Posts Categorized: Books

I have been lucky enough to find a good man to live my life with.

A large part of this, of course, is due to his parents and mine. Both of his parents were good and kind and smart, but more than that, they had integrity.

I think “integrity” is at the heart of the Zero the Hero story.

Let me back up a bit. My mother-in-law, Jean McCreedy, had a rich spiritual life. She explored her inner space, finding many ways to turn the Rubik’s Cube of her life.  She was a questioner. She was the kind who would follow the path and then, if that path petered out, she would go beyond it.

ms-mccreedy

 

Creative people always try to go farther. They want to learn more, and often they want to learn about themselves.

As a writer, I can relate. There are many ways I have approached writing (especially when I’m stuck)—there are other neural pathways that I try to access. Here’s just one of them.  If I’m having a hard time moving forward on a story, I’ll go for a walk—and plan NOT to think of the book I’m writing.

In theatre, there’s a saying: “Try NOT to think of the White Bear.” It was a way of accessing the stuff underneath, because God only knows, if you tell yourself not to do something, part of you will want to do it in the worst way.  And that gives you access to something more that you can use on stage.

Like the White Bear, Zero the Hero is a way to reach farther with the mind and soul. His home (which is whimsical) has an open floor plan. I think Jean deliberately made her creatures, including Zero, to be open-ended and full of possibility.  There are spaces to dance around in. It’s not the neat, small spaces that many of the wonderful coloring books out there provide. Her story is bigger than that, and more things are possible.

 

I couldn’t leave the book alone. I used soft-core colored pencils, a whole host of them, and shaded from one color to another. I went a little crazy, too, filling some spaces with … I dunno, I guess you’d call them dapples. Like you’d see on a horse.

 

pages1 pages2 pages3

 

There are lots of fantastic coloring books out there-beautiful ones. But this one, I believe, is kind of a grownup’s coloring book, where YOU make the decisions, and you have more space to fill, and more ways to go.

Getting into that space and time, I left a bunch of unnecessary stuff behind. I think that that is the essence of what Jean wanted to achieve with her coloring book. 

She wanted people to explore the spaces, not just the outlines.

And she wanted them to discover the creativity in themselves.

You can find ZERO THE HERO: ADULT COLORING BOOK FOR MEDITATION AND RELAXATION on Amazon.com. https://www.amazon.com/Zero-Hero-Coloring-Meditation-Relaxation/dp/1939145201/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1476638912&sr=8-9&keywords=zero+the+hero

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Books Uncategorized

Books do one thing that television and movies can’t do:

They give you your own personal experience. Reading calls upon you to see what YOU see, and while it might be similar to the author’s intention, what you see comes from where you live, who your family is, how you see the world, the experiences you’ve had. If you lived in Greenland, you would experience a different world than a person who lives, say, in Tucson, Arizona.

I’ve never been to Greenland, so if someone describes it, I still see it my way: a vast platform of ice, populated by polar bears. Or maybe it’s taken from a TV show I saw as a child—Eskimos fishing. It comes from everything I’ve learned up to this point.

Childhood, school, the area where I live, what the people are like in my neighborhood, if I live way out on a ranch somewhere or cheek-to-jowl in a crowded city. People have mutual experiences, like school, learning to drive a car, your job. Your car might be an expensive beauty, and mine might be falling apart.

So we see everything through the prism of our own minds and experiences—and books give us the freedom to do just that.
Do you see what I see graphic
MY view of a cabin in the woods, depending on the area you or I live in, would look different from YOUR cabin in the woods. My picture of a strong female cop might be different from your idea of a strong female cop. She could be massive and strong. She could look like the cop on Criminal Minds. She could be red-haired, freckled, model-thin, with a whip-smart mind and a smart mouth to go with it. Whoever she is, she’s YOUR person. You made up your half of her.

If my character is driving on a lonesome winding highway in the middle of the night, YOU’RE driving on a road that might be like it, but it’s all your own—it’s your road. You fill in the pieces of the puzzle. That, in a nutshell, is the wonder of reading.

