Sunday, September 15, 2013

Vince Lombardi and Lou Holtz were my writing coaches

I remember the late Vince Lombardi, not for his winning seasons with the Green Bay Packers, or for winning the very first two Super Bowl’s, but for his winning spirit and his ability to inspire those on his teams as well as those of us on the side lines. I remember Lou Holtz for his winning years as head coach of Notre Dame in the late Eighties and early Nineties but also for his keen insight into what it takes to win on the field and throughout life. While I didn’t play for either Lombardi or Holtz, the life lessons they taught inspired me, just the same. As I started writing the principals they taught stayed with me. Following are a few quotes from the greats that I apply to to my novel writing.
1. “When all is said and done, more is said than done.” Lou Holtz. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the phrase, Show, don’t tell. This was a difficult concept for me in my early writing days. When your character is doing something it shows character, strengths and weaknesses. When all is said and done, say little and do a lot.
2. “Never promise more than you can deliver, but always deliver more than you promise.” Lou Holtz. When you start a story at a breakneck pace, the reader is expecting the pace to increase as the story progresses to the climax. To many stories start out like a dragster on a quarter-mile run and end up low on fuel by the end. Give the reader what you promise.
3. Lou Holtz more than once told his Fighting Irish players. “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do, and attitude determines how well you do it.” Not all have the ability to write great novels, some have the ability, but never do, but if you decide to write, attitude is the  key to how well you do on the next Moby Dick, or Grapes of Wrath.
4. “You are never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say you are when you lose.” Lou Holtz.  This is so true when you receive a critique on your writing. Not every review you receive is helpful, some are downright painful and some are unwarranted altogether. Treat every review as an opportunity. Honestly assess whether the review was justified. For instance, if someone didn’t like the story because it was poorly researched, poorly edited, or poorly executed, that’s fair criticism. On the other hand, if the complaint is the book is priced outlandishly high and the person wouldn’t buy it until the price was lowered, that’s like saying Picasso wouldn’t go with the furnishings in the room, so don’t buy it. Personally I wouldn’t pay a dollar for a Picasso, but others are willing to shell out millions. What value do you put on a work of art? Art is truly in the eye of the beholder.
4. Vince Lombardi is known for telling his players, “Gentlemen, we will chase perfection and we chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we will never attain it. But along the way we shall catch excellence.”  No matter how well a book written and edited, there seems to be an error left behind for a reader to discover. This is where an author has it better than a Da Vinci or Picasso. Imagine telling Picasso, “You have an eye out of place,” or “the lips are all wrong.” Even so, as brilliant as Da Vinci was, I doubt he got the Mona Lisa right on the first take. I’ve heard there are many other similar paintings depicting the character in the Mona Lisa, but there is only one that received critical acclaim. We, as authors, can go back and fix what our readers tell us is wrong, up to a point. I take every word left out, or if, and, or but that is out of place seriously, and if the errors are too many, it’s time to get a new editor, and I’ve done that before. After all, I’m paying for a service and I should get the expected value from it. And my objective as an author is to entertain the reader, not make copy critics out of them. The lesson here is to strive for perfection and settle for excellence.
5. A picture is worth a thousand words. Neither Holtz or Lombardi said this, that I know of, and I know it’s an over used cliché, but I needed to throw it in to make a point. The old adage, Don’t judge a book by its cover, just doesn’t cut it in the digital age. I’m beginning to realize the value of a professionally designed book cover, and I am slowly working through my novels, replacing the covers with professional art. The first impression of a book might merit a second glance. Check out the new cover on THREADS OF THE SHROUD, and let me know what you think.

6. “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” Vince Lombardi. There is no better place to let a potential reader know what your story is about than in the brief description of the story often found on the inside flap, the back cover or in the book description. This is where your target audience is captured. If the description doesn’t leave some compelling questions to be answered it probably won’t entice the reader to go to the next step and read the first few pages of the book. It seems no matter how many times a description can be written, one more time makes it better. Work hard on the description.
7.  “The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.” Vince Lombardi. The first three pages of any story are critical. I remember my mystery writing instructor saying, “If there is a rifle hanging over the fireplace in the first scene, it better have been used to shoot someone before the end of the chapter.” The story needs to build from the start. How a story measures up is dependent on what it is given in the start.
8. “Gentlemen, this is a football.” Vince Lombardi is said to have told his players. I’m sure everyone in the locker room knew what a football was, but Lombardi was illustrating a point that we sometimes forget. When things aren’t going right we may have to start over. A well written book is like a winning football team. The readers are the fans and also our critics. They tell us the value of our work. When a book isn’t winning, we need to know why.  Perhaps it’s time to start over.
Finally Vince Lombardi, left us with this. “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”

Friday, August 30, 2013

       FEAR NOT THINE IMAGE, a psychological thriller

There's an old cliche, a picture is worth a thousand words. This is especially true with book covers. I've been reviewing my book covers with the intent of capturing the theme of the story in the cover. One of my first attempts is this new cover for FEAR NOT THINE IMAGE.

