Tag Archives: writing

Things That Will Cause a Novelist to Kill You

I’m on Facebook and Twitter as much as the next writer and I’ll occasionally send out a tweet or post about something somebody has done to annoy me and how I’m tempted to create a thinly veiled version of that individual and have them…well, die.

In a book.

Yes, definitely in a book.

Which got me to thinking about what my latest Top Ten list would be for these annoying activities. I say “latest” because a list like this needs to remain fluid. We are all human and our levels of annoyances regarding certain activities can differ from one day to another. For instance, there was a time when simply having neon lights outlining the bottom of your Honda Accord that you loaded down with a $3000 stereo might have me considering getting you hit by a locomotive in Chapter 4 of a future thriller. However, I’ve mellowed.

So, for the moment here is my Top Ten ways to get yourself killed in one of my books.

10. General idiocy – This broad category may include racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, or the belief my home state of West Virginia is near the ocean. It’s not. That’s why the word WEST is in there. Any of these may get you shot, stabbed, dismembered, or electrocuted. Understandably, the multiple avenues of ignorance here necessitate the multiple possibilities for your demise.

9. Singing in the gym – You wore headphones. Nice work. You realized not everyone wanted to hear your favorite music. Awesome. However, now you’re singing and everyone can hear your karaoke version of Enter Sandman. It’s not pretty. You’ve chosen poorly and it’s likely you get crushed by dumbbells in a particularly gruesome chapter.

8. Referring to your vacation as a “vaca” – Your “vaca” is not okay. I admit this seems minor, so perhaps I haven’t mellowed. But, when I hear anyone say they are going on a vaca it makes me crazy. Or as some people like to say, it makes me “cra-cra”. Which, not coincidentally, will also get you killed.

7. Shooting off fireworks after the legal cut-off time – Get off my lawn! Yes, this is my grumpy ol’ man item, but I have a young child, two dogs who are terrified of fireworks, and everyone in Georgia seems to like shooting them off in the neighborhoods. I have to tolerate it up until the cut-off time, but then I’m done. You’ll die in some sort of explosion in a future book. Or perhaps I’ll only give you a painful disfigurement. Hey! I have mellowed!

6. Watching and believing Fox News – I’m not even going into this other than to say a television is going to fall on you and you’re going to stop breathing.

5. Using the word “we” when discussing your favorite sports team – Look – you’re exempt if you’re actually part of the aforementioned sports team. However, the odds are you aren’t. You didn’t throw the pass, score the goal, or hit the home run. You watched from the stands or from your couch just like millions of others. Oh, you were wearing a jersey???! Guess what? Still doesn’t count. You die in one of the later chapters of a novella in which a sports mascot dressed as a snapping turtle ironically, and tragically, snaps.

4. Being late – I’m super punctual. In fact, I’m usually early. Did you hear the one about the writer who actually beats his deadlines? Yeah, that’s me. So, I don’t deal well with anyone being late. If you keep me waiting for something there’s a better than average chance a character resembling you will be a step too slow getting out of the way of something moving really, really fast.

3. Telling me I should’t drink coffee – Are you suicidal? I mean…this could get you hurt in real life! So, if you do this then you better expect to get scolded to death in a short story somewhere along the way. Psycho!

2. Keeping your dog tied up outside all the time – I’m probably going to do the same to a character with a name like yours and nobody is coming for you. Ever.

1. Being unable to drive in a roundabout – Yes, it’s a road. Yes, it’s a circle. It’s both! Look, I get that Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. is busy and confusing. I’ll grant forgiveness for messing that one up. However, that tiny, single lane roundabout that popped up outside your suburban neighborhood is not some sort of giant codex that you need to solve before you can pass through. Whoever is in the circle has the right of way. Don’t stop in the roundabout. Doing so is real bad. Failure to adhere to basic traffic laws may cause and accident and will certainly get you whacked in an early chapter of a mystery. It might be a hit and run and the killer may never be caught. Because let’s face it – you don’t deserve closure.

Do you have a Top Ten? Comment below! Now remember – we’re talking about fiction here!

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, Bolt Action Remedy, Record Scratchand other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

October 2018

RECORD SCRATCH

Preorder

“There are two types of men you must fear in this world: Men who have everything to lose—and men like me.”

It’s a case Trevor Galloway doesn’t want. It’s certainly a case he doesn’t need. The client—the sister of a murdered musician—seems a bit off. She expects Galloway to not only solve her brother’s homicide, but recover a vinyl record she believes could ruin his reputation. Galloway knows he should walk away. He should simply reach over the desk, give back the envelope of cash that he admittedly needs, and walk away. However, when the client closes the meeting by putting a gun under her chin and pulling the trigger, his sense of obligation drags him down a path he may not be ready to travel.

A story divided into twelve songs from Jimmy Spartan’s final album.

