Guest Post: By Robert B. McCaw Author of Fire and Vengeance

 

 

Fire and Vengeance final

 

 

(Koa Kāne Hawaiian Mystery #3)

 

Having killed his father’s nemesis and gotten away with it, Hilo, Hawai`i Chief Detective Koa Kane, is not your ordinary cop. Estranged from his younger brother who has been convicted of multiple crimes, he is not from a typical law enforcement family. Yet, Koa’s secret demons fuel his unwavering drive to pursue justice. Never has Koa’s motivation been greater than when he learns that an elementary school was placed atop a volcanic vent, which has now exploded. The subsequent murders of the school’s contractor and architect only add urgency to his search for the truth. As Koa’s investigation heats up, his brother collapses in jail from a previously undiagnosed brain tumor. Using his connections, Koa devises a risky plan to win his brother’s freedom. As Koa gradually unravels the obscure connections between multiple suspects, he uncovers a 40 year-old conspiracy. When he is about to apprehend the perpetrators, his investigation suddenly becomes entwined with his brother’s future, forcing Koa to choose between justice for the victims and his brother’s freedom.

 

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Copy space of tropical palm tree with sun light on sky background.

 

 

Guest  Post

By Robert B. McCaw

Themes of Fire and Vengeance

 

Fire and Vengeance is a murder mystery. First and foremost, I hope readers find it entertaining, especially in this coronavirus era, when we all need relief from the grim realities of life. This novel, like the others in the Koa Kāne mystery series, plays with several of my favorite literary themes. While they are not unique, I’ve woven these themes into my narratives and hope this blog post provides some insight into the development of the Koa Kāne mysteries.

One theme is that of place as character. The Big Island is a powerful force in the story, and its unique geology and weather take on anthropomorphic roles. The Island is a place of creation and destruction, often embodied in the myth of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanic fires. The opening pages of Fire and Vengeance feature the destructive powers of the Island as a volcanic vent, flooded with rainwater, explodes beneath an elementary school on Hualalai Mountain.

The earlier books in the series—Death of a Messenger and Off the Grid—similarly explore the unique volcanic powers that created and continue to shape the Big Island. Death of a Messenger takes the reader deep underground into Pele’s lava tubes. Off the Grid features the volcanic destruction of the Royal Gardens community on the slopes of Kīlauea. The explosive events in Fire and Vengeance continue to build on this premise.

The place-as-character theme is not limited to geologic forces but also extends to the history, culture, and language of the Island. Descriptions of the landscape, often employing Hawaiian words for places or features, like pu’us for cinder cones, help convey the island setting’s personality. The way the human characters in Fire and Vengeance interact with Hawaii’s geography helps define them, giving them depth within their unique island environment. For instance, the park service ceremony honoring Nālani for her public safety work in the wake of the May 2018 Kīlauea eruption and Koa’s control of the crowd around the disintegrating school building are windows into their lives as well as the world they inhabit.

Physicists like to say that for every action there is a reaction. That is also true in human behavior with one startling difference. Physicists can usually predict a precise reaction while life is rife with unintended consequences. Take Koa’s personal history, for example. What were the likely consequences of his reckless killing of his father’s nemesis? Maybe flight, maybe jail, but not that he should become a cop devoted to finding justice for murder victims.

The human compulsion to cover up one’s misdeeds only adds to our inability to predict consequences. Lawyers frequently warn that the cover-up is worse than the crime, and that is often true. Suppression prolongs the day of reckoning, sometimes for years or even decades, permitting unforeseen events to ensue that can impact the ultimate outcome. For example, a man who sexually harassed women in the 1990s had little expectation of dealing with the blowback arising from the #MeToo era. Readers will find unintended consequences throughout the Koa Kāne mystery series. It is one of my favorite themes.

The relationship between the past and present in the development of character fascinates me. I wonder whether we can ever truly escape our past. On the surface, the answer, of course, is yes. While traumatic events may leave scars, people have escaped poverty and abusive relationships. People do change. Redemption is a core theme in many religions, and there are legions of hypocritical politicians who have seen the light and renounced their various indiscretions. Our prison and parole systems rely in part on the belief in the rehabilitation. The blessing of forgiveness covers many sins, both large and small.

On a deeper level, however, the answer is not so obvious, especially when the past involves heinous acts like murder. Can Koa ever escape the fact that he killed a man? It haunts his days and invades his dreams. It drives his compulsion to seek justice and makes him good at his job. He seeks redemption, but can he ever find it? If not, at least his efforts result in some measure of personal catharsis and public service. Unfortunately, that is frequently not the case.

Fire and Vengeance features another set of relationships between past misdeeds and present actions. In this case, the participants acted in concert but then followed dramatically diverse paths. Their collective history governs their later lives in radically different ways. Because they joined together in criminal conduct, these players affect each other, if only because each knows that the others are aware of the sins they share. Adding to the drama, the passage of time alters their interactions as each one necessarily grows and changes. Can any of them escape what they have done? Is there a path to redemption? How do these relationships play out over time?

The passage of time obscures consciousness, a theme often captured in the admonition that those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it. There is no more vivid example than the current coronavirus plague. Humanity has suffered many pandemics, starting at least as early as 430 BC. The world nevertheless remained unprepared for COVID-19 because its leaders ignored the inevitability of another global health crisis. The Japanese built the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant where their ancestors had previously warned of massive tsunamis. Italians populate the slopes of Vesuvius, which is sure to erupt in the future. Collective obscured consciousness is a favorite theme with virtually unlimited potential.

The imagined tragedy at the heart of Fire and Vengeance happened only because the story’s fictional characters—like many modern-day Hawaiians—remain oblivious to the fact that Hualalai Mountain is an active volcano. The passage of more than 200 years since its last eruption should offer little solace that Hualalai will not erupt again. Yet, thousands live within its shadow, flying in and out from nearby Keāhole airport built on its flows, with little or no thought of the inherent risks. These residents are mostly indifferent to warnings by expert volcanologists and disregard the Hawaiian legends of past volcanic tragedies on the mountain.

For me, these themes make creative writing fun.

 

 

BobMcCaw_2019_Version_4 - Calli P. McCaw photographer

 

 

Robert McCaw is the author of Fire and Vengeance, Off the Grid, and Death of a Messenger. McCaw grew up in a military family, traveling the world. He is a graduate of Georgetown University, served as a U.S. Army lieutenant, and earned a law degree from the University of Virginia. He was a partner in a major international law firm in Washington, D.C. and New York City, representing major Wall Street clients in complex civil and criminal cases. Having lived on the Big Island of Hawaii, McCaw imbues his writing of the Islands with his more than 2-year love affair with this Pacific paradise. He now lives in New York City with his wife, Calli.

 

 

 

How sampling a range of genres can help your writing

 

Sam boush

 

 

Reading it all How

sampling a range of genres can help your writing
By Sam Boush, author of All Systems Down

 

Most of us have a favorite genre. We read cozy mysteries. Or romance. Or thrillers. We write in these categories also. And we rarely step out of the warm, comfortable embrace of the fiction we know and care about into  other genres.

But we should.

Reading across genres helps us write better in our own. It can help us develop deeper characters, build better suspense, and create a richer, more realistic world to draw in the reader.

Here are four genres you should be reading to improve your writing.

 

 

Genre books

 

 

Westerns

When you think “Western” you might think about a lawman who comes in from the East. Or Tumbleweed. Or the Cowboys and Indian tropes.

But the best part about Westerns have nothing to do with those things. Instead, the real meat is in the villains.

We read about wickedness without consequence. Bad guys who do terrible things and make the reader seethe. And when we read a Western, it’s often this despicable antagonist who keeps us flipping page-after- page to reach the conclusion where, inevitably, justice prevails and the villain is driven off or killed.

One publisher called my antagonist “not very scary” and “almost clownish.” So what did I do? I swung by the library for a few Westerns and rewrote the villain. And it worked. After All Systems Down was published, Kirkus called my bad gal, “The most striking character… a terrifying villain.”

If your book has an antagonist who just isn’t bad enough, I strongly recommend reading this genre, to learn how to craft a truly repugnant but- believable bad guy. It worked for me.

 

 

Western

 

 

Romance

Even in non-Romance- genre fiction, readers like to see sparks. Emotion. Steamy love. You don’t have to be writing bodice-ripping scenes to benefit (though if you are writing sex scenes, you absolutely need to avoid ending up on the Telegraph’s list of bad ones.)

The kind of romance that enters your book may just be in how a husband looks at his wife from across the room. Or how a woman’s imagination takes flight when she hears a stranger at the door. But no matter how small, a little bit of romantic energy can charge up your writing. And Romance books can help.

 

 

Romance

 

 

Thriller

A ticking clock. A racing heart. Intrigue. These attributes of a thriller can give your writing a sense of urgency. Readers will turn pages faster, sweating sometimes, eager for an outcome.