Detective Tony Lake is caught in an impossible situation when the serial killer he is chasing turns on him. Lake cannot trust his long-time partner or the LAPD to help him when he wakes up with the face and fingerprints of a most wanted killer. Already trying to escape a failed marriage and the loss of one of his twin boys, Lake is obsessed with a new missing person case. The deeper he probes the deeper the hole he digs until it appears there is no way to escape. Check out this thriller and see if the mind of a detective in jeopardy can outwit the organization that stole his image and replaced it with a serial killer. 

Click HERE for Kindle download of FEAR NOT THINE IMAGE

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fear Not Thine Image



Imagine you are a very successful dedicated detective and you wake up with the image and fingerprints of the serial killer you are chasing? In this day of DNA testing that doesn’t seem very likely, but what if you had already been positively identified by your fingerprints on record and photo on file? Could you convince the authorities to go through the added exercise and expense of testing DNA to prove who you are after the identification is already positive?

With all the emphasis on DNA testing in the criminal justice programs you’d think fingerprints are no longer relevant, but the fact is photographs, fingerprints and dental records continue to be a big part of personal identification. Finger prints have been collected and filed for years with the FBI and Homeland Security files providing a worldwide database for criminal justice systems to use making  them still the single most used method of positively  identifying crime suspects. If your fingerprints are at the crime scene, on the murder weapon, a witness positively identifies you at the scene of the crime and you do not have a solid alibi for the time of the crime, good luck in convincing the jury you are not guilty.
Further imagine you are the spitting image of a serial killer and are on the LAPD most wanted list, are captured, fingerprinted and everything matches the killer they are chasing? There is no doubt that you will be arrested and tried for the crimes.
Detective Tony Lake finds himself in just this predicament when he stumbles across an organization that makes high profile criminals disappear before they can be brought to trial. Lake is captured by the organization and wakes up in the image of the killer he was chasing. Tony's life is already falling apart with the  recent loss of one of his twin boys.  In an effort hide his grief Tony distances himself from his wife and surviving son. The decision to bury himself in his work is already taking a toll on his marriage and distancing him from his surviving son. Now in prison, having lost everything including his identity, Tony finds himself trying to convince his former partner at LAPD that he is not a malicious killer and was wrongly convicted of the killer’s crimes.
FEAR NOT THINE IMAGE is set in the greater Los Angeles area and in Portland, Oregon where detective Jodie Fox comes into contact with the serial killer Tony Lake was chasing. Some say FEAR NOT THINE IMAGE it is a scary read, others an exciting adventure. I hope you check out this crime thriller and decide for yourself.

FEAR NOT THINE IMAGE can be purchased for $2.99 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Noted author of espionage and intrigue, Paul Anthony, recently interviewed me and several other writers of espionage thrillers. I hope you enjoy the interview and the tour of espionage author sites.

ESPIONAGE is best described as a Government, State, or individual, obtaining information that is classified as ‘secret’ or ‘confidential’ by the owner or holder of that information. Often referred to as ‘spying’, espionage, by its very nature, is clandestine and unwelcome. It should not be confused with ‘intelligence gathering’ which can often involve the collation of open-source information received from anonymous ‘tip-offs’ or by researching publicly available data found in public writings, social media postings, and ‘gossip’. No, espionage in its truest sense, is a dangerous unforgiving activity that, when successfully accomplished, often involves the gathering of data about an enemy’s military, economic, or industrial capability. Spies can bring back all kinds of information and identify dissidents that can be influenced to ‘change sides’, to steal technology, to sabotage, to feed false information, to…… ?

Spying is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world.

Welcome to the Espionage blog 2013.

Paul Anthony is trained in advance driving, ant-surveillance, counter surveillance, agent running, intelligence gathering, and espionage. And he’s worked with the best of the best. Now he is a writer and is pleased to welcome his friends in the world of the literary genre – espionage – to this blog tour.

The espionage genre is not about politics or imperfections. It’s about human relationships, emotions, love, hate, murder, war, peace, mystery, adventure, tension, suspense …. It’s about…. Thrillers…

Let’s hand over to THE SPYMASTER and see what questions he has for our guests….