And because you hold the other piece of the jigsaw puzzle, I respect you and I respect what you add to the story. It takes two to tango. And I can’t help but wonder: what do YOU see?

Show me how you see it

Here are five subjects that have appeared in my books. I’m going to furnish you with a short description of each scene, and it’s up to you to fill in the blank. What does it LOOK LIKE?

Please post those pictures here on my Pinterest Page. Choose as many as you’d like. I’m really curious how you see these places and people.

1. A cabin in the woods near Aspen, Colorado—the opening scene of my thriller, The Shop.

2. A guy out in the boonies with a camper and a dog on a chain—from The Survivors Club.

3. A bombed-out house in Iraq with a secret stash of incredible riches—from Hard Return.

4. A bandshell in a western town—from Darkness on the Edge of Town.

5. A horsewoman teaching a riding class—from The Survivors Club.

I wonder how different your photos will be from other peoples’ photos, or what I saw as I wrote these scenes. I really want to know what YOU see. Go to https://www.pinterest.com/carson9648/

Categories: Books Darkness on the Edge of Town Hard Return The Shop The Survivors Club

1. I lived in Bisbee. Why is that important? Because one day a lawyer friend who lived in the apartment next to us introduced us to another lawyer friend—her name was Laura Cardinal. The moment I met her, the first words out of my mouth were, “If I ever write a female detective, I’m calling her Laura Cardinal.” I had no idea at the time that the fictional Laura Cardinal would come to life in three novels, The Laura Cardinal Novels, and two novellas, Cry Wolf and Flight 12.

Laura Cardinal is now the presiding judge of Cochise County.

2. I had the help from some wonderful TPD and DPS guys. A dear friend, John Cheek, suggested I write about a very difficult subject: child depredation. It was important to let parents know how bad it was—how kids could be lured on the internet. And let me tell you, the idea of writing such a story scared the hell out of me. As the Wicked Witch of the West would say, it had to be done “delicately.”

3. I think I managed to reach that bar. The story is harrowing, but over the years, I’ve learned how to write with mercy. By that I mean, the dead at the beginning of a book are fair game. You just have to be very careful moving forward. Especially when it comes to children and animals. There are plenty of bad guys to kill.

Darkness On The Edge Of Town by Thriller Author J. Carson Black

Darkness on the Edge of Town is the first book in The Laura Cardinal Series.


4. Darkness on the Edge of Town was the book that made me the writer I am today. It was a personal best.

5. I spent a lot of time preparing for this Laura Cardinal book, the first in The Laura Cardinal Novels. I even dredged up some scary stuff from my childhood in Tucson. I learned a lot from the good people at the Department of Public Safety. I learned that a detective with the Department of Public Safety could assist on homicide investigations anywhere in the state—which would always cause problems. Laura Cardinal would be an outsider and treated as such. Without him, I don’t know if there would be The Laura Cardinal Novels.cover of The Laura Cardinal Novels

6. I tried to be fair and make the story real, but I did not GO THERE. I went close, but I DID NOT GO THERE. I came close to the edge, but there has to be some trust between the writer and the reader, and I did not break that trust. I got them as close as I could to the danger, but I did not cross that line.

7. But the story is harrowing. It even scares ME.

8. I drew on a few terrifying stories from my own past in my town. Tucson was predated upon by an evil home-grown killer, Charles Schmid. He killed three young girls.

creepy car, 1955 Chevy Bel Air

A creepy car, 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air


9. Another time, I was chased by a guy in an old orange 1950s car. I was fourteen. I wrote it down, of course. That’s the way I roll. I found it when I was coming up with this book, that obviously has deep meaning to me. The guy was scary as hell and chased me for blocks, right out of a horror movie, coming up one street and down the other in his crappy old car. I was so scared, because even running up to one of the houses and knocking would have taken too much time. I was lucky that I knew the neighborhood, and one of my best friends happened to be outside watering when I reached their house. The bad guy drove away.