If your work in progress doesn’t quite get your readers feeling like they’re straddling a kicking bull, maybe you should read how some of the great thriller writers build suspense by keeping readers on the edge of their seats as the plot builds to a climax.

 

 

thriller

 

 

Non-Fiction

A solid foundation in reality will allow you to create believable scenes and circumstances. Whether you’re writing about a character who loves old cars, a conversation with an arborist, or
cyber war, every conversation, thought and action can have more resonance if it’s well
researched.

Michael Crichton investigated DNA extensively to write Jurassic Park. Tom Clancy researched submarines. Harper Lee studied the legal system. And you, also, should be poring over non-fiction books so you get the details right, no matter what you’re writing about.

Personally, non-fiction is my favorite genre. Not only does it allow the writer to craft a world that meets expectations, but by learning new and interesting facts in this category we are able to surprise the reader with unexpected information.

No matter what you’re writing, looking outside your genre can add depth and intricacy. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, don’t be afraid to play genre-roulette at your local library. Give yourself five minutes to pick out three random books. Check them out and don’t read them until you’re home. This is a great way to kick writer’s block to the curb and maybe create depth in your secondary characters the reader could never have predicted.

 

 

Sam boush

 

 

Sam Boush is a novelist and award-winning journalist. He has worked as a wildland firefighter, journalist, and owner of a mid-sized marketing agency. Though he’s lived in France and Spain, his heart belongs to Portland, Oregon, where he lives with his wife, Tehra, two wonderful children, and a messy cat that keeps them from owning anything nice. He is a member of the Center for Internet Security, International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, and Cloud Security Alliance.

 

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin

 

 

All Systems Down

 

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Thanks Sam!

GUEST POST: WRITING LESSON 4 BY DAVID KUMMER

Welcome to this lesson of David Kummer’s writing course. That’s me, by the way. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, success stories, or just something fun to say, email me at davidkummer7@gmail.com. I’d love to talk about anything and everything, especially if that everything has to do with books, basketball, or Chinese food. I am a teenager, after all. So that’s that! Head on down and read what might be the best writing course of your life, but also might be the worst 😉 You won’t know until you try!

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Magical and Mysterious Cenotes by A.K Smith

Magical and Mysterious Cenotes

What is a cenote?

 

First things first, let’s learn how to pronounce it correctly. The word Cenote is pronounced “say-no-tay.” It is not pronounced “see-note.” It is a flowing three syllable word, much like the wonder of nature it describes.

 

Okay now that we know how to pronounce it, do you know what a cenote is?

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Guest Post: Keep Your Readers Reading by L. C. Hayden

 

Sometimes I pick up a book and after a couple of pages, I toss it aside.  It failed to keep my interest.  Other times, I can’t seem to put the book down.  The author has hooked me.  I began to wonder why this was so and I analyzed the writing to see what the successful authors do.  Here are my results.

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GUEST POST: WRITING LESSON 2 BY DAVID KUMMER

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How to write a mystery thriller in the style of Alfred Hitchcock by Tony Lee Moral

 

As the author of three books on Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense, including a ‘how to’ write a thriller, called Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Making Masterclass, I was naturally inspired by his stories when writing my mystery thriller, Ghost Maven, about a teenage girl who falls in love with a ghost in Monterey Bay, California.

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Guest post: lesson 1 by David Kummer


Welcome to this lesson of David Kummer’s writing course. That’s me, by the way. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, success stories, or just something fun to say, email me at davidkummer7@gmail.com. I’d love to talk about anything and everything, especially if that everything has to do with books, basketball, or Chinese food. I am a teenager, after all. So that’s that! Head on down and read what might be the best writing course of your life, but also might be the worst 😉 You won’t know until you try!

Continue reading “Guest post: lesson 1 by David Kummer”

Writer’s Craft: VILE VOICES: DESCRIBING HOW THE KILLER SPEAKS by Rayne Hall

 

When a dangerous or evil person talks, make their dialogue short and to the point. The tighter their speech, the more intelligent and threatening it becomes. Wordy waffling would dilute the effect.

Continue reading “Writer’s Craft: VILE VOICES: DESCRIBING HOW THE KILLER SPEAKS by Rayne Hall”

Historical Division: 1876-Not Just a Year by Khristina Atkinson

When starting to write my historical romance, Hopelessly, Completely, MADLY in Love, I choose the year 1876 for a simple enough reason.  It’s the hundred-year anniversary of the independence of America.  I ended up not mentioning this significant fact, because my character, Lexi Donovan, was dealing with some trying issues when the celebration would have rolled around.

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