Tag Archives: Steel City Intrigue

The Writer’s Fitness Program

Writing can be a sedentary endeavor. Hours upon hours are spent at a keyboard, churning out tens of thousands of words you hope someone other than yourself may read in the future. You can get lost in the work as your mind descends deeper and deeper into a story and your body sinks deeper and deeper into a desk chair.

Oscar Wild did not follow this plan. Now he’s dead. Do the math.

The task of writing a book may take months or even years and if you aren’t careful, your physical conditioning will suffer and you will not be prepared for what’s to come. So, I present to you the Writer’s Fitness Program.

 

When in the early stages of piecing together a manuscript, it is easy to get tunnel vision. You cannot see much else other than what is directly in front of you and little attention is paid to what will come at you in the future. The following exercises will undoubtedly* keep you from getting injured and prepare you for the trials laid before you.

(*I actually have no idea. “Undoubtedly” just sounded good in my head.)

First off – Curls

Writers like to drink. Now before you jump to any conclusions, many authors don’t drink alcohol. I mean, I don’t actually know any of those people, but I’m sure they exist. Regardless, they don’t always drink alcohol when they write (probably). During the course of writing a book, authors will continuously sip away from their mug, glass, goblet, or chalice (possibly depending on the genre) and the sipping will be done mindlessly. Before you know it, your arms are tired from all the typing and sipping and do you know why? DO YOU?

You are suffering because you didn’t train, so don’t make this mistake. Go find yourself some dumbbells and crank out some curls. The amount of weight and number of repetitions will depend on both your current fitness level and the amount you anticipate drinking during the writing of your book.

For instance, if you are writing a nonfiction account of a WWII battle, then you can probably get by with doing two sets of 15 repetitions using 10 lb weights. If you are writing crime fiction ;and not setting the book in New York City or using the word “Girl” in the title, plan on buying really heavy weights and try not to break any toes when they slip out of your character-killing hands.

Make sure your beverage can make it to your mouth.

Next up – Rows

Writers are usually their own worst critics. I say “usually” because there’s always that one guy who leaves a 1-star Amazon review because on page 52 of your last novel you called a gun a “pistol” instead of a “sidearm” and the guy thought “sidearm” would have sounded much more official. Anyway… throughout both the writing and editing processes, you will certainly throw your arms up in disbelief more times than you can count. Imagine your embarrassment when you pull a muscle while propelling your arms to the sky when you realize you named one of the characters after your favorite cousin and now you realize you have to kill him off. The character, not the cousin. Don’t kill your cousin.

Knock out a few rows and firm up those shoulders and back. This exercise has the added benefit of toughening up your abs, which will come in handy when you see your cousin at the next family reunion and he punches you in the gut for having his namesake pushed in front of a locomotive.

Don’t injure yourself with shrugs of frustration.

Also – Deadlift

Some writers, don’t ask me why, like to print out and keep their rejection letters in a box. While I’ve never done this, I’m certainly accumulated my share of rejections from literary agents and publishers. I’m fairly sure if I were to print them out and place them in a storage container, I would need to borrow a forklift if I were to ever want to move them. However for those more fortunate, perhaps the box is lighter. My incorporating deadlifts into your workout, you can ensure you don’t add injury to the insults.

Rejection hurts. But, it doesn’t have to HURT.

Finally – Punching

Nothing eliminates frustration like the act of hitting something repeatedly. I know several writers who practice martial arts or box. However if you prefer to hit and not get hit (not an unwise practice), then go beat on a heavy bag. It’s good cardiovascular exercise, a stress reliever, and you almost always win the fight. If you don’t win, don’t tell anyone. The act of punching may also help you with your manuscript as it serves as a reminder that most people cannot knock out another person with one punch. It’s not that simple, yet it still shows up in novels and on television. It just doesn’t happen that often and I don’t know why people keep writing it into stories. KNOCKING A PERSON UNCONSCIOUS IS A HARD THING TO…

Great. Now I’m frustrated and I need to go punch something.