Q. Larry LaVoie, can you tell us something about yourself? Where do you live and what do you do?

A.  I live in Klamath Falls, Oregon, USA. I am retired from the aerospace industry in which I worked as an engineer and in management for over forty years. The industry is in constant danger from those trying to steal our technology, so I have some insight into what's required to keep our secrets from our enemies. I love a good thriller and started writing novels about eighteen years ago.

Q. Why do enjoy writing in the ‘espionage’ genre?

A. I enjoy a good thriller and find that espionage provides a great background for excitement. Who doesn’t like a good spy novel. There is so much intrigue in what goes on behind the scenes in our defence and aerospace industries, I find it makes a good story.

Q. What distinguishes the espionage genre from the others?

A. Espionage, the gathering, stealing or hiding information that can change the world makes espionage stand out from most mysteries or there thriller genres. When the CIA and FBI get involved with foreign operatives, things are bound to heat up. Isn’t that exciting?

Q. Some readers often perceive espionage in the political context. Do your books support that political perception or do you deal with other individual desires?

A. My stories involve the characters more than the governments. I suppose there is a political element since there is an enemy involved, but for me that tends to be another person who may be working for a foreign or even within the protagonist’s own government.

Q. In your books, have you created a particular spy character that you would like to share with us?

A. My espionage stories are not a series. I have three stories which fit the espionage genre and all three have a different main character from a different background. Only one, Trevor Lloyd can be considered a true spy. I have considered making a series with him as the main character, but my other two espionage novels put an everyday citizen in the middle of a diabolical plot to destroy the nation. I like to put unlikely characters in the middle of chaos.

Q. In what part of the world and in what time era are your books set?

A. One of my novels, The Lightstream Conspiracy, takes place at the turn of the century when there was a fear the  millennium bug was going to attack our governments computers. The others are contemporary.

Q. What elements of your books embrace the genre ‘espionage’ – murder, mystery, suspense, fantasy? What makes your book a thriller?

A. Two of my books contain espionage as the main theme, the stealing of government secrets. In Caldera, the main theme is the destruction of much of the United States through the impending eruption of Yellowstone Park, a super volcano, but behind the scenes a terrorist organization is planning on toppling the United States Government in the aftermath of the disaster. Murder, and mystery and suspense go without saying. What’s a good thriller, if no one dies. Mystery makes for surprises and surprises makes great suspense.

Q. Where can we find out more about your books from either a blogsite, website or retail site?

A. All of my books are on and on my Scene-stealer blog

Q. Thank you for joining the blog tour; is there anything else you would you like to tell us about your books. Perhaps a link to an extract or something like that?

A. The three books that I would classify as espionage genre are: The Lightstream Conspiracy, The Kessler Syndrome and Caldera. I have written ten additional novels which are mystery thrillers.

The Spymaster thanks you for joining ‘The Espionage Blog 2013’ and invites you to visit the following authors who are at the forefront of the ‘espionage’ genre….. Thank you for joining us.

AB Potts



CIA Agent, Trevor Lloyd, is furious when he is called in from the field to a desk job at CIA Headquarters in Langley and he lets Margaret Ames, his new boss, know it.

Ames has a point to prove as the first female head of the CIA and isn’t taking any guff from Lloyd and assigns him to a routine investigation with FBI Agent Terri Summers, who has yet to get her feet wet. It is late 1999 and the Light Stream Technologies computers have been compromised, spy satellites are being destroyed, and the Defense Department is covering it up. The investigation leads to NASA and an international conspiracy to bring the United States into a nuclear war with Russia.

In their effort to unravel the conspiracy, Lloyd and Summers are led to an obscure company in California and a secret weapon that an enemy desperately wants; a weapon that the U.S. Congress has de-funded, but secretly, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, the U.S. Space Command, and the U.S. Air Force, all part of the Strategic Defense Initiative have continued to fund. The result of that program is the most destructive weapon the world has ever known─The Light Stream Laser.

 But there are those within the government who have promised another, more conventional, means of protecting the world from nuclear disaster, and they will do anything to prevent Light Stream Technologies from launching their new weapon. Lloyd and Summers are on a run for their lives from foreign enemies, as well as some within their own government. They need to survive long enough to save the world from a devastating nuclear war.

Tax accountant Raymond Phillips has just taken over his father’s firm, but his life is about to change  dramatically when he is mistaken for aerospace scientist, Timothy Walker, a spy selling Defense Satellite secrets to China.

An elusive spy ring dubbed, the China Connection, by the CIA has delivered America’s latest space technology to China and Walker is suspected of being the inside man. When Walker is found dead, a plan to use Walker to export a package of data that will shut down the China Connection has to be terminated, that is, unless they can convince look-alike Phillips to deliver the package.  

