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The Sirens of Suspense

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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DANIEL PALMER is the author of four critically-acclaimed suspense novels. He is also an occasional short story writer, with THE DEAD CLUB in the ITW anthology, First Thrills, and DISFIGURED, found in Thriller: Stories to Keep You Up At Night.

Though he always had a passion for storytelling, writing wasn’t Daniel Palmer’s first foray into the entertainment industry. In fact, Daniel considers himself an accidental novelist who first began his career as a musician. He spent several years performing in the Boston club scene and released two CDs. Music allowed an outlet for storytelling that has translated into his writing.

Another successful endeavor of Daniel’s has been technology and e-commerce, which coincided with the dot-com boom and led to Daniel helping pioneer the first generation of web sites, most notably Barnes & Noble. The impact of the internet and social media on ordinary lives gave Daniel the basis for his writing, first with DELIRIOUS and most recently, with STOLEN. With tech-centric themes, Daniel’s novels focus on ordinary men pitted against extraordinary circumstances.

Daniel is actively involved with the Red Sox Home Base program, helping to raise money for veterans suffering from PTSD. Daniel holds a Master’s degree from Boston University and currently lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children.

His latest, DESPERATE, will be released April 29th.

 

Find Daniel on Facebook and Twitter:

http://www.danielpalmerbooks.com

 

Find Michael Palmer on Facebook and Twitter:

http://www.michaelpalmerbooks.com

 

Find Matthew Palmer's THE AMERICAN MISSION : http://www.amazon.com/The-American-Mission-Matthew-Palmer/dp/0399165703

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About a year ago, my dad and I crashed Chantelle’s birthday party (that's us in the back, on the left). Chantelle is the Anthony Award nominated creator of this blog, but I didn’t know this at the time because I’d never met her before. Though she had no idea who we were or why we were there, Chantelle was an incredibly gracious host and for that alone she should be nominated for some award. I’ve since come to learn that she’s not only the ncurator of this fabulous content, she’s also a fabulous person to boot, with wit, grace, charm and a true passion for all things suspense.

When Chantelle asked if I would contribute an article to the SoS blog, I jumped at the chance. Not only did I owe retribution for party crashing, but also I want to honor that time in Tucson, Arizona, which I'm very sentimental about See, the Tucson Festival of the Book was the last book festival my father and I attended together before he died.

My dad burst onto the publishing scene in 1982 with his blockbuster debut thriller, THE SISTERHOOD. A New York Times bestseller, it sold in many countries and helped to define the nascent medical thriller genre. My dad went on to publish eighteen more novels of medical suspense including EXTREME MEASURES, published by Bantam in 1992, which was made into a feature film starring Gene Hackman and Hugh Grant.

Growing up, my father was the writer (and doctor) of the family, my brother Matthew was the avid reader, and I the weird kid running around the back yard with two sticks pretending it was World War II. The phrase, “Look out, Joe!” was my ubiquitous warning to all the imaginary soldiers as we waged a fierce battle against an invisible enemy. Though I did assume writing would end up being my brother's forte due to his voracious reading, I never imagined I would write novels as well. As it turned out, I published my first book, DELIRIOUS, in 2011, and Matthew has his debut, a political thriller titled THE AMERICAN MISSION, coming out this June from Putnam.

We were supposed to be the Manning Family of thrillers. Dad was Archie Manning, the patriarch, and Matt and I would be Peyton and Elli respectively. But sadly, we lost our Archie before Matt’s book came out. Now the Palmer brothers will have to carry on the thriller tradition without our dad here to cheer us on.

I’m lucky to have shared the publishing business with my father for so many years. I started writing full time in 2009. My dad, who loved having written the books more than he loved actually writing them, was grateful to have a son doing what he was doing—staring dry-eyed at a computer monitor all day, trying to make some fiction happen. Often I'd hear iChat ping, and it would be my dad. He'd say he wanted to "talk," but he was really just procrastinating. We’d start out jawboning about some plot problem, a book cover design, some upcoming book talk, something business related and quickly the conversation would turn into a dialogue about his grandchildren and some funny or heartwarming thing they had done. More than the accolades and publishing successes, of which my father enjoyed many, he loved his family most of all.

My dad and I would often do book talks together. Our first happened when the anthology THRILLER: STORIES TO KEEP YOU UP AT NIGHT. This anthology, edited by James Patterson, was a vehicle to raise funds for the newly established trade organization, International Thriller Writers, a group focused exclusively on the suspense/thriller genre and founded by David Morrell and Gayle Lynds. My dad and I co-authored a story, DIFIGURED for this book, and from that moment on, I was part of a larger community of writers, even though I hadn’t sold a novel of my own. When my dad was asked to play in a band at the first ThrillerFest Awards banquet, he suggested to the organizers that they include me in any musical performance.

You see, before I got into fiction writing my passion was songwriting; I play a mean blues harmonica and write songs on guitar. I started a rock band in high school called Grand Theft Auto, and we did both covers and originals. Much later, I spent a number of years toiling with the rock and rollers in the Boston bar scene until I figured out that if I wanted to actually make any money I’d best find another career. I got involved in building e-commerce websites and continued to write songs, some of which I licensed for commercial use.

Around the time Nick Hornby’s HIGH FIDELITY and the book/movie BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY were popular, I got it in my noggin to write a romantic comedy from the guy’s point of view. While I discovered the joy of writing, and tapped into my innate creativity (refer back to the weird kid making enormous war epics using just two sticks), I also found out that women who buy the majority of romance novels don’t particularly care about the guy’s point of view. Still, I 'd got the writing bug and I kept at it and learned the craft. I moved into thrillers and suspense—the genre that I preferred to read (when I did read).