Or do some curls.

Where is my chalice?

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, a Thriller Award finalist which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

https://hensleybooks.wordpress.com
http://www.hensley-books.com
https://www.facebook.com/hensleybooks
https://www.goodreads.com/JJHensley
Twitter @JJHensleyauthor

Watch for my new book, BOLT ACTION REMEDY, in October 2017!

Preorder now!

Buy it on Amazon!

Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway has been hired to look into the year-old homicide of a prominent businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania. When Galloway arrives, he determines the murder could have only been committed by someone extremely skilled in two areas: Skiing and shooting. He believes the assailant should not be too difficult to identify given the great amount of skill and athleticism needed to pull off the attack. When he discovers the victim’s property is next door to a biathlon training camp, the situation becomes significantly more complicated.

Galloway makes plenty of enemies as he sifts through stories about lucrative land deals, possible drug connections, and uncovers evidence suggesting the homicide may have been elaborate suicide. As he attempts to navigate through an unfamiliar rural landscape, he does his best not to succumb to an old drug addiction, or become confused by one of his occasional hallucinations. Oh, and a Pittsburgh drug gang enforcer known as The Lithuanian—if he’s even real—is tracking Galloway and wants to take his eyes. Galloway would rather keep those.

In Bolt Action Remedy, the typically quiet streets of Washaway Township, Pennsylvania become the epicenter of a mystery involving elite athletes and old grudges. For Galloway, the problems keep piling up and somebody out there believes problems should be dealt with by employing the most permanent of remedies.

AVAILABLE NOW!

Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.image1 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

 

Advertisements

Reading, Writing, and Avoiding that First Thing

One of the fun things about the publishing process is when one’s book becomes available for preorder. The paperback version of my next novel, Bolt Action Remedy, has been available for preorder for a while, but the ebooks just became available here:

Amazon: 
B&N:
iTunes:
Kobo:

Promoting one’s own works is not a lot of fun. Actually, it’s awful. I don’t know many authors who are comfortable with posting, tweeting, and speaking about what he or she has created. For whatever reason, one of the things that bothers me most is reading my own work aloud. I get invited to speak at a lot of events and while I do everything in my power to avoid reading my own work, inevitably someone asks me to read a portion. A couple of weeks ago, I took part in an event hosted by the Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime (I’m the ugliest “sister” by far, and I was asked to read in front of a crowd. Naturally, I chose a short excerpt – this one from what will be the follow-up to Bolt Action Remedy. It’s called Record Scratch and will be published in the Spring of 2018.

 

As you can tell, I’m reading fast. I do this because I want to get it over with as quickly as possible. Moments like these are when I marvel at those who narrate audiobooks. Lately, I’ve been working with a narrator who has been creating audiobooks for a couple of my back list titles, Measure Twice and Chalk’s Outline. He’s done a fantastic job and as I review his work I’m in awe of his ability to bring the written work to life through pacing, tone, and voice changes. It’s a skill I wish I had, but it’s best left to the professionals.

Next week, I’ll be posting an interview with a biathlon blogger named Louise Wood. In the weeks after that, you’ll have the change to read several other segments including my Five Shots Blog Tour hosted by some of the best book bloggers out there. The best part of events like those is I won’ t be expected to read aloud!

 

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, a Thriller Award finalist which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway has been hired to look into the year-old homicide of a prominent businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania. When Galloway arrives, he determines the murder could have only been committed by someone extremely skilled in two areas: Skiing and shooting. He believes the assailant should not be too difficult to identify given the great amount of skill and athleticism needed to pull off the attack. When he discovers the victim’s property is next door to a biathlon training camp, the situation becomes significantly more complicated.

Galloway makes plenty of enemies as he sifts through stories about lucrative land deals, possible drug connections, and uncovers evidence suggesting the homicide may have been elaborate suicide. As he attempts to navigate through an unfamiliar rural landscape, he does his best not to succumb to an old drug addiction, or become confused by one of his occasional hallucinations. Oh, and a Pittsburgh drug gang enforcer known as The Lithuanian—if he’s even real—is tracking Galloway and wants to take his eyes. Galloway would rather keep those.

