Lynn quickly moved in with Randy. He purchased a life insurance policy but her overspending threatened a potential rift. Pretty soon, he, too, was sick. When he died, it was another “natural death.”

The mothers of these men joined forces and got a new investigation. By the fall of 2001, it became clear that both men had been poisoned with ethylene glycol, i.e., antifreeze, which causes organ failure. Lynn was arrested. An abundance of circumstantial and behavioral evidence linked her to the deaths, and the “black widow” was found guilty. In 2010, she committed suicide in prison by poisoning herself with a prescription medication.

This is just one of the seven “instructive” cases that Dr. Michael Farrell provides in his book, Criminology of Homicidal Poisoning. Others are “American Beauty Killer” Kristin Rossum and the Cooper brothers. He also discusses healthcare killers like Harold Shipman, many of whom used lethal levels of medications. Farrell, a private consultant on the use of poison in homicides, has a substantial background in psychiatry and medical research. This comprehensive textbook links forensic toxicology with criminology, making an important contribution to both fields.

Farrell not only describes how homicidal poisoning fits the most popular criminological theories for why people kill but also examines the nature and lethality of various poisons, identifies trends in poisoning, provides a history, and shows offender traits and victim characteristics. In one chapter, he even discusses issues for investigators and prosecutors who will be taking a poisoning case to trial.

These perpetrators have a lot on their side, and case reconstruction often depends largely on circumstantial evidence, with an emphasis on motive. (Kristin Rossum, for example, was having an affair, for example, and her husband, who’d supposedly committed suicide by fentanyl overdose, was known to be pill-aversive. Rossum had access to the drug.) It took years and persistent family members, along with acknowledgment of investigative errors, to bring Lynn Turner to justice.

Cold case investigators should take note! Many poisonings initially look natural or accidental, or can be passed off as a suicide. Suspicious circumstances, no matter how seemingly slight, should be investigated. Intentionality is key – what do these suspects gain from it? Poisoners can go undetected for years, especially if their victims are members of populations who are expected to die (the sick and elderly).

Successful poisoners are cunning, remorseless, and often greedy or looking for a way out of a difficult situation. They must have the intelligence to study the behavior of a poison and to plan ahead for its use and consequences. They need to know if they prefer a quick or slow death and how to hide the symptoms. Staging plays a significant part.

Stagers find ways to mask symptoms or defer investigation. They might oppose an autopsy and have a body cremated. They might write a suicide note or “confide” to a doctor that the victim was suicidal. They might clean up the scene, wipe a computer search, or surround a search with context that subtracts evidentiary value. They might have a ready explanation if poison is detected. (A minister who “discovered” his overdosed wife dead told police that she was a sleepwalker and must have taken the pills by accident.)

It’s a popular notion that females are more likely to use poison than any other means, which gives the false impression that males rarely poison. Male poisoners apparently outnumber females – at least, of those who are caught. Medical professionals are over-represented, possibly because they have more knowledge of, and access to, drugs and potential poisons. Over and over, we find that healthcare serial killers have administered the “wrong” meds or given an overdose. It’s important that we understand those who decide to kill someone in this manner.

Farrell believes that homicidal poisoning is underestimated. Given how easy it can be to overlook evidence, to accept other explanations, and make investigative missteps, he’s probably right. Poisons can be easy to acquire, and motives to use it are all-too-human.

Katherine Ramsland is a professor of forensic psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, where she also teaches criminal justice. She holds a master’s in forensic psychology from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a master’s in clinical psychology from Duquesne University, a master’s in criminal justice from DeSales University, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Rutgers. She has been a therapist and a consultant. Dr. Ramsland has published over 1,000 articles and 60 books.

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Posted by on December 27, 2017 in Book Review, Guest Blogger, Poisons & Drugs

 

A-LIST Launch Party

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HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
Mystery Ink Bookstore
www.mysteryink.com/mysteryink@hotmail.com
8907 Warner Avenue, #135, Huntington Beach, CA
714 960-4000

Sunday, December 17, 2:00 p.m. – D. P. Lyle, A-LIST Launch Party!
Cake!  Wine & Cheese!
Award-winning author D.P. Lyle will be talking about and signing his latest Jake Longly
thriller, A-LIST.  Jake and Nicole Jemison are off to New Orleans at the behest of Nicole’s uncle, movie producer Charles Balfour, when his megastar, A-list actor, Kirk Ford, awakens in his hotel bed with the body of Kristi Guidry, a local college co-ed. Ford, remembers little of the evening and nothing of the murder. And, to make matters worse, Kristi is the niece of a local mafioso-type who will do whatever is necessary to avenge her death. The clock is ticking as Jake and Nicole struggle to decipher who’s lying, who’s telling the truth, and exactly who schemed to murder Kristi Guidry.

D.P. Lyle, MD, is the Macavity Award winning and Edgar Award nominated author of the nonfiction books FORENSICS: A GUIDE FOR WRITERS and FORENSICS FOR DUMMIES.  He has been the consultant on numerous TV shows including, Law & Order and Monk and is the author of the ROYAL PAINS books based on the TV series. His crime novels include STRESS FRACTION, HOT LIGHTS, COLD STEEL and RUN TO GROUND.  His first novel in his Jake Longly Thriller series is DEEP SIX.

A-LIST INFO: http://www.dplylemd.com/book-details/a-list.html

 

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2017 in Writing

 

A-LIST Review and Interview in ITW’s The Big Thrill

COMING 12-12-17 from Oceanview

FROM THE BIG THRILL 12-1-17:

A-LIST by D.P. LYLE

By R.G. Belsky

Award-winning thriller author D.P. Lyle loves to write about murder – the fictional kind in his novels and the real thing too.

Lyle’s new book A-LIST is about a star actor accused of killing his young girlfriend. It’s the second in the Jake Longly series, featuring an ex-baseball pitcher and somewhat unorthodox private investigator who works (not always well) for his father.

“In this one,” Lyle explains, “Jake and girlfriend Nicole are asked by Nicole’s uncle Charles Balfour—big-time producer and director—to go to New Orleans where Uncle Charles’ franchise A-List actor Kirk Ford has awakened with a dead girl in his bed at the famous Monteleone Hotel. Oh, the girl is a college co-ed who just happens to be the niece of Tony Guidry, a ruthless, mafia-type. Things go sideways in a hurry.”

Lyle says he created the Jake Longly character, who first appeared in Deep Six last year, to make this series comedic as well as a good mystery/thriller.

“I wanted Jake, the protagonist, to have certain qualities. Good-looking, always a hit with the ladies, not overly ambitious, not the smartest guy on the planet but smart in his own way, and likable. I also wanted him to have conflicts with his father who is an entirely different person than Jake. But mainly, I wanted him to be a handsome, ex-jock who more or less skates through life, having fun and avoiding major conflicts.”

Adding to the fun is Nicole, Jake’s sexy girlfriend and partner on his cases. “Nicole is actually one of my favorite characters,” Lyle says. “She is achingly beautiful but not an airhead. Not even close. She’s focused, smart, sarcastic, and knows how to handle Jake, and just about any other situation. I didn’t want her to be the beautiful sidekick or the victim or any other one-dimensional cutout character. I wanted her to have substance and indeed in the stories, she is often the one who comes up with the solution to the problem—and is instrumental to the resolution.”

But as well-known as Lyle is as a thriller writer (he’s won numerous fiction awards), he’s also renowned for his real-life expertise in medicine and forensics. A practicing cardiologist, Lyle writes popular non-fiction books on the subject of forensic science. And he maintains a unique medical/forensic website – The Crime Fiction Writer’s Forensics Blog – where countless writers come for his advice on how to murder someone in their novels or on screen.

This has included many top-selling thriller authors as well as TV crime shows such as Law & Order; Diagnosis Murder; Monk; Cold Case; CSI: Miami; and Medium.  

“I think I have about 6000 questions on my computer from writers over the past 20 years. I work with both novelists and screenwriters. Most of the questions either have a medical or a forensic science slant such as how poisons work, what various traumas look like, how DNA works, and in each case, the questions are geared toward solving a story problem.

“I’ve been asked some amazing questions over the years including things like would Abraham Lincoln have survived with modern medicine, how did David kill Goliath, what would a corpse look like on Mars, or in a swamp or a freezer, how does vampire blood work, what poison would mimic a heart attack, is there a poison that is untraceable, what happens when someone is hanged, or drowned, or beheaded. The list goes on and on.”

There is even a story about how he once helped novelist and TV writer Lee Goldberg with his plot issues – and also possibly saved his life by diagnosing him with dangerously high cholesterol as a cardiologist.

“I love the guy. Lee and I have worked together on many stories over the years. I helped him with several of his TV scripts as well as the Monk and Diagnosis Murder books he wrote—and a couple of the ones he’s doing with Janet Evanovich now,” Lyle recalls. “As for his cholesterol, we were having dinner one night at a conference many years ago, both of us having steaks, and the subject of cholesterol came up. I asked him when he last had his checked and he gave me a blank stare. I had him tested and we went from there.”

So how did Lyle go from a career in medicine as a cardiologist to becoming a writer?

“I grew up in the South where everyone can tell a story, and I grew up in a family of storytellers. So I could always spin a yarn but I wasn’t sure I could write one. I always said that when I retired I would begin to write. But 20 to 25 years ago now I decided if not now when? I took some night classes at the University of California, Irvine writing program, joined a couple of critique groups, and began writing. I found out that spinning a yarn is an entirely different animal than writing one. But it’s been a fun ride.”

Lyle did two other mystery/thriller series before this one – the Dub Walker and the Samantha Cody series. Walker is a forensic and evidence expert, Cody an ex-cop and ex-professional boxer.

He said he loves both characters, but for now, he’s concentrating on writing Jake Longly and a lot of other new stuff.

“I’m working on the next Jake Longly story. It will be set in Florida with all the craziness that goes on down there. I’m also working on a nonfiction project as well as a couple short stories. In addition, I’m working on another book that has an entirely new main character and will be the beginning of a new series.

“Then of course, there are my ITW (International Thriller Writer) duties—putting together CraftFest, Master CraftFest, and Thriller School—always ongoing projects. So, as usual, lots of balls in the air. But I like it that way. I’m not sure whether Dub or Sam will reappear but it’s entirely possible. If I come across a storyline that best fits them then absolutely. If not, then that’s OK too.”

Original Post: http://www.thebigthrill.org/2017/11/a-list-by-d-p-lyle/

A-LIST Details: http://www.dplylemd.com/book-details/a-list.html

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2017 in Writing

 
 
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