“Being the first of his books I have read, I must emphasize, Dan Alatorre is one of the best mystery/thriller writers ever! Just when you think he has given you the answer to the crime, he writes the next chapter and you know you have just jumped to a conclusion, not the answer to the crime. He keeps you guessing and guessing until the end!
I compliment Dan on the twists, turns, and events that create such a feeling of rational decisiveness regarding “who-done-it” and throwing in a curve-ball that proves rationality wrong. His descriptive writing will keep you on the edge of your seat and I will not be surprised if I have visions of this story in my dreams.
Dan’s writing is what true mystery should be. 10 Thumbs up!”
This email came in a little later:
“To say I’m impressed by The Gamma Sequence would be an understatement. I was so enjoying the book I almost emailed you about halfway through, but I thought the story might flail toward the end, so I held off. When XXXXXXXXXXX, I knew you’d crossed the finish line with flying colors. (The ending) — I didn’t see that coming, but maybe that’s why XXXXXXXXX. It certainly leaves the opening for another book and explains (otter things). It may have even accounted for XXXXXXXX. Your book was masterful. I loved Gamma Sequence. ”
You know, gang, days like that will pick you up. When you get a review that connects, or a few, copy them and put them where you can find them when you’re having a hard day – which we all do from time to time. Strangers who think your writing rocks can get you through the worst day.
Two detectives hunt a serial killer. The killer’s hunting them.
A lone trucker is ambushed, shot, and brutally stabbed. A tourist meets the same fate while out for a jog. Facing two crime scenes that could have come from a horror movie, Detectives Carly Sanderson and Sergio Martin search for the crazed serial killer. Five more attacks happen in a week, launching the entire city into a panic and causing the mayor to throw all of the city’s resources into stopping the rampage. But while the detectives work around the clock, they don’t know the killer has upped the game – by making them his next targets.
Have you ever wondered what drives a killer to murder? What goes on inside their minds at the moment when they take the life of another human being? How do they justify their actions? Dan Alatorre gives the…
Only Wrong Once, by Jennifer Ruff is a fast paced medical thriller that deals with international bio-terrorism on a personal level, bringing it all home in a big way. Maybe the reason this tale hits a nerve is that there are similar stories in the news every day, and Only Wrong Once made me wonder about the stories we don’t hear about.
Quinn Traynor is a U.S. intelligence agent out to save the world from terrorism, but his next case will hit closer to home than most of the terrorist attacks he’s worked to thwart. When a plot to strike terror into Americans in pandemic proportions with a bio-terrorism attack, the clock is ticking to find and stop the terrorists before they can carry out their deadly plan. Time is running out for the terrorists, too, maybe faster than anyone thinks, and if they succeed, time may be running…
But YOU can check out chapter one right now! I might even post other chapters as I write them.
After a major screw up, Detective Sergio Martin gets suspended—right as his partner Carly Sanderson gets thrust into the spotlight on Tampa Bay This Morning. Stuck working a politician’s security detail, Sergio is frustrated when a sniper begins taking out random hostages, and he can’t help with the investigation. His partner is on the rise while his own ship is sinking. The best way to get his mind off things is to assist his new friend Tyree in what seem to be an unrelated matters. Even with the victims piling up, one politician is determined to show his courage by continuing to hold large, outdoor rallies for the upcoming primary election, and Sergio is forced to watch from the sidelines as the mayor leans on rising star Carly, who can’t seem to catch a break in the sniper case.
The lady in the pink sweater had a friendly smile and a nice demeanor; it would be a shame to kill her.
The assassin took a deep breath and lined up the crosshairs of the rifle scope. Putting a bullet through the third button on the cashmere cardigan would give the woman a major wound to the torso—painful, and not necessarily a certain kill—but a very high probability.
Seven or eight points, if she were a paper target.
Easing a finger near the trigger, the killer assessed another shot. Four inches under the top button would pierce the lady’s heart. Nine points. She would fall to the ground and bleed out in seconds.
Drop and flop, but it’s quick. Not the worst way to go.