In Bolt Action Remedy, the typically quiet streets of Washaway Township, Pennsylvania become the epicenter of a mystery involving elite athletes and old grudges. For Galloway, the problems keep piling up and somebody out there believes problems should be dealt with by employing the most permanent of remedies.

AVAILABLE NOW!

 

Cyprus Keller wants a future.

Jackson Channing has a past.

Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.image1

 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

 

 

The Speeding Ticket You Got in Arizona Was Not My Fault – Really!

Being a former police officer and former Secret Service agent, I end up in a lot of conversations with people who want to tell me about some experience he or she has had with law enforcement.  Nine out of ten times, the experience was a somewhat negative one for the individual who was upset about getting a traffic citation, or felt the police did not adequately investigate a crime of which the person was a victim, or the individual was somehow inconvenienced by police activity.

I understand this.  I’ve gotten used to these talks during which I make sure I listen well and do my best to remain objective.  After all, cops aren’t perfect.  There are some patrol officers who are jerks on traffic stops.  There are lazy detectives who fail to follow-up on leads.  There are federal agents who have giant egos.  It happens.  However, most of the frustration that is conveyed in the telling of these stories comes from a misunderstanding of processes, the profession, and what are realistic expectations.  This is something officers experience every day and it happened to me.  I recall a victim of a theft becoming extremely frustrated with me because I didn’t “… force the suspect to take a polygraph.”  Of course, I explained that the police cannot force anybody to take a polygraph test and that the results would be inadmissible in court anyway, but the victim of the crime had already labeled me as inept or apathetic since I hadn’t pursued this unrealistic avenue.

Now while every profession has to endure some level of skepticism and scrutiny, law enforcement is unique in the way many people will attribute the circumstances of a specific officer or incident to any police action.  On the surface, this can make sense to an individual.  However, when one does this with other professions, the exercise becomes a bit silly.  Below, let’s compare some complaints / stories about law enforcement with what would be the equivalent for other professions.

Police story:  “Hey, you were a police officer in Virginia, right?  Well, I was driving in Georgia and this police officer pulled me over and gave me a ticket for going three miles per hour over the speed limit.  Three!  And he completely ignored the cars that were passing me!”

Equivalent in another profession:  “Hey, you work for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, right?  Let me tell you about this time I was driving in Delaware and had to sit in a construction zone for an hour and there was no real construction going on!”

Now, obviously most people would not think to connect a construction zone on a roadway in Delaware to a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation employee, but that’s exactly what people do when discussing policing.  Another example:

Police story:  “Oh, you were in the Secret Service?  Did I tell you about the time I was late to work because the Governor’s security people wouldn’t let me use the elevator because she was visiting our building?”

Equivalent in another profession:  “So, you just retired from Xerox?  Man, we had this Konica copier at my old job and that thing always jammed.  What’s up with that?”

I know.  The conversation with the former Xerox employ would be a ridiculous conversation.  The complaint about a different product created by a different company is essentially the comparing of apples and oranges.  Aside from that, in law enforcement discussions, sometimes people try to compare apples and oranges and what people think are oranges are really tangerines.

In law enforcement, there are tens of thousands of employees in hundreds of agencies who are responsible for a variety of jurisdictions.   So, why do people tend to associate what happens with one agent or officer in a particular region or jurisdiction with an entire profession?  We usually don’t do this with construction workers, accountants, museum curators, or lawyers.  Well… maybe lawyers.  The answer is easy.  Because television, movies, and novels have made us a society of EXPERTS in all matters surrounding the administration of justice.

Many people have derived their knowledge of policing from television shows such as Law and Order, Castle, Criminal Minds, NCIS, CSI, or crime novels.  There are far fewer shows and books about construction workers, accountants, and museum curators, so people don’t believe themselves to be experts in those fields.  However, if we see NCIS Special Agent Gibbs do something on NCIS, then we know it must be partially true.  Right?  I mean lots of agencies have a computer wiz on staff who routinely, and illegally, hacks into the Pentagon in order to get classified records.  Right?