Praise for RECORD SCRATCH:

Record Scratch shocks you out of your ordinary groove. Sometimes witty, other times haunting, but when the needle jumps the track, the body count screams.” —Marc E. Fitch, author of Paradise Burns and Dirty Water

“In Record Scratch, Hensley, a former secret service agent, gifts us with a bounty of goods: a solid mystery, a damaged but relatable main character—one you root for, and swift plotting that weaves a compelling, compulsive tale of music and death and the demons carried by those in law enforcement. Bring me more Trevor!” —Shannon Kirk, international bestselling author of Method 15/33

“J.J. Hensley’s Record Scratch is a tersely written and tightly plotted gem, featuring one of the most unique protagonists around, Trevor Galloway, a man who has a way of getting himself into and out of trouble at an alarming rate. The book is action-packed with a dash of mordant wit, and I can’t wait to read more in this intense, engaging series.” —David Bell, USA Today bestselling author of Somebody’s Daughter

“J.J. Hensley’s tale of a stoic PI investigating the murder of a has-been rock star is equal parts classic whodunnit and gritty noir, peppered with high-octane action scenes that will leave you breathless. Record Scratch is like a throat punch: powerful, shocking, and unapologetic, but the surprising poignant ending will stay with you a long after you’ve finished the book. This is a thriller that crackles from the first page to the last.” —Jennifer Hillier, author of Jar of Hearts

Available Now!

BOLT ACTION REMEDY

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!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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So, I Decided to Quit Writing

“What do you write?”

It was a simple question being asked of me at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in Toronto last year. I’d already participated in a panel discussion and answered similar questions, but this time I was being asked by the wildly successful Blake Crouch (Wayward Pines, Dark Matter, Good Behavior, etc.) while we were standing in the hotel lobby. Everybody knew of him. A handful people knew of me.

I shrugged and said, “I just released my fourth breakout novel.”

He smiled politely and moved on to talk to someone who wasn’t spewing gibberish. Looking back, I think this is when my bitterness with the book industry really began to manifest itself and my usual sarcasm and self-deprecation developed more of an edge. You see, my first novel WAS a breakout novel and got a lot of recognition. It’s not like I became a household name or anything, but I couldn’t ask for much more from a debut. The first novel led to the second, which several fellow authors and reviewers referred to as my breakout novel. Then my third breakout novel came out. Then, I started a new series with a new publisher and REALLY nailed it with my fourth breakout novel. My fifth breakout novel is set to come out this September. I think it’s my best work to date.

However, the problem with my breakout novels is they haven’t really ever broken out of the realm of the well-received, but not NYT Bestseller list material. They sell some copies and they get great reviews, but that’s about the extent of it.

Throughout the past year, I’ve watched as several of my author friends received large book deals and sold the movie rights to their books. While I’ve been happy for them, I’m going to make a confession here. I got jealous. Then, I got pissed off at myself for getting jealous. Then, I got furious at myself for not being able to eliminate my pettiness even though I recognized its ridiculousness. Bouchercon came and went and in the meantime I had changed jobs and moved to a new state, causing me to walk away from my latest manuscript. The stress of the move and the career change weighed on me throughout the winter. Then, Super Bowl Sunday came and my wife and I had the television on while I was cooking something in the kitchen.

I wasn’t paying attention, but a commercial came on and I heard my wife say, “Oh, no.”

“What?”

“Nothing,” she said.

I looked at the television. Sure enough, there was a Super Bowl commercial for a movie based on a book that had beat one of mine for a major award. At the time, critics had praised that author’s debut as a breakout novel. And it was. Hollywood had said so.

It’s been five years since my first breakout novel and a few months since I decided to walk away from writing. I told my wife I was probably done for good. Understanding my frustration and how I HATED that I had let myself feel petty and bitter, she didn’t try to stop me. I told an author I respect, Ed Aymar, I might be done. He called me a dumbass. He’s delicate in that way. Regardless, I went months without typing a word.

Here is the point where you’re thinking, Oh get over yourself, moron. Do you know how hard it is to get traditionally published even one time? 

And you’re right.

You’re thinking, Cry me a river, J.J. Stop being such a drama queen and appreciate what you’ve accomplished.

And you’re right.

You might want to ask me, “Are you writing for stupid accolades or for the art itself? Isn’t writing it’s own reward?”

And these would be valid questions.

Three weeks ago, I started writing again. I’m not exactly sure why, but I think it had something to do with the fact I had run into some retirees who had nothing to do after they left their careers. I’m a long way from retirement, but I don’t want to feel adrift when it’s time for the next chapter of my life and writing has always given me a purpose beyond my role in the workforce.

The writing process has been more difficult than it’s ever been for me. I question the characters I create. I question the plot direction. I question the dialogue. These difficulties have made me really evaluate what kind of stories I write and the life choices of the characters I’ve created. The ambiguity I’ve felt about my writing is showing up in how my characters react, or don’t react, to situations. The story I’m writing is taking a direction none of my other novels have. The protagonist is at a crossroads and has come to realize he has very little control over the variables of life. The actions and opinions of others are outside his sphere of influence and while our existences are complex, satisfaction with one’s actions is based on simplicity and learning to accept some of our own demons.

So, I’m writing my sixth novel. It deviates from anything I’ve done to date and the protagonist will have changed a great deal throughout the series. During the construction of this story, both the main character and I are trying to reconcile how our expectations affect ourrealities and vice versa.

I’d been starting to feel negative about the breakout label, but maybe its a good thing if every book is considered a breakout novel. We’re supposed to break into new territory with every new idea. Otherwise, the storylines of our own lives can become stale and predictable.

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!

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

 

Guest on Inside Thrill Radio

I was recently a guest on Inside Thrill Radio. I was one of three guests on the show, all of whom had background in law enforcement and utilized the experience to write crime fiction. It was a great discussion. Here is the link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/suspensemagazine/2017/10/26/inside-thrill-radio-with-special-guests-micki-browning-jj-hensley-and-isabell

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!

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

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

 

On The Thrill Begins – Shutting Places Down Like Eliot Ness

Many of you may not know this, but my road to publication came with some major potholes. As part of the Tough Times series on The Thrill Begins, I explain how I started to feel Untouchable – in a very bad way.

http://thrillbegins.com/2017/05/11/shutting-down-places-like-eliot-ness/

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!

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

 

How The Night Manager Gives Us Hope for Television

There is half a psychopath lurking in there, Jonathan. I want you to find him and stick to him.”

Angela Burr to Jonathan Pine in The Night Manager

 

For the most part, television bores me.  Occasionally, I stumble across a clever sitcom or entertain myself by dissecting a police drama while rolling my eyes at the inaccuracies or logical fallacies.  It’s not that I’m a television snob, but rather that I long to find shows that are well-written and compelling.  As I write this, articles announcing series cancellations are flooding the news outlets.  Castle is gone.  Agent Carter is gone.  Person of Interest is gone.  A dozen other shows I barely knew existed are gone.  I find these cancellation announcements disheartening, but not necessarily because I’ll miss the shows.  I often find the news clips depressing because many of the series that are being eliminated have been limping along and probably should have been whacked a season or two prior to the finale.

This is the problem with a series that has an indefinite termination date.  The duration of the adventure is determined by ratings and not by quality.  I believe this can give a limited series, or a mini-series, quite an advantage in the screenwriting and production.  Lately, I’ve been watching The Night Manager, which is based on the novel by John le Carré.  Since the six-part series is based on a novel, there is a definite end in sight and the screenwriters were able to feed off of a great starting point.

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Presumably due to the limited number of episodes, the producers were able to round up an amazing cast for The Night Manager.  Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie headline a collection of actors that includes Tom Hollander, Olivia Colman, and Elizabeth Debicki.  While I’m struck by the cast and the incredible scenery in the show, I’m more fascinated with the efficiency and powerfulness of the writing.  This is something not often found in typical television series and sadly is not always found in literature.  As the series is based on book written by a legendary author, the quality of the writing is hardly a surprise.  However, it is still refreshing when such efforts make their way to the small screen.  I recently came across another example with a mini-series production of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.  There is no way the story could have been told as well in a 120 minute movie and it certainly would have become a mess if turned into a full television series.

Storytelling is not just about the plot and the characters, but the pacing and the duration.  If you think back to some recent novels you’ve read, I’m sure you can name several you felt were fifty or even one hundred pages too long.  Similarly, there is little doubt that you have sped through a novel that seemed to drop off an unexpected cliff at a premature end.  These pacing and duration problems plague the television movie industries and are the reasons why so few productions are done as well as The Night Manager.

When the proper amount of time is allocated for a story, dialogue doesn’t ramble and words become more meaningful.  The action is deliberate and related to either the plot or a character’s development.  When a limited series is done correctly, we finish watching that final episode feeling sorry that it’s over, but not really wishing it would continue.  That’s how The Night Manager can serve as an entertaining reminder for writers.  It is also how the series has renewed my faith in the ability for television to keep viewers engaged without simply seeking out the next concept that will shock viewers.  The art of storytelling is in fact alive on the small screen, but it sure would be nice if there were more examples to find.

Share any thoughts you have in the comments below!

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

 

Protective Neutrality: The Secret Service and Political Viewpoints

A lot of things have made me cringe during this election year, but one misconception that tends to make me shake my head in disbelief is that a President or Presidential candidate is surrounded by a group of Secret Service agents who support a particular platform and remove protestors from events. This simply is not the case and for good reasons. In this post, I will attempt to dispel a few myths and explain why those who bravely serve in the United States Secret Service do not allow personal beliefs to factor into the way the job is performed.