The huge bullet would send a spray of red behind the woman, like someone had spritzed the air with a Windex bottle filled with cherry Kool Aid. A jerk to the body from the impact, then the sweater lady would lose all muscle control and slump to the concrete platform, a puppet suddenly without strings. Her lifeless head would hit the floor with a loud, sharp whack. Pools of red would spill forth. Some of the people around her—men in suits, mostly—would run for cover, and a few would dash to her side, but that would prove futile. She’d be dead before she hit the ground.
A bead of sweat rolled down the killer’s cheek.
Then would come all the panic, the wondering, the fear. Wide eyes scanning all around, some looking for a place to run and hide; some looking for a shooter. Shouts for 911, shouts for CPR, shouts of fear . . .
But in all that chaos, a calm assailant can slip away unseen and undetected.
The planning was meticulous. Perfect. Practiced. Everything thought out in advance.
The killer panned the scope to the right. A man in a charcoal gray suit came into the cross hairs, then the man next to him. They pointed at banners, nodding and frowning to each other, acting very important. Would they try to help the sweater lady if she dropped to the stage floor with a fountain gushing from her chest? Or would the suits run behind one of the red, white, and blue façades the stage workers were rigging for Tampa’s live mayoral primary broadcast?
Who’d help you, pink lady, if I pulled the trigger today?
The sniper let out a long, slow breath, and lowered the rifle.
“Not today, Pinky.”
A gentle press with a finger slid the weapon’s safety into place, and the assassin backed out of the kill nest.
“Time to go do a little target practice. But I’ll be back.”
* * * * *
“Hey, partner—are you excited?” Detective Sergio Martin pressed his phone to his ear, pacing back and forth across the car wash lobby as foam and water splattered the large window next to him. A plastic Christmas tree stood in front of the glass; on the other side, a burnt-orange Camaro with black hood stripes rolled by.
“Excited? No.” Carly said. “More like nervous. Maybe panic attack-ready.”
“Dude, you’ll do fine.” He waved a hand. “I’ll pick you up afterwards and we’ll go have lunch, then we can watch the whole interview at my place. I’m recording it.”
“Um, well—Kyle is picking me up. He and the boys are taking me to lunch. But I’ll get with you after.”
“Right! Sure.” Sergio’s face fell. “Yeah, you should celebrate with your family.” He glanced at the Camaro as mechanical hoses doused it with wax. “How do you want me to get your car back to you?”
“Come to lunch with us. You’re invited.”
“No, no, no. Let them share in your big moment.”
“It’s our moment. We’re a team. We caught the serial killer together.”
Sergio fingered the stitches on his upper hip. “Hmm. Well, I suppose after today’s TV appearance, you’ll probably need a bodyguard to keep your swarms of fans away.”
“Bleh. Don’t make me any more nervous than I already am.”
“I could head up your entourage . . . stick by your side day and night . . .”
“Day and night, huh?”
He smiled. “Hey, did they send a limo for you? I heard they do that.”
“It was a van. And it smelled funny.”
“Are you getting my oil changed for me?”
“Wow.” Sergio chuckled. “You went diva fast.”
“What? You said—”
“Yes, yes. I’m joking.” He peered through the soapy glass at the orange Camaro. “Your pretty little Halloween parade float is getting all gussied up as we speak.”
“Hey, you love my car.”
“I do. And for the record, I totally hate you right now. I’m completely filled with jealousy.”
“I bet. They should have sent you for this. It’s right up your alley.”
He shrugged. “Sadly, I didn’t fit with channel eight’s theme of Women Leaders Week.”
“Oops, they’re calling me.” The phone rustled on Carly’s end. “Wish me luck.”
The car wash cashier walked into the lobby and held up a set of car keys. “Orange Camaro?”
Sergio waved at the clerk. “Knock ‘em dead, partner. And, hey—did you wear your blue jacket?”
There was no reply. He held the phone away from his face.