10. So yes, I have the imagination, but I keep a lid on it. I try to be truthful but not delve too deep. However, everyone has their own depth, everyone has their own fears, everyone has that line that they will not cross.

You can read all three novels of the Laura Cardinal series in The Laura Cardinal Novels, a 3-in-1 edition, now on sale for $0.99 through June 6, 2016 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple.

Categories: Books Laura Cardinal The Laura Cardinal Novels

The FREEDOM ON-THE-MOVE tactical surveillance system

The FREEDOM ON-THE-MOVE tactical surveillance system

You never know when you’ll find something that will not just fit into a story, but might GIVE you one. One night, a number of people from Start Up Tucson were gathered at an open-air bar in downtown. Start up Tucson is a non-profit organization that fosters entrepreneurial ventures. I was sitting with one of the staff, Greg Teesdale, under a summer moon, and he told me a story that intrigued me.

He described a ride-along with the sheriff’s office and a Tucson company called Strongwatch. On that particular night, police used a Strongwatch vehicle to patrol a desert area down near the U.S./Mexico border, looking for border crossers or drug runners. The vehicle had a unique selling point: an infrared camera that goes up on a telescoping pole that could catch movement in the darkness of the desert. People, animals, any living creature that could be seen in the dark.

Union Pacific Train, Pantano Arizona

Union Pacific Train, Pantano Arizona

He told me how bad guys robbed freight trains. This kind of train robbery is sneaky, smart, and oftentimes the engineer has no idea that part of his train has been decoupled–hijacked–left behind in the desert where the bad guys could crack it open like a tin can and get away with the contents. A slick train robbery.

My author wheel started turning. I knew this would be a great beginning to a crime fiction thriller. And so I took some notes and set up the scene. I found a great character in detective and sharpshooter Samantha Stark, put her on the board, and started the story with a train robbery.

Categories: Books Samantha Stark The Writing Life

If you look at my floor-to-ceiling bookshelf, you will see a lot of journals, spine out. They’re easy to find. I pick mine up at Ross Dress for Less—they usually have some hardbound journals, many of them very beautiful. (My current one is embossed with a peacock).Peacock journal for writing in longhand

Most important, though, they have ruled pages where I can write my thoughts. When I start a new book, I always go there, past the inexpensive clothes, past the purses, past the boots, past the toilet articles, and find that special shelf where they (sometimes) sell journals.

Why I’m bringing this up? I just read an article about something I already knew: writing in longhand makes you learn better. Check out this article from Business Insider.

Bottom line: it slows you down. The act of writing by hand slows you down and helps you to assimilate what you are writing.

I have always tried for a personal best. There have been breakthrough books. My first breakthrough book, Darkness on the Edge of Town, came after I did a serious self-assessment after a failed supposedly “easy to sell” mystery novel. Journal page writing in longhand

And so I talked to myself – writing in longhand. (Thanks, Dad, for bequeathing me your beautiful Palmer method writing style.) (Thanks, Mom, for bequeathing me many great things, like a love of writing, but sadly, not among them, your writing style).

I wrote in the journal, at the same time I was reading the best of the best: Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, James W. Hall, T. Jefferson Parker, John Lescroart, J.A. Jance, etc. And I knew that my home was in crime fiction and crime fiction thrillers.

And so I wrote. I talked to myself. I figured out things I needed to learn from the books of the great ones. I gave myself a good talking-to, as well. It was pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps time. But mostly it was just writing in longhand and going from one place to a NEW place, just by the flow of the pen and the wandering of the mind.

Here are some examples:

“5 people who defined her. The bullies. Her friend in high school who was kidnapped. Her parents. An influential superior in the cop shop? A mentor?”

And:

“Already, I’m seeing a difference. Seeing more clearly. I’m starting at the beginning, with character, I’m thinking bigger.”

And:

“Mystic? No. Is Bob a mystic? No, he’s a Sherpa.”

