The Kronos Interference is Now Available! Read the Author Interview

Well, it’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally here. Our book, The Kronos Interference, is now available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other retailers! The Kindle version is taking a few extra days for some reason but will be up shortly.

Here’s the Amazon page for the trade paperback.

For those interested in learning a little more about us and the book, here’s a Q&A Interview with Ed and I.

You Only Die Twice: How Ian Fleming and a Dead Homeless Person Won World War II

Operation Mincemeat. It sounds like something right out of a James Bond story (or at least a spoof of a James Bond story — Our Man Flint, perhaps).  But it was a real operation, conceived by Bond creator Ian Fleming when he was in the British Navy.

Glyndwr Michael, homeless, jobless, and desperate (and without a vowel in his first name), killed himself with rat poison in 1943.  Thanks to an ingenious plot by Fleming, he died again, this time for king and country.

Prior to a critical World War II operation, the British took the dead man and made him up to look like a Royal Marines courier, then planted him in Spain with a fake ID and a bunch of fake “top secret” documents indicating the Allies were going to invade the Germans in Greece. It was a decoy of course. Spain was chosen because it was loaded with Nazi spies that would probably take the message to Hitler.

Thanks to the ability to decode the German Enigma machine, the Allies could observe what was happening, and the message did indeed get to Hitler. Hitler sent 90,000 men to Greece, while the Allies invaded Sicily, toppling Mussolini and turning the course of the war.

The story was told in the 1956 film with Clifton Webb, The Man Who Never Was.

It occurred to me when reading about the British use of fictitious double agents, that this must have influenced Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, where Cary Grant’s Roger Thornhill was mistaken for George Kaplan, a spy who (HUGE SPOILER ALERT) ….

turned out to not exist.

Here’s the full article about Operation Mincemeat, which was also covered in a book by Ben Macintyre and made into a BBC documentary. Hare’s another article, this one from the New York Times, on Macintyre’s book and the operation (which was originally called Operation Trojan Horse).

4 Billion Years to Doomsday: So Says NASA

Better start preparing. According to information gathered from the Hubble telescope, NASA has calculated that the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies are heading toward each other slowly but surely, and will crash in a direct hit.

Of course, that’s 4 billion years from now, and we might all look like flying toads or something by then.

Even then, the two galaxies are so vast that it’s unlikely the sun or the Earth will be impacted, but we’ll have a much better view at night. Whew! I was worried there for a minute.

Here’s the full article.

The Balanced Scorecard of Writing: A Self-Review Checklist

In the business world, many organizations use a “Balanced Scorecard” approach to holistically measure how well they’re doing (the concept was introduced by authors Robert Kaplan and David Norton). The idea is to self-examine your business through four lenses or perspectives: customer, financial, internal processes, and learning and growth.

It occurred to me that a similar concept can be applied when self-critiquing your manuscript, chapter by chapter.

Let’s say for each chapter, you assessed the chapter from four perspectives. Using classic and perennial writing tips, it might look as follows:

1) Tension– Is there tension and inner or outer conflict on each page? Can lectures become debates? Can suspense be dragged out? Are readers left dying to know what happens next at the end of the chapter?
2) Dialogue– Is the dialogue crisp, realistic (but not so realistic as to be boring), and unique to each character? Does it read well when you read it out loud?

3) Plot– Is the plot moving forward? Is anything distracting us from it? Have you cut out the parts readers tend to skip (per Elmore Leonard’s sage advice)?

4) Character– Where are the characters in their arc? How are they changing? Are we learning a little more about them? Do we see things from the POV character’s perspective? What’s motivating each character in this chapter? How do their motivations conflict with one another?

A streamlined version is to use the three O’s (a slight variation on a tip offered in James Scott Bell’s excellent book, Conflict & Suspense):

  • Objective: Each character must have an objective in the chapter (especially the POV character)
  • Obstacles: There must be obstacles (internal or external) to achieving the objectives
  • Opinion: The POV character’s opinions and inner feelings should be made vivid
Sure there are many other tips, and many other editing passes (proofreading, logical flow, etc.), but I found the above to be a useful reminder to examine the book from all these perspectives.  The balanced scorecard of writing. It has a ring to it.  What self-editing tips have you picked up along the way? To comment, click the little cloud in the top right of this post. 

Author Traits: The One Trait a Writer Needs to Have

Someone asked me the other day what one trait I felt authors needed, above all others. Of course, a number of words came to mind: perseverance, creativity, curiosity, and so on.  But the one word that, to me seems to rise above the pack is… empathy.

Empathy can serve a writer in so many ways.  First, it’s necessary in order to truly get inside the head of your characters: how they’d feel at any given moment; how they’d react; what they might be worried about; what they feel they might be lacking in life; what they’d stand to gain or lose by one action or another.

Second, it can help a writer get inside the head of potential readers. It can help you get a sense of what would make the reader want to keep reading; what would grab their attention and keep it; what their fears might be about what’s going to happen to the protagonist; what would delight and surprise them, and so on.

I think to help with this, from the second perspective, it’s good to take a step away from your story–maybe for a few weeks or even a month. Then you can read it fresh, removed enough from the details to get the true experience of reading the book for the first time (or as least as close you can get to it, having written the book).  This is something Ed and I both found very helpful, and it nearly always leads to changes.

What are your thoughts? What traits do you think are important for writers? What ways do you think a writer can improve their ability to empathize with their characters or their readers? We’d love to hear from you (Click the little cloud in the upper right of this post to comment).