It’s natural for people to be apprehensive about law enforcement.  Many of the interactions we have with the police are negative.  Often our contacts with cops involve either being pulled over for a traffic violation or with having been the victim of some sort of crime. The overall experience may not be pleasant, but every encounter with each individual officer or agent should be evaluated independent of each other.  If an officer yelled at you in Pittsburgh, then the retired L.A. cop you are talking to at a picnic had nothing to do with it.  If you felt a detective in Austin, Texas was unfair to you, the investigator from St. Louis really can’t weigh in on the matter.  If you got jammed up in traffic because of a motorcade rolling through Washington, D.C., then don’t complain to me about…  actually, that could have been me.  Sorry about that one.

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.

 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

 

Five Reasons Books Make the Best Gifts

It’s the holiday season and you are completely out of gift ideas for your friends, family, and coworkers.  You’ve run the gamut when it comes to purchasing clever presents and how you are staring down at a list of possibilities that includes a Shake Weight and PajamaJeans.  Then, it strikes you.  What about books??  But, are books really the answer to your infomercial infected prayers?  Yes.  Yes they are.  And here is why.

Books are versatile.  Both hardcover and paperback versions of this ancient form of storytelling can serve as paperweights, coasters, doorstops, and leveling devices you can stick under table legs to balance things out.  Not to mention, if you aren’t hypnotized by what’s going on with The Walking Dead, you can even read these spectacular inventions.

Devour the works of your favorite authors

Devour the works of your favorite authors

Books can be signed by the author.  Let’s face it – the odds of you getting Suzanne Somers to sign the Thighmaster you got from Aunt Helen in 1987 were never that good.  But, the chances of being able to get a signed copy of a book are significantly better.  Most authors are willing to make arrangements to sign copies of their works and may even have instructions on how to go about it on their websites.  Or better yet, look to see if the writer is having a live event near your home and go get your book signed.  But, don’t show up a the author’s house to make that request.  It’s creepy and your next gift will likely contain a bit of text limiting you to 500 yards of various locations.

Books can be shared.  While you may be hesitant to share your new sweater, iPad, or Special Edition DVD collection of Airwolf episodes, books are meant to be shared and discussed.  Of course this depends on the book.  You may not feel entirely comfortable lending your copy of Fifty Shades of Grey to your teenage sister.

The meaning of a book changes over time.  Have you ever re-read a book after not having read it for twenty years?  I’ll bet the book had a different impact on you when you were twenty then it did when you turned forty.  Maybe you thought Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was profound the first time you read it, but a jumble of thoughts the next.  Or perhaps you struggled with Crime and Punishment in college, but marveled at it later in life. That’s the beauty of the written word.  The individual letters in the words may not change, but the context alters the readers interpretation of the text.  Therefore, books become gifts that adapt to your life.

Books endure.  Do you still have that sweater, Thighmaster, blanket, or Betamax player (look that one up if you don’t remember)?

It's hard to get autographs on sweaters. True story.

It’s hard to get autographs on sweaters. True story.

No, you probably don’t.  That’s because people don’t make Thighmaster shelves or devote entire buildings to storing old video cassette players.  But, we have bookshelves and libraries because we have always needed books.  When you give someone a book, you aren’t giving them sheets of paper wedged inside a book jacket.  When you give someone a book, you give them a piece of the collection of all human knowledge.  You are giving that person a small piece of eternity.  That is the gift that keeps on giving.

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, a Thriller Award finalist which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

https://hensleybooks.wordpress.com
http://www.hensley-books.com
https://www.facebook.com/hensleybooks
https://www.goodreads.com/JJHensley
Twitter @JJHensleyauthor

Watch for my new book, BOLT ACTION REMEDY, in 2017!

AVAILABLE NOW!

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.

 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology