Monday, September 3, 2012

Questions from a book club

I am scheduled to speak at a book club later in the month, and in preparation for that they have sent a list of questions that would be of interest. These are book readers, but some of them also write stories. When I finished answering the questions I thought perhaps other readers would also be interested. Below are the questions and my replies. Hope it's helpful or at least interesting.


· How did I get interested in writing?

I’ve always been a reader and a writer of stories. I used to write fairy tales when I was a kid, they never ended well. I’m better and braver when I’m writing.

· How do I do research?

Google is my friend! I do a lot of on-line research, talk to experts in person or on the phone and visit places I want to describe in the book. Even after the book is started I do mini-research forays each morning as needed for the plot, setting or dialog.

· How do I keep going?

The story and characters drive me forward. They haunt my sleep and creep into my every day activities demanding to be brought to life.

One valuable thing I have learned from other writers is that there comes a point in the manuscript, for every author, when the whole thing seems like garbage. The characters lack depth, the plot is too thin, the writing is just plain bad and the setting is unrealistic. When you reach that point, and you will, the temptation to toss the whole thing in the trash is strong. If you can push through it and keep writing, you will go through that point, complete your book, and it will seem brilliant to you once again. The trick is to anticipate this point in the writing process and not let it paralyze you. Easier said than done.

· How do I develop characters?

I imagine them from bits and pieces of people I have known, seen in movies and on television, government figures, etc. I give them a name, describe them, find a picture in a magazine or advertisement that looks like my idea of them, and write a biography of each major character - a short sketch for minor characters. Once the writing starts and the characters begin to speak and interact with each other, a funny thing happens. Somehow they become more than I had imagined them to be. They sort of take on a life and personality of their own, and sometimes I breakout laughing at some of the crazy things they say or do. No, I’m not really crazy. I’m pretty sure.

· Do I get cooperation from other authors and groups?

No one loves talking about the craft as much as authors, and they love lending a helping hand to up and comers. Writing and critique groups are a great resource, and the writers in the groups give generously of their time and experience. This is in direct contrast to the corporate business world where information is power and to share power is a career killer. Authors love what they do and they want everyone else to love it too, and maybe even give it a try.

· Do I research in libraries?

Not even once, but it could happen.

· What is the flow, organization of a story?

This is what works for me, gleaned from many source books on how to write as well as advice from established authors on the web. Not every story will have every element within the main plot points, and no two authors use the same process.

Dead bodies are, of course, found throughout the story line:

     1. Introduction of the crime/mystery
a. Start with a main character doing something interesting - action
b. Describe a Major Change and Story Goal
c. Identify the crime
d. Establish the Villain and his Short Term Quest
e. Introduce Minor Characters
f. Insert Clues
     2. Rising Action
a. Begin Romantic Lead sub-plot
b. Introduce the Red Herring
c. New Disaster
d. Plausible suspects introduced
e. Describe the villain’s point of view
f. Mid-Point of book
   1. Romantic scene
   2. Re-examine evidence
   3. New Action Plan
g. Villain gets Upper Hand - disaster for Main Character
h. Romantic Lead’s or Best Friend’s back story
i. Red Herring is cleared
j. Violent Scene - Big Disaster
k. Showdown for various characters
l. Sub Plot question is answered
     3. Black Moment
a. Major Disaster
b. Romance is doomed
c. All is lost
      4. Climax
Major Action Scene, pull out all the stops and leave no doubt that this is the climax. The scene ends well for the main character.
     5. Final Resolution
a. Tie up loose ends
b. All questions are answered
c. Closing scene (frosting on the cake for readers)
· Some tips I’ve learned along the way

1. Start with an idea that’s big enough to sustain an entire book

2. Decide on the major characters early and get to know them well

3. Set a timeline and insert the major elements listed above onto it

i. Select the suspects - every suspect has a motive, a secret, and some plausible link to the crime

ii. Choose the clues – they should point to one or more suspects, or even (gasp) to the main character

4. Research when you are not an expert – ballistics, international law, foreign accents, police procedures, etc.

5. Write an outline of action scenes – a few words only

6. Expand these into short paragraphs – no dialogue yet

7. Begin writing descriptions and dialogue with a pattern of scene – sequel – scene - sequel: scene being dialogue and/or action; sequel being thoughts and plans of the point of view character. The sequel ends with a plan for action, which leads into the next scene.


That's pretty much it - see if you can identify these elements of story telling in the next mystery book you read.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Autumn musings

Fall is in the air, school buses are making trial runs as the kids are getting new school supplies. The bird songs in the neighborhood have quieted down considerably, possibly they have flown to warmer climes already. The sun is shining, but the slant is different and the evenings cooler. In the northwest, where I live, the shift of daylight from summer to winter is pretty extreme and the days are getting shorter now. All signs point to one thing, summer is over. Autumn musings.

This used to be my dad's favorite season, and this will be the first one he's missed in his 94 years on the planet. I miss dad today, gone these four months now. Mourning comes in fits and starts, not an all-at-once and then done with it manner. I expect there will be many times in the years ahead when a song or a scent will bring him back, and then I'll lose him all over again.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Reactivating site

OK, I'm going to run an experiment here and post concurrent entries with my two blog sites. I want to see which one is really worth the time and effort to maintain, keeping two is not an option. I could stop eating, but really, not practical.

My othr blog spot is attached to my website, Worst case is that I will simply keep the two in sync with each other.

Here is the latest post -

Available now on Amazon

Blue Ice is now available from Be sure to search for I.C. Enger since there are a few other similar titles out there. I can guarantee you, there are no similar stories!
Homeland Security is more and more in the news, have you noticed? The emphasis is still focused on ERO, Enforcement and Removal Operations. I expect that one of these days HSI, Homeland Security Investigations, will get a share of the spotlight as well. Not that they would welcome it.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Nine days until the book is introduced at the Police Writer's Conference in Vegas. And counting.

Interesting time here in the good old US. While the government leaders seem ambivalent toward the principal of holding closed our borders on the South West and the North, the civilian and militry folks have deployed drones and task forces to do just that. I'm reading the June 2012 issue of Military Officer magazine today. It diagrams the area of responsibility for the combined effort of US Northern Command (NORTHCOM).

Here's how NORTHCOM is described; "NORTHCOM's area of responsibility includes the continental U.S., Alaska, Canada, Mexico, and surrounding waters out to approximately 500 nautical miles. It executes its mission of homeland defense and civil support operations with the help of several subordinate commands and through partnerships with the Bahamas, Canada, and Mexico." (p. 53)

More than 60 different federal and non-federal agencies, including Homeland Security, tie in with NORTHCOM to secure our defense, and how does all of this interest me? My books are all about Special Agents who are defending the borders against anything coming into the country that would harm the U.S.

My hope is that the government would give them a clear mission, allow them to carry out that mission, and that all of the alphabet soup agencies working together actually work smoothly to a common goal.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Accidents and guilt

Interesting news bit today - a dad left his toddler in the car and went in to work. Forgot the child was there. Luckily, a co-worker noticed the child after two hours in the hot sun and called the police. The child will be OK, and the dad will never make that mistake again. What's my point with all this? Just that when I read about tragedies that happen to children when their parent should have been more aware, attentive or whatever - I can empathize with the parent. This is just in the case of accidents of course; child abuse is a different animal all together.

When I think back on the years I was a single parent, raising two children and holding down a full time job, I just feel lucky that nothing really tragic happened. It could have. Easily. For some reason we all made it through OK. I also remember my own childhood. We used to go out in the morning during summer break and stay out until dinnertime. We would ride bikes all over town, hunt for tadpoles, swim in the lake and jump off dangerous heights without much more than bumps and scrapes.

So, when a moment of distraction on the part of a parent, or a twist of fate at the swimming hole, or any number of other possibilities that leads to tragic accidents happen, I know that there but for the grace of God could be me. Life is dangerous.

That's why I love mystery books I guess. Controlled danger. Threats that will be revealed in the end. Right will win, evil will pay. Mystery books are so, so much safer than the real thing.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Heavens, the tyranny of a blank page. I do believe it's easier to write a book than to fill up this blank area. OK, my day so far, wrestling with Facebook and losing. I hate losing to software, it takes away a bit of our humanity doesn't it? After spending an entire morning trying to get it to work, I found out there is a known problem with the program, "they're working on it." I feel so much better, really, I do. It's not just me. Now I'll set out to create Blog posts interesting enough to draw you in.

Some interesting things I've learned about Homeland Security during the book research for Blue Ice. You can take comfort in the fact that we are very well protected indeed. The Special Agents in the Investigations branch are around you, where ever you live, and are more active than the media would lead you to believe, preferring to let the other federal agencies like FBI and ATF take the credit. They stay under the radar, unnoticed, and it's likely you have never heard of the scope of their power unless you have become interesting to them. Interesting word, you know, interesting. There are times when it is in our interest to remain uninteresting.

Just a start. I'll add to this site regularly, and maybe we can get a good discussion going.