And over the years, I’ve had to do that again and again to get better or explore unknown territory. That is my safe place that I can control—but also expand on. My journal for Darkness on the Edge of Town was the turning point for me as a writer.

Categories: Books Darkness on the Edge of Town The Writing Life

When I started my first big thriller, THE SHOP, I wanted it to be (to quote Donald Trump): HUGE. Glenn and I tossed around words, and the best word that came to mind was “Airport Fiction.” A book that grabs you and doesn’t let go.The Shop by J. Carson Black

I’d had two eye-opening experiences with those kinds of books. On a trip to Florida to see our relatives, I picked out Jeffery Deaver’s THE BLUE NOWHERE in paperback. I wanted a shiny new book to take across country.

Turned out, I literally couldn’t put it down. I read that darn thing everywhere. In line with luggage, in line for the flight, at the bar where I nibbled on my sandwich, on the flight. I barely looked up to meet with my brother-in-law and his family, as we sat at an airport bar and I just read and read and read.

Frankly, I was rude. I feel bad about it now, but it was kind of like a fever. I couldn’t stop myself. There I was, meeting my father-in-law’s wife for the first time, and before you knew it I was sitting on a chair reading THE BLUE NOWHERE while everyone around me talked.

Warning: THE BLUE NOWHERE can lead to rudeness!

Fast-forward to another airport. This time I was flying to New Zealand. There was the Incredible Spinning Rack, and a beautiful blue and red paperback caught my eye. Florida! Boats! Murder! I read the first page of MEAN HIGH TIDE by James W. Hall, and was hooked like a hapless grouper. Airport Fiction.Mean High Tide cover

This book changed the way I wanted to write fiction. It made me want to write crime fiction. It made me want to put hard characters on stage, bigger-than-life characters. It made me want to get visceral. MEAN HIGH TIDE opened up a whole new world. It led to Robert Crais and Michael Connelly, and so many great crime fiction authors. I’d written a romantic suspense—my agent thought it would sell well. Now I can fully admit I wasn’t very good at it.

Write what you LOVE. That’s the way to fly high with Airport Fiction.

Everything changed. I knew the kinds of books I wanted to write. Whether I’ve been successful or not in writing books in that vein is not for me to say.

All I can say is that those books gave me the passion to write what I love.

Categories: Books Cyril Landry

I wrote stories all my life, but my two college degrees were in operatic voice. Which is funny, because as a kid from sunny Arizona, I wasn’t big on late nights, crowds of people, and big cities. Plus, even though my pipes were pretty good, I suffered off and on from stage fright all my musical life. I guess I got into singing by taking the path of least resistance. Everyone said I had such a good voice. I had some success (between bouts of terror) and talked myself into being an opera singer way longer than I should have.

After a summer in Austria, I finally realized it wasn’t for me. I wanted to be what I always was in my heart: a writer. At that point, I had no idea I was to become a thriller writer. I was going to write a book—a novel. Since I loved Stephen King, I wrote a ghost story. It took me three years to find an agent and sell it. I thought I would make millions (I’d bought the whole famous wealthy author story), but my first book garnered me 2500 bucks with Zebra Books, which I had to split with my agent.

So the book came out in mass market paperback. The cover was of a terrified woman with film tied around her neck. There was no “advertising budget.” But I got to do book signings in town and sold two more books to Zebra. A few more books followed, sporadically—as I went through five agents, one of whom died, and another who didn’t use email and sort of wandered away. But as I wrote, I got better. In between books, I received a ton of rejection. Every time I started a book, I tried to improve on the last one. I read the best in my genre, and studied a handful of authors who inspired me.

And I did get better. I was on my way to be a thriller writer.bookcover for Darkside of the Moon

Darkness on the Edge of Town was a huge step up, the first book in the Laura Cardinal series, and my agent sold that book for mid-five figures. Again, I thought: “This is It!” Made in the shade. The publisher bought the second book, Dark Side of the Moon.

The publisher declined more books.