What was supposed to be a simple operation goes terribly wrong when China decides to take Phillips and Lora Gains, the undercover agent assigned to protect him, hostage. The president must give the word to destroy the plane on which Phillips and Gains are being transported, or risk losing the control of the worlds satellite communications to China. The stakes are raised when it is found the data they are delivering may initiate the Kessler Syndrome, destroying our ability to put satellites into orbit for decades to come.


Six-hundred-thousand years ago the largest volcano in the Western Hemisphere erupted covering much of what is now the Central United States in a thick layer of ash. The explosion left behind a massive caldera that today is known as Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone volcanologist Milton Bainbridge discovers Yellowstone is about to erupt again and millions of Americans in thirteen states will parish if they cannot be evacuated from the deadly path of the fallout. Bainbridge mysteriously dies, leaving his assistant, Carlene Carlson, and volcanologist, Jason Trask to save the United States from the worst natural disaster in its history. To make matters worse, a little known terrorist group is planning on using the eruption of Yellowstone to topple the U.S. government.

Trask and Carlson face off against a government unwilling to believe an eruption is eminent and a terrorist group that is conspiring to topple the United States in the aftermath of the natural disaster. Caldera is an action packed thriller with a high degree of technical accuracy.




Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Kessler Syndrome

The Kessler syndrome is the catastrophic distruction of satellites through a chain reaction of collisions among satellites circling the globe in the same orbit. When one satellite collides with another, it shatters into hundreds of pieces, which in turn collide with other satellites, until, as the theory goes all satellites are destroyed. There are many events which could trigger the Kessler Syndrome.
Are we at risk of losing all communication satellites? To many, the claim that we are at risk, is like Chicken Little screaming, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling.”  Certainly, our dependence on satellites and the potential of losing our electronics dependent way of life should not be brushed aside as easily as a panicked chicken in a fairy tale. Our reliance on satellites touches our lives in every aspect, from a vacation trip in a car, airline, or cruise ship, to our daily conversations on the telephone and the hot cup of coffee we enjoyed this morning. Our emails to a friend and our tweets about the big game coming up this weekend would not be possible without our communication satellites. On a more serious note, our military relies on satellites for everything from guiding aircraft, ships and drones, missiles and rockets, to communication in battle.
What would the world be like, if our satellites were rendered inoperable? Our electrical grid would go down, our GPS unites in our auto, buses, trains, airplanes and ships would be worthless, and our telephone service would be seriously, if not completely disrupted. For all practical purposes, communication in the United States and around the world would be nonexistent. Without satellites, we would have to fall back on systems of communication that we used prior to the first Telstar satellite put in orbit July 10, 1962.
So, what is the threat? We take our age of information for granted. What could go wrong?
In 2010 China launched a satellite that rendezvoused with another of their own satellites. It could just as well come in contact with one of ours and put it out of commission. What’s the first thing an enemy would do in an attack on out country? Wipe out our communications. Everyday we are bombarded with accounts of China hacking into our military, defense, large banks and our industrial giants. This is fact. Friday, 2/15/13, an asteroid dubbed 2012 DA14, half the size of a football field, will pass between the earth and the moon, closer to the earth than many of our communication satellites. There is the potential for it to strike one of those satellites, triggering The Kessler Syndrome. If that seems like a remote possibility, consider this. On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an even larger asteroid will pass between the earth and the moon and we can’t do a thing to protect our satellites other than watch and hope. If Asteroids are a remote concern, the sun poses a significant risk of wiping out our communications. Solar flares will someday wipe out some of our satellites and possibly a portion of our electrical grid; this is a certainty, according to some scientists, but not a threat of triggering the Kessler Syndrome.
Any of the above scenarios could cause widespread disruptions in our way of life, but the one most likely, The Kessler Syndrome, which was originally proposed to NASA by Scientist, Donald Kessler, in the 1978 has already threatened our satellite system. On February 10th, 2009, a decommissioned Russian satellite, Cosmos 2251, collided with a U.S. communication satellite, Iridium 33, the two shattering into approximately 2100 pieces. Because there is no international control over the orbit of satellites launched from countries around the world, the Kessler Syndrome will quite possibly happen in our lifetime. When I penned the spy novel, The Kessler Syndrome, it was with the hope that the things fictionalized in the story, would never come to pass. But with all the things that can happen, some day, when we least expect it, the lights, our phone service, all of our communication may vanish. Maybe I should have printed the book on paper, instead of electronically. Just a thought.

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