 

What President did you report to?

I’ve been asked that question multiple times by people who mean well enough but do not understand how the United States Secret Service functions. I served in the agency from 2000 to the end of 2006 and at no time did I report to any President, Vice President, candidate, or any other individual who was designated to receive Secret Service protection (a protectee). I started my career during the Clinton administration and finished it during the administration of George W. Bush. During that span, I helped to protect individuals associated with both of those administrations as well as countless visiting foreign heads of state. My colleagues and I approached the job in the same manner regardless if the protectee was a Republican, a Democrat, the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or the President of Micronesia.

A misconception held by some is that Secret Service agents work for the President.

A misconception held by some is that Secret Service agents work for the President.

Agents report through the Secret Service’s chain of command and not to any politician. This is logical since elected politicians come and go, but the agency is a permanent fixture. Agents are trained to follow procedures that ensure the rights of individuals are respected while threats are addressed using the minimum amount of force. For agents to take orders from protectees who may not be familiar with specific policies, use of force regulations, and federal statutes, would be risky for all involved. Not only would it be unfair to expect a protectee to understand the intricacies of protective operations, but visiting heads of state could not possibly be expected to be familiar with laws in the United States. Thus, agents do not work for, or report to, anybody they are assigned to protect.

 

Why did the USSS remove that protestor?

First of all, please note the proper abbreviation for the agency is USSS, not SS. The abbreviation “SS” has a negative connotation to it from the days of Nazi Germany and there are already enough people out there who misunderstand the role of the USSS.  Let’s not make things any tougher for the agency.

As for why the USSS removed a protestor: The chances are they did not. Agents do not remove protestors unless they potentially pose a physical threat to the protectee. Time and time again, we have seen news clips of protestors being removed from events and sometimes those removing the individuals are wearing suits and earpieces. Usually, those individuals are event or campaign staff members who have asked the individual to leave and then removed the person for trespassing once the protestor failed to depart. Just as if you hosted a party in a large banquet room for which you paid and decided you wanted somebody removed, political committees and event hosts can do the same thing. Most of the time, the protestor is being removed for violating some local statute such as trespassing, disorderly conduct, or disturbing the peace. You may disagree in the legality of this process, but I am only pointing out that the Secret Service does not get involved in these matters as the main focus of the agents is, and should be, the welfare of the protectee.

 

How could you possibly protect someone who believes ________?

Can you imagine the nightmare that would ensue if Secret Service agents started deciding what viewpoints warranted protection? It would be similar to having individual police officers decide they are not going to enforce any laws with which they disagree. The result would be pure chaos.

Protecting the President and the White House is only one duty of the USSS.

Protecting the President and the White House is only one duty of the USSS.

Look. Here is the bottom line. The Secret Service is in the business of protecting lives, not assessing a value to those lives. Perhaps you think some lives are not worth protecting and that is your prerogative. However, every successful assassination makes a future assassination seem more feasible in someone’s mind. If we cannot protect world leaders in the United States, a place where we place a great deal of emphasis on freedom of expression, then it becomes open season on leaders everywhere. Aside from all this, when an attack occurs, agents react according to their training. The practiced reactions become reflexes and when decisive action is needed the last thing an agent is thinking about is the protectee’s stance on abortion. How reflexive are these reactions?  Allow me to give a real life example.

A few years ago, I was with a protectee at a baseball game which was in a rain delay. A storm with strong wind gusts had forced the spectators into the crowded concourse area and the protectee decided to walk around the concrete walkways. Suddenly, a deafening “bang” rang out from behind us. Without any hesitation, I draped myself over the back of the protectee and began moving her toward the motorcade.

Of course, it took me a few seconds to remember I had not been an agent for quite a while and the “protectee” was actually my wife who was wondering why she was being forcibly abducted by her own spouse. But, it was a learning experience for me. I discovered that the reactions that had been engrained in me were still present and that a portable concession stand toppling over onto concrete sounds a lot like a gunshot. Seriously. The similarity is uncanny.

My point is that agents react according to the hundreds of hours they have spent training to ward off an attack. To train people to step into the line of fire instead of jumping behind cover is incredibly difficult and once the training is instilled in an individual, it does not simply fade away (as many Pittsburgh Pirates fans now realize after watching me accost my wife).

So this election year, please remember that not everything is political. Although Secret Service agents are thoughtful individuals  who certainly have their own political viewpoints, those opinions vanish when it is time to go to work. The apolitical nature of the job is actually refreshing when you stop to think about it.

Imagine what it would be like if more people focused on doing their jobs and upholding their oaths regardless of personal ideology. Not only would we be incredibly efficient, but we would all be considerably safer from rouge concession stands.

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.

2014

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

Legacy cover