Then Amazon came along. My husband got the rights back to all my books, and just in time. We put Darkness on the Edge of Town up on Amazon, and sold maybe one a month for five or six months. And then, one day, it exploded! The number of Kindle owners reached the tipping point. Just like that, I was selling ten thousand, then fifty thousand, then a hundred thousand books.Darkness on the edge of town by J. Carson Black

It was The Great Ebook Boom of 2011, and made a lot of authors household names. It made a lot of authors rich. People were filling their Kindles, and they went after the books that somehow rose above the babble. After that I sold five books to Thomas & Mercer, the publishing arm of Amazon.

They (who’s “they?”) always say “never give up.” The life of a writer–thriller writer, romance writer, science fiction writer, etc.–has a lot of ups and downs, but never count yourself out. Hone your craft and write a lot, and you WILL get better. And opportunities WILL come along. If you have a modicum of talent, if you write because you love writing, if you write because you can not NOT write, if you write a lot so you get better and better and better, if you find a genre you love, and keep at it consistently, you’re living in the best possible time to be successful.

Categories: Books Darkness on the Edge of Town The Writing Life

I’ve always been a picky eater. I drove my mom crazy. I liked this, but not that. Battles over vegetables were epic. So it stands to reason that I’m picky about where I set my books. I have to like the place. Or have some feeling for it. It has to mean something to me.

When I was a kid, we went all over the West in a camper, staying in national parks and campgrounds, driving through small towns, seeing all the landmarks like Yellowstone and Glacier National Park. I grew up in the West, and I love the West. I love the road. And because it’s my world, I set books in places I like to be. A lot of these places have long vistas under blue skies.

My latest Cyril Landry thriller, Spectre Black, takes place in southern New Mexico. Plenty of blue sky and long vistas.  There’s one sequence on a long stretch of highway near the Mexican border that involves semi-trucks made near-invisible by cloaking technology.  I’ll go into that in more detail in an upcoming post.

It’s not worth it to me to go to the inner city. I don’t understand the culture, and even writing about being hemmed in by tall buildings makes me nervous. Somewhere along the line I realized that if I want to write for joy, I could set my books where I wanted to set my books.

I spent one semester in the University of Arizona MFA program, having decided I didn’t want to be an opera singer after all. (Big cities, again, and late nights, and spending most of my time indoors. Nope.) The other students were younger than me. They wrote bleak stories. Angst. Misery. Ugly gray scenes. I think it might have been because that was what was popular. I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t fit in. But I didn’t stop writing.

My suggestion to anyone wanting to write a book: find a setting you want to set a whole book in. If you like bleak, go bleak. If you like the high Sierras, write about it. So much goes in to the Salad Shooter of our brains to make a book, and setting is an important part of it. Write what you want. Write the characters you want and the place you want. Don’t try to emulate someone else in that regard. Write for your soul. You get to build the world, so enjoy it, whatever it is you choose.

Write what you want.

Categories: Books The Leg Up The Writing Life

Why do I Write Spy Thrillers

I write spy thriller because I want to entertain my readers. I want them to escape their daily lives and to embark on hair-raising operations along with the best agents of the Canadian Intelligence Service. I want my readers to live precariously through the adventures of my fearless characters, Justin Hall and Carrie O’Connor.

I believe my readers are smart, and I trust them to follow my adventures without too much explanations of minute details or unnecessary descriptions. My readers can enjoy these spy adventures without needing to become experts in weapons technology, learn the special operations lingo or have up-to-date knowledge of complicated geopolitics of our ever-changing world.

My stories are clear and to the point, with plausible plots and credible storylines, with no word padding, and without being bogged down by political and philosophical discourses. 
Finally, I write spy thrillers because they give me a chance to do what I love. They inspire me to create adventures that can thrill my readers, encourage them to take a break from their stressful lives, and savor a taste of adventure, danger, and adrenaline rush.

Behind FOG OF WAR

FOG OF WAR is the third novel in the Justin Hall series, and it is my favorite in the series. Well, perhaps the second favorite after Homeland, my current work in progress. I wanted to write an explosive story, full of thrill and suspense, which took the reader to extremely dangerous places, as they followed trails of intriguing plots. I believe that I have achieved all that in this spy thriller.

FOG OF WAR opens us with a scene of a Navy SEALs Black Hawk helicopter going down over Somalia. Then, the story moves to northern Iran, where Justin Hall is helping with the escape of an Iranian nuclear scientist who wants to defect. This mission is compromised and Justin barely escapes northern Iran with his life. Now, he sets out to discover who has put him and the Service in grave danger.

Justin Hall develops quite well in FOG OF WAR. He is testing his limits and learning who he can trust and who he cannot. He will travel to some very dangerous places, hotbeds of terrorism and lawlessness, like violence-soaked Somalia and anarchy-ridden Yemen. I had lots of fun putting Justin in a lot of dangerous situations and then figuring out how to drag him out of there. He survives a lot of hair-raising missions, and at some point is forced to go rogue, in order to find the ones who have him on their crosshairs.

Bio

Ethan Jones is the author of the wildly popular Justin Hall spy thriller series. The first book in this series, ARCTIC WARGAME, came out in 2012 and reached the Amazon’s Top 10 Best Sellers lists in 2012, 2013 and 2014. The seventh book in the series, HOMELAND, is expected to be released this August.

Ethan Jones has also started two new series: Carrie Chronicles, another spy thriller series featuring Justin Hall’s partner, Carrie O’Connor, in solo adventures, and Jennifer Morgan romantic suspense.

Ethan is a lawyer by trade, and he lives in Canada with his wife and son.

Links

To learn more about Ethan’s current and future works and to read exclusive author interviews and book reviews, visit Ethan’s blog at ethanjonesbooks.wordpress.com

You can also join Ethan’s Fans Mailing List at this link: eepurl.com/HIG7r Every reader who joins, will receive the book of his or her choice in the Justin Hall series for free.

EthanJones_FogOfWar_1400

FOG OF WAR is on sale for 99 cents until May 21 on all major book retailers:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D6JCAD2

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/book/fog-of-war-justin-hall-3/id673714917?mt=11

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/fog-of-war-justin-hall-3

B & N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/fog-of-war-ethan-jones/1115835565?ean=2940044592018

GooglePlay: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Ethan_Jones_Fog_of_War?id=_gVuAwAAQBAJ

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/324019

Categories: Books The Writing Life

The day has finally come—the debut of my thriller, HARD RETURN.

Some of you might have met Cyril Landry in THE SHOP (Thomas & Mercer 2011). I met him on the same night you did—the night a group of people were murdered in a pine-log McMansion in Aspen, Colorado. Cyril Landry was the faceless killer and the leader of three other faceless killers. It was a walk-on part.
HARD RETURN COVER

But on page 2, something happened. Landry touched his earpiece and asked the upstairs team how many people were in the bedroom.

The guy replied, “Two. A couple. They were laying in bed.”

“Lying,” Landry said.

“What?” (And it wasn’t just the guy upstairs asking the question. I was asking it, too.)

“Lying in bed, not laying,” Landry said.

The other guy, as nonplussed as I was, couldn’t think of a retort. Finally, he said, “Roger that.”

And a star is born.

You have to think of it from my perspective. Here I am, writing this walk-on part, and what does Generic Assassin #1 do? He decides to become real.

And Cyril Landry gets more and more real every moment he’s onstage, so, yeah, I end up giving him more and more scenes, and then the man just goes ahead and takes over half the book.

And I’m thinking: hey, this guy’s easy to write. He does all the work. So, being the lazy sort, I ultimately decided to give Landry his own book.

I did my best to stay out of his way and just watch him do his thing, and darn if we didn’t become fast friends.

So here it is, folks:

Landry’s maiden voyage with a book all his own.

— J. Carson Black, September 2014

Categories: Books Cyril Landry