The clerk approached, holding out a service ticket. Sergio put the phone back to his ear and cleared his throat. “Because you look awesome in blue. Okay, good luck. Bye.” He smiled at the clerk. “My partner’s going to be on TV this morning.”
“Uh-huh. That’s eleven-fifty for the car wash and thirty-nine for the oil change, $54.73 total with tax.”
Sergio winced. “Wow. Yeah, okay.” He dug into his pocket and pulled out his wallet, removing a credit card.
The clerk stepped behind the counter, swiping the card across the top of the cash register and handing it back. “Car’s out front.”
“Thanks.” Easing the wallet past his stitches, he slid it back into his jeans and took a step toward the door. His phone buzzed. His spirits lifted as he checked the screen, expecting Carly to be calling with a last-minute request for advice. Maybe she’d requested he participate in the interview via phone.
Instead, DeShawn Marshall’s name appeared on the screen. Sergio pressed the button and put the phone to his ear. “Hey, boss, I’m not sure I’m allowed to talk to you while I’m still on medical leave. Could cause a worker’s comp thing.”
“Guess who’s about to take down your old buddy Lucas Parmenter?”
Sergio’s head snapped upright. “Get the hell out of here. Really?”
“We got a tip and tracked him to the abandoned Payless shoe store on Gray Street. I’m perched on the roof across the street. That old boy’s about ten minutes away from retiring as a professional car thief.”
“Gray Street? Sarge, I’m literally, like, right around the corner.”
“Oh, no you don’t. This was a courtesy call. Don’t get any ideas.”
“What?” Sergio bolted across the lobby and out the door. “You’re breaking up, sir.”
“No, Sergio. Don’t come over here!”
“I can’t hear you, boss!” Sergio ended the call and ran for the Camaro.
* * * * *
Carly wiped her hands on her skirt as she followed the Production Assistant. Random coils of cable and wood-framed sets lined the narrow hallway. The young lady occasionally put her hand to her phone headset, but otherwise kept walking—fast.
“Right this way, Ms. Sanderson—I mean, Detective.”
“Carly’s fine, ma’am.”
“I’m Jeannie.” The young lady turned and smiled. “If you need anything, I’ll be right out front, center stage on the right. Next to the big camera.”
The words shot a jolt of adrenaline through Carly. She swallowed hard and took a deep breath, following the skinny twenty-something toward a brightly lit stage with a huge red couch and a giant Christmas wreath.
Stepping into the studio, Carly did her best to smile. The hosts of Tampa Bay This Morning busied themselves with shuffling papers or a hair touch-up.
“We’re on a commercial break right now, Detective. Your segment is after the next break, and I’ll be conducting your pre-interview in here.” The P. A. pushed open a large door, revealing a room with several couches, a mirror, a TV with a live feed of the broadcast, and a big table filled with fruit and yogurt. “Coffee’s in the corner, but we recommend you drink water so your mouth doesn’t dry out during the interview.”
The word interview sent another ripple through Carly. She had the sudden urge to use the restroom.
“And of course, the bathrooms are right there in the back.” The P. A. put her hand to her headset again. “Please make yourself comfortable, Ms. Sanderson. I’ll—”
“—Carly. I’ll be right back.” She spun around and disappeared, closing the big door behind her.
Carly stared at the table of breakfast items, completely un-hungry. The male host of Tampa Bay This Morning, John Harkins, appeared on the TV screen. “Welcome back. Coming up, we have part of the heroic team that took down the Seminole Heights serial killer, Detective Carly Sanderson.”
The effervescent Cheryl Hills took over. “But first, the weather.”
Upon hearing her name on TV, Carly raced for the restroom.
* * * * *
Sergio hoisted himself over the last rung of the fire escape ladder and crawled onto the gravel rooftop. “Psst.”
Sergeant Marshall shook his head, not looking back at the detective. “I don’t hear you because you aren’t here.”
“Oh, I’m absolutely not.” Sergio squinted in the bright sunlight, moving toward his boss. “But Sarge, you need more units for this takedown. This guy’s going to run.”
“No, he’s not. Stop that.” Sergeant Marshall inched forward on his belly, peering over the raised edge of the shop’s gravel roof. He lifted his binoculars to his eyes. “First of all, he doesn’t know we’re here, but we have other units on the way.”
“Feel’s too easy. Plus, he’s a killer now.”
“Eh, I don’t think he went looking to shoot that security guard.” DeShawn handed Sergio the binoculars. “This guy likes stealing cars, not killing people. We got an early Christmas present. Enjoy it.”
“Ho, ho, ho,” Sergio grumbled, staring at the vacant shoe store. No lights appeared to be on inside. Out front, a red Ferrari sat parked by the curb. Bits of trash flittered across the sidewalk, pushed by the warm, humid breeze. “He’s out in broad daylight—after all these years? And driving that?” Sergio crawled backwards from the roof edge and sat up, brushing bits of gravel from his chest and hands. “I don’t like it.”
The sergeant’s gaze remained trained on the vacant shoe store. “Somebody else is gonna get your collar, is that it?”
“No. I’m telling you, it’s not his style. The second he comes out of there, he’s gonna run.”
“And I’m telling you to pipe down.” Deshawn wiped a bead of sweat from the back of his neck. “You’re not even supposed to be here. Just sit tight and watch the takedown. Don’t get me in hot water for calling you.”
* * * * *
The sergeant’s radio squawked. “Team leader Alpha, your support units are en route. We will be in position within five minutes.”
The team leader was quick with his reply. “Roger that. All units, get ready for takedown upon arrival. Spotters, keep eyes on the target.”
Deshawn smiled. “See? In about five minutes, your old case will be—”
He glanced over his shoulder. Sergio was gone.
The Ferrari’s engine started. The suspect, a tall African-American man in a long overcoat, walked toward it carrying two briefcases. With a tug, the passenger door opened and he got in. The shiny red car eased away from the curb, then the throaty motor growled and the car sped away.
Sergeant Marshall pounded the raised edge of the rooftop. “Crap, he’s running.”
The radio blared with activity. “All units, engage lights and sirens. The target is fleeing east on Gray Street.”
“Alpha leader, this is unit one. We’re not on scene yet.”
Marshall yanked his radio off his belt and crushed the red transmit button. “Well, get on scene! We’re losing him! Move to intercept him on Kennedy Boulevard. Unit two, head toward north Dale Mabry Highway. Those are his best escape points.”
He stood up, gritting his teeth and shaking his head as the Ferrari disappeared around a corner.
Below him, Detective Martin sprinted across the street toward a row of parked cars a block and a half up away.
The sergeant’s jaw dropped. “No, no, no, Sergio. What are you doing?”
* * * * *
Sergio yanked open the Camaro’s door and flung himself inside, jamming the key into the ignition and stomping the gas pedal. The engine had barely started when he slammed the gear shift into drive and mashed the pedal again. With its tires squealing and smoke pouring from the wheel wells, the orange car swerved onto Gray Street and sped after the Ferrari.
Right now you can read Double Blind in paperback HERE or you can contact me and ask for a free e-copy. I might send you one.
The Gamma Sequence, by Dan Alatorre is a non-stop action, futuristic medical thriller. The suspense begins to build on the very first page and keeps on ratcheting up the tension from there, with twists and turns that will keep readers on their toes.
Hamilton DeShear is a private detective and former cop, who isn’t looking for a mystery to solve. But when the mysterious Lanaya Kim arrives on the scene claiming to need his help, how can he refuse? There’s no turning back once his apartment goes up in flames and the game turns personal. Soon enough people are shooting at them, the stakes are raised and it will take all of DeShear’s skill and expertise to keep them alive. Genetic research is the name of the game, but not everyone is playing by the same rules. Things aren’t always what they seem, and this certainly appears to be…
You need small actions in a story almost as much as you need big actions.
Beats do that.
When characters move or talk in a book, they don’t just move or talk. They think, they react, they anticipate. They use body language to show how they feel about information they are receiving. Like what you’re hearing? You might lean forward and nod. Don’t like what you’re hearing? You might lean back and frown and fold your arms.
Get the idea? The little actions between things characters say are called beats.
Good beats depend on the circumstance the character is in, and how they are feeling about it, and how that particular character reacts to that circumstance. Some people play with their fingers when they are nervous; others might make a nervous laugh or stammer. These will increase or decrease depending on how stressful they get in the scene. Figure out what your character does when they are nervous (or whatever emotion) and stay consistent with it.
If you were in a room watching the scene happen, what would you SEE a character DO that allows you to conclude they are feeling a certain way?
It’s easy once you get a feel for it, and these lists will start that creative ball rolling. Make your own lists after that, and feel free to comment below with some of your own favorite beats. I’ll add them in.
Some all-purpose beats:
Rub beard stubble on chin (probably just the male characters for this one)
Stare at sky
Grip hands into fists
Push a strand of hair out of your eyes (usually women but not always)
Tuck hair behind ears (usually women)
Wipe hands on pants/skirt
Tug at collar
Play with a pen
Those beats aren’t particularly helpful because we have no context, but when you read them you can innately envision characters feeling a certain way. See how effective beats are?
Here are a few lists of beats to help you with whatever emotions you’re trying to convey, and some that are useful in general.
A list of some things you do when you get in a car to go to the airport.
Get in car
Adjust seat belt
Touch up makeup
Pick at or check your teeth
Look in mirror
Look at passenger
Notice other cars
Take the exit into the airport
Pull up to the curb
Get out the bags
Hugs and kisses
Drivers pull away from the curb
Take the exit on the interstate
Merge into traffic
Make a few turns
Pull onto your street
Next, after dropping off the traveler
You get in car
Maybe you start the engine
You put the car in drive
You slowly pull on the street
You get some instructions on how to keep the car the proper lane, with a new driver
You speed up or slow down
Usually more issues on keeping car centered, with a new driver
Then making a turn
Turning onto a side street
Hold onto dashboard
Yell at each other
Ball up fists
Growl as you speak
Poke finger into chest
Heart racing, adrenaline
Draw finger across the other’s cheek
Gaze into eyes
Stroke hair, cheek, arm
Pauses between words
Tug at collar
Adjust on your seat
Wipe hands on jeans/pants/skirt
Shift weight on feet
Eyes darting about
Stutter/stammer (I—I was—honest, I didn’t – I mean, I never…)
Pulse pounding in ears
Fingers fiddling with hem of skirt
Rub beard stubble
Tap pen on desk
Run hand through hair
Rub the back of their neck
Ask questions (what’s that big knife for?)
Whatever nervous habit you give a character, write it down and keep it as theirs. Barry can bite his fingernails; they all can’t. Other characters need to have and keep their own nervous trait, so when they’re nervous, they do it.
Time passing with nothing happening
Sometimes nothing’s happening. BUT SOMETHING’S ALWAYS HAPPENING! Don’t say there’s a pause, show what happens during the pause. Your characters stare at each other for a moment without speaking. Here’s what’s happening:
Clock ticking on a wall in another room
Wind picks up leaves and drops them somewhere else
Cars drive by in traffic
Distant voices in the lobby
You get the idea.
Whatever emotion or information you’re trying to convey, find examples in movies and write down what you saw that allowed you to conclude the character felt a certain way. Movies get music to help, though, so that’s not always useful for us.
Here are a few more good tips.
Watch what you do
Be careful, we don’t need anyone getting arrested for all this watching stuff.
Look at images on the internet. Search for happy, sad, etc., and write down what the faces are doing. Yes, it’s smiling if they are happy, but it’s crinkled eyes and jumping up and down and lots of other stuff, too.
There’s more, but this will get you started.
It’s not that you can’t think this stuff up for yourself, it’s that when you’re editing and tired, your brain gets to the point where you just can’t create any more ways to add good beats. So make it easy on yourself. Have lists, or come back here for a refresher.
You’ll write more than one book, so you’ll need this list again to help you with the next story, too.