Riding the Bull

I’m allowing myself a brief look back, a moment of reflection. I’ve just finished a novel titled ‘Waters of Oblivion – A Jock Boucher Thriller.’ It will be released in e-book format in two weeks. It’s a strange mixture of emotions I feel, the hesitancy in sending my offspring into the world to face friend or foe on its own, hoping I’ve given my progeny the tools to deal with the vicissitudes of a fickle public, offering faith and prayers for its acceptance. Knowing you’ve done your best doesn’t mean you couldn’t have done it different, and even now nagging thoughts about what I might have changed try to lodge themselves in my consciousness. These thoughts must be ignored. My baby has left home. It is no longer my own.

It seems such a long time ago that I began the novel. I recall the beginning. I had an idea for the theme, the use of light waves to replace radio frequencies for military data transfer, and it was so central to the plot I had planned to use it in the title. But a funny thing happened on the way to the ending, another theme inserted itself and it was a bull. I could have tried to grab it by the horns and wrestle it to the ground, but instead I jumped on its back and rode it to the buzzer. The book I began was not the book I finished. The two themes conjoined. The bull rode the light waves and the book became Waters of Oblivion.

What also goaded me on, my research into this new topic – which I cannot reveal here without giving too much away – included commentaries and dire, one might say apocalyptic, predictions from leading international political scientists. Furthermore, alarming headlines in the daily news reaffirmed how current was this theme I was addressing. The importance and timeliness of the subject definitely influenced my decision to get this thriller out there in e-book format as soon as possible, rather than wait the 12 – 18 months necessary for traditional hard cover or paperback production. Tomorrow’s headlines make for much better political thrillers than yesterday’s news.

Now it’s done, and I’m about to leap into yet another novel. Once again, I know my beginning, a lone skier’s deadly race down a snow-covered mountain. Once again, I have a challenging theme, and once again I have no clue how I’m going to fill 350-400 pages between beginning and end. But remember the story about the optimist, the boy who wades into a room full of manure yelling ‘There’s a pony in here somewhere.’ I waded into that room. I found a bull.

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About This Author

On reaching the final edit of my next novel, (more on that soon) I decided to revise my ‘About the Author’ page, in an attempt to make it more personable. I thought I’d share it. Here goes.

One thing that strikes me as I take a reflective view of my life so far is how much my past has led me to the endeavor in which I am now engaged – an author of action and adventure thriller novels.

I was born in England, raised in the United States and around the world, my childhood travels dictated by my father’s job. My adult globe-trotting was the result of my own career choice, international law. In my profession, I traveled extensively, met and worked with government and business leaders around the planet; with allegedly legal arms dealers, with potentates and poseurs; some of the most colorful, charismatic and occasionally dangerous men on earth. I did not realize I was constructing a reservoir of recollections that would someday provide fodder for my fiction. For whether I take the reader on a walk through New Orleans’ French Quarter, the basements of the US Capitol, the grand hotels of Europe, or a prince’s palace in Arabia, I am dipping into my own well of memories. Most of my reminiscences are pleasant – but not all. Occasionally I recall a certain event in my life and ask, how did I get myself into that mess? Or, more importantly, how did I get myself out?

But they were fascinating years – and I sure did log those frequent flyer miles.

Nowadays, my productive hours are spent at the computer, my beloved cat asleep on my desk, as I sift through my past and apply it to my fictional characters’ present. Not necessarily productive but most fulfilling, I still engage in a life-long hobby of haunting piano and karaoke bars and singing my favorite standards. As long as they let me in the door, I imagine I’ll continue to indulge my passion for the popular song. If you’re ever in town, you should be able to find me close to the nearest piano. And if you’ve read and enjoyed my work, be sure to tell me so I can express my sincere gratitude. I might even sing you a song.

Thank you for reading.

David Lyons

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Ice Fire, A Thriller by David Lyons – When Fiction Becomes Fact

Just in time for the release of my novel in paperback, as reported in the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and major energy related media, Japan announced the first successful extraction of a new energy source from the ocean floor, methane hydrate. Many experts are calling this a global game-changer.

This quest forms much of the plot of my novel Ice Fire. Methane hydrate has been popular in fiction of late, also contributing to the story line of the revived TV series, Dallas. Years ago, Clive Cussler tackled the subject. Exploring the ocean floor for an almost inexhaustable supply of energy does stir the imagination. Now it is no longer merely the stuff of fiction.

Methane hydrate is natural gas encased in ice crystal, formed at great pressure and low temperatures at the bottom of the sea. It is estimated there is more than twice as much methane hydrate as all other carbon based forms of energy combined. Numerous countries and the largest energy companies have had research and development projects to exploit this resource under way for years. Methane is a much cleaner burning fuel than oil or coal, leaving less of a carbon footprint. That said, it is also a greenhouse gas, and extracting it from the ocean floor may destabilize the sea bed, with potentially dire consequences. But ask any West Texas oil field worker over the past century and he’ll tell you no form of energy comes without cost.