I became a dedicated student of the genre and I went from reading Dean Koontz and Stephen King almost exclusively to devouring anything in commercial thriller fiction. Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben, Gregg Iles, Tess Gerritsen, Lisa Gardner, Tami Hoag, Catherine Coulter…oh this list goes on. I also turned to my dad for help. He became my mentor and expert guide.

How lucky for me to have such great counsel! My father taught me three critical lessons that I carry into my writing life to this day.

1. Be Fearless. This is a tough job. When your writing is stiff, without any emotion, you run the risk of boring your audience. There’s no formula to genre fiction that I know of, but there is a golden rule: don’t be boring. To avoid the trap, you’ve got to write from the heart and that takes real courage. You’re putting yourself out there, naked and exposed, and strangers will judge you. Readers can sniff out insincerity the way a bloodhound can find a body. “You’ve got to go for it,” my dad always said. "More emotion, more heart, more of yourself." That’s what he meant by being fearless.

2. Relax. If I became tense the writing would be stiff. If I thought about the guy or gal on the subway reading my book and rolling their eyes, I’d clam right up and the prose would be as dull as a butter knife. Breathe in and breathe out and relax. "You can do it, kiddo." That’s why my father would always say. It’s good advice no matter what the profession or project.

3. This is hard. It really is difficult. To write well takes effort and practice. You’ve got to read and write to get good at reading and writing. It seems simple on the surface, but the effort is mentally and emotionally taxing. It’s like playing baseball or an instrument, you need repetitions to build up the muscle memory. But even then it takes concentration and commitment to execute to the best of your ability. So when I’m faced with a blank page, or worse, I'm blank on ideas, I remind myself that this really is hard and that I need to relax and be brave. When I do, I seem to find the words to keep trucking on.

Since that first short story appeared, I’ve published four novels and one additional short story. Readers seem to like them, and I’ve received nice feedback from reviewers as well. Still those accolades pale in comparison to my memories of doing this business with my dad. We toured the South together, attended many book festivals, have been interviewed on stage and in blogs, and best of all we sang together. That first musical performance at ThrillerFest morphed into a father/son singing duo, performing at most every ThrillerFest awards banquet. My dad and I wrote parody songs about the writing life that we sang for an audience of hundreds! We’d laugh at that—hundreds! These songs were always a highlight of ThrillerFest, and this year I’ll sing one more. But sadly, it’s going to be a solo.

All my book talks right now are solo too. My new release is titled DESPERATE. It’s about a young couple seeking happiness by adopting a baby. When they meet a homeless pregnant woman over the Internet, they believe their prayers have been answered. But of course, like all good thrillers things must go horribly wrong. I hope you’ll give the book a read. I was relaxed when I wrote it and I did my very best to be fearless. And yes, it was a hard book to write, but Publishers Weekly called it an “emotionally gripping steel-trap plotted standalone” so I guess it was worth the effort.

I’m proud to keep the legacy of thrillers my dad began back in the 80’s going. I hope my brother and I will get to do some book talks together. And when we do, our Archie Manning, my dad, Michael Palmer, will not be far from our thoughts.

Below are the lyrics to one of the songs my dad and I performed together. It’s called GHOST WRITERS IN THE SKY and it’s sung to the tune of GHOST RIDERS IN THE SKY. I hope you enjoy.

 

Ghost Writers in the Sky

Our book was in the dumper

So we walked to clear our head.

The dusty ground around us

Like our characters was dead.

When in the sky a tawdry group

Of red-eyed scribes appeared,

Dragging chains of novels

They called out as they neared.

 

Oh writer men you’ve got the chance

To mend your foolish ways.

We’ve lived the life that you now live

And there’s a price to pay.

Listen to our warning

Heed what we have to tell,

We’ll enumerate the writing sins

That paved our path to hell.

 

Yippee Aye Yay

Yippee Aye Oh

Ghost writers in the sky

 

I pirated some phrases

And I never blurbed a book

I snubbed the lesser writers

When they asked about their hook.

I spent half of my advances

On publicists who claimed

I’d get on all the morning shows

And be a household name.

 

I sent a thousand friend requests

And many of them took

So I turned those Facebook walls into

A billboard for my book.

Lee Child’s heir apparent,

I phrased the posts I ran,

Though deep inside I knew it was

Another form of spam.


Yippee Aye Yay

Yippee Aye Oh

Ghost writers in the sky


 

I wrote bloated sentences

That made me look real smart.

And spiced my prose with adverbs

That I thought read amazingly.

My characters used mirrors

For each face that I described,

Chapter one was all back story

My endings were contrived.

 

I drank too much I ate too much

My waistline now is gone

I’ve haunted every festival

From Rome to Bouchercon

My jealous streak proved boundless

The more books I did peruse

So what if they’re my so called friends

I gave them all one star reviews.

 

Yippee Aye Yay

Yippee Aye Oh

Ghost writers in the sky

 

The last advice we give to you

Is stop with the clichés.

It makes your writing clunky

You should find more clever ways

I looked at him he looked at me

We answered in a blink,

“You can lead a horse to water

But you cannot make him drink.”

 

 

 

 

item2DO YOU HAVE ANY CRITICAL LIFE LESSONS TO SHARE? THOUGHTS ON THE BLOG?

Tell us by commenting on the blog below or on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a a copy of DESPERATE! I'm also throwing in a copy of Michael's forthcoming book, RESISTANT, out May 20th.

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