How would the world be changed if economic powers like Japan, China and India no longer had to rely on exports for their energy needs? Would the Middle East become less of a strategic hot spot if nations were no longer forced to look solely to that tempestuous region for their oil? Could a cleaner burning fuel clear China’s skies? Questions worth pondering.

But Ice Fire wasn’t meant to address the major problems of the world. It’s a page-turning romp through New Orleans and the French Quarter featuring as protagonist a renegade Cajun judge who does not limit his justice to the courtroom. It’s about his fight against a villian who plans to exploit methane hydrate from the sea bed in a careless, dangerous manner.

It’s a thriller, not prophesy. Still, it’s fun for an author when you get the timing right.

Thanks, and enjoy your reading.

David Lyons

Ice Fire is available in hard cover, Ebook, audio book, and now paperback.

 

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Hey! I’m Organic!

A friend and fellow writer, Doug Danielson, recently asked if I minded him referring to me as an ‘organic writer’ in his blog. I told him I’d been called worse and gave my assent. Then I looked it up, not having a clue what it meant. Turns out the term was accurate as applied to me; an organic writer is one who writes without an outline, following his story where it leads him. It is often called ‘writing by the seat of the pants.’ That’s pretty much my style. I find no fault with those who prefer to outline their fiction before writing, and I can see a good deal of merit to the method. But it’s not for me. Not in the least.

I write thriller fiction. That requires of course at least a loose conception of a plot. And to insert a theme which may certainly invite debate  – and a future blog – I believe that a thriller by its nature is plot driven, not character driven. The characters are revealed and enriched by their reactions to dangerous deeds done by dastardly dudes, but the plot drives the action. Opposing opinions invited. 

But back to the organic stuff. When I begin a novel, I have an idea for the premise. If the premise involves science, technology or geopolitics, I will have researched the topic to know something about it and to make sure it will serve the plot. Beyond that, I generally am fortunate to have a very clear image of the beginning – the first five to ten pages – a general idea of the end, but little or no idea what will happen between the two. For that great fuzzy 300 – 400 pages of in between, I rely not on ‘seat of the pants’ but rather ‘keeping butt in seat.’ It’s discipline. It’s working daily to reach a word count. Some days the work is easy and productive, other days it’s pure hell to drag out a thousand words. Maybe outliners avoid the hellish days. I wonder.

With the organic method, you don’t have a road map and may write yourself into a corner, or worse, a dead end. Well, that’s what re-writing is for. Maybe outliners do less re-writing. I wonder. 

Let me give you a ‘for instance’ of organic writing working well for me.

I’m at work on the second novel in my Jock Boucher series. If you’ve read Ice Fire, the first in the series, you know of the friendship between our hero Judge Jock Boucher and Detective Fitch of the New Orleans Police Department. Early in the second novel, Fitch picks up Boucher at his home to take him fishing. There’s a hubcap missing on Fitch’s car. I had no idea why I included that detail. Pages later Fitch, who lost his wife to Katrina, tells Boucher he has met a woman. In a parking lot she pointed out the missing hubcap, he cursed, she chastized him for his foul language, he apologized and asked her for coffee. I had no intention introducing this minor character beyond giving the crusty old cop a little human interest, then it turns out the sweet, innocuous matron he’s just met plays a major role in tracking down an assassin. No one was more surprised at her role than I, and I can’t conceive how she might have appeared in an outline. But then I’m no good at outlines.

But I can tell you what a pleasure it is when such revelations come; those turning points you were writing toward guided only by your subconscious. For me it’s one of the highs of the creative process and I don’t want the surprise ruined by some dry, mathmatical outline that I’m following like a soldier slugging through a muddy field.

I know not what course others may take, but I’ll take the organic route. Every time. 

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My Cat Can Read!

Image

Look. You can see for yourself. Not only can she read but she has great tast in literature, my novel Ice Fire.

She has every right to read over my shoulder. My muse was there from conception of the plot and characters through every phase of creation.

Most of the time she slept on my desk next to my computer, except when the computer was in my lap, which is of course was where she decided she wanted to be. Between her and the computer, she always won or at least tied. You wouldn’t think a lap could hold a nineteen inch laptop and a cat at the same time, but with extreme care, using the armrests of a desk chair and contorting into positions a yoga master would envy, it can be done.

She was so generous and considerate to me through all those hours, weeks and months. Whenever I was stuck for words or ideas, she let me stroke her, never complaining, actually purring through it all. How selfless is that?

I owe her a lot. I adore her and am so grateful for her company. I wouldn’t be surprised if, on some other-worldly plane, she was transmitting thoughts and suggestions to me throughout the creative process. Perhaps in the after-life we’ll meet again and she’ll say to me, ‘The idea for that plot twist in Ice Fire, where do you think THAT came from?’

Maybe that was what she was looking for in the pictured reading session. The photo was taken just before she asked me to turn the page.

Now I have to confess to you that she does have one fault. Yes. My muse. One tiny flaw. Now don’t tell her I told you this, and I know it’s hard to see in a snap-shot and I didn’t shoot a video. But if you look carefully you might spot it. When she reads, her lips move.

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