Looking for ARC Readers

Dead Tomorrow will be available on Amazon (eBook) and everywhere in paperback format on May 1. It’s available for pre-order on amazon now (as an eBook) and will be available for pre-order in paperback format in about a week.

I’m looking for avid readers who enjoy a fast-paced crime story to provide ARC reviews on Amazon for me. Got to get that algorithm working for me.

ARC copies are available now. They will be pdf copies. If you’re interested and think you can read (or attempt to read) a 70k book and review it by May 1, please leave a comment below, and we’ll chat, and I’ll send you a personalised copy.

Available now for preorder. Help me kick the Amazon algorithm in the arse. If the description below interests you, please preorder at Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

Looking forward to hearing from you all.

A different way to structure stories

About seven or eight years ago, somebody (and I can’t recall who) put forward a “mini-movie” approach to structuring your story.

Just jumping in here to say story structure does not remove creativity. It’s a set of guidelines, much as building design rules are (roof is on the top, windows on the outside walls, basement on the bottom, plumbing not exposed), and every house (except for those suburbs built in the last decade) are different. If you don’t want to use a structure, fine. I find it much easier to plot a story if I have a rough idea of where things should be. And if you say not all stories follow a structure, name one. I’ll show you the inherent structure in a future post.

Aside over.

The scheme is divided into eight roughly equal sections. The first two constitute Act 1, the middle four constitute Act 2, and the final two constitute Act 3. The guidelines for each are as follows:

A couple of dozen words each, offering guidance to the writer on the expected deliverable for each section of your story.

What do you think? I’ve found this handy when I first start thinking about the outline of a new book.

Ten Million

November will be the tenth anniversary of the release of “Unprotected Sax“, one of the ‘Miami Mob’ books.

Playing sax in his friend’s jazz band was supposed to be relaxing.

Then his friend disappeared.

Johnny Delacourte (aka Johnny D The Sax Machine) left the Army Rangers and the battlefields of Afghanistan six months ago.

Then the friend disappears, the cops don’t seem to care, and the Russian mob is all over his ass.

One of the antagonists — the primary antagonist, is a Russian mobster named Vladimir Petrovski. The story doesn’t end well for him. No spoilers, but it was not good.

Early 2023 will see the release of my third Nick Harding case. Tentatively, it’s called “Dead Tomorrow”. (Don’t bank on that title staying. I have a bad habit of changing the title at the last minute.) Petrovski ends up being the big bad in this book, also.

In November, on or about the anniversary date of Unprotected Sax, I’m going to release a 10,000-word short called “Ten Million”. It started as an exercise to build a backstory for “Dead Tomorrow”, but it’s a pretty good yarn, bridging the decade between then and now.

It’ll be a free short story. It’s not a necessary read for “Dead Tomorrow”, but it might help. If you’ve already purchased “Unprotected Sax” as an e-book, this short will be included as an epilogue of sorts. Set your reading device up for automatic updates. It’ll show up sometime in late November. And if that doesn’t work, it’ll be available as a free download on this site, and on all popular and unpopular ebook sites.

Edit: Except for Amazon. Unless someone can tell me how to make a book free on Amazon.

24 Jan 2023: It should be available on Amazon for free once price matching goes into effect.

Apple/iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Amazon

Writing a book. In a day.

It takes me roughly a year to churn out one of my intricately plotted and carefully crafted pile of (roughly 80,000) words. [author aside: If you all actually bought my books, I’d be able to quit the job that pays the mortgage and feeds the bellys and I’d have more time to write. I’d be able to churn out possibly even two a year. Just sayin’.]

On July 24th, I and six writing/illustrating colleagues will be writing AND illustrating a 10,000 word kid’s book in support of the Kids Cancer Project. We seven are the “Magnificent Seven Six“.

We are all donating our time, brilliant intellect and unparalleled creativity *cough cough* to raise as much money as possible in support of The Kids’ Cancer Project. It is an independent national charity supporting childhood cancer research. Since 1993, thanks to strong community support, the charity has contributed tens of millions of dollars to scientific research projects to help children with many types of cancer. Right now, the charity is funding 35 medical research projects across 22 institutes Australia-wide.

All completed stories will be included in the Online Library which is shared with hospitals around Australia for families and children undergoing treatment.

Please stop by our landing page and sponsor us with whatever you can afford.

Rainbow Crossing’s Book Trail

About a month ago Brian Laul called me up and wanted to know if I was interested in being part of his inaugural “Book Trail”.

“I’m an author, Brian. I don’t want to hike anywhere.”

Turns out, the Book Trail, organised by A-B Street Library, Rainbow Crossing and half a dozen coffee shops around Campbelltown, was an opportunity for local authors to spend an hour in a cafe (our natural habitat) and chat with interested readers (and writers).

I was parked in Stamp Cafe this past Saturday from 11am to noon talking to about 20 interested souls about my writing journey, how I get inspired to write when the spirit isn’t all that willing and what my pen name would be should I venture into the Romance genre. (Like I would tell you.)

That’s me. Sitting in the corner. Bald. And fatter than I realised.

If I’m honest, I’m not a huge fan of talking in front of crowds. Until I start. Then you can’t shut me up. Especially when it’s about writing. Story structure, plot points, how the germ of an idea can turn into a novel, successfully getting your reader to suspend disbelief…these are things I could talk about all day.

And it was easy. Many great questions and comments from the attendees which made sure there was little dead air. the hour went by faster than I thought it would.

And more than one person showed up, so my expectations were exceeded.

Hopefully this is an annual event. Looking forward to next year.

I made a couple of bucks, too.

Retro Intro – Eamonn Shute

Digging through some old posts on older versions of this site (on different platforms) I came across this, reprinted in its entirety, unedited (other than formatting). Originally published on July 30th, 2009

Ladies and genuflects, I would like to introduce you to Mr. Eamonn Shute.

An entirely fictional creation, living in Miami for the past eighteen months, he is living life large. And not only because he is 6 foot 6 and 16 stone.Eamonn is a fairly smart guy.

His IQ test in his school year 11/12 (when he was 14 – he completed both grades that year) clocked in at 152. On the day he took the test he was suffering from a virulent form of flu and was heavily medicated, handicapping him by an estimate 15 points.

Eamonn’s a pretty laid back guy though, and didn’t care a whit what his IQ was – he just wanted to do well on his football team. (If you live in North America, that would be soccer, and the rest of us would really appreciate you calling it by its proper name, and quickish, please.)

As large as he was, and being as graceful as a herniated hippo, he seldom played in any position other than goalkeeper.I mentioned he was fairly smart. He figured out the obvious fairly quickly. Sports were set aside and the pursuit of more intellectual endeavours became the focus.

Being an early bloomer allowed him to physically fit into University at the somewhat early age of 15. Three years later he left with a Masters in Mathematics, distinguished honours. Eighteen is too young to start a career, I don’t care what anyone says, so he spent – or planned to spend – a couple of years helping his family run their live-in bed and breakfast castle.

To residents of anywhere other than Western Europe, that may sound strange, but the Shute family were direct descendants and current owners of a modest, draughty, moss-covered Shute Castle located about 15 miles south-west of the much more famous Donegal Castle. To help make ends meet, mother was a primary school teacher and father managed a small, but popular, distillery.

To be as smart as Eamonn is can be a curse. Constant mental stimulation is a requirement. There was, and is, precious little of that at the castle, and to bridge the gap Eamonn started in earnest to study the patterns of the winning numbers in the Irish Sweepstakes. Using large number theories that he had mastered in school he started playing the lottery.

He had a couple of small winnings, more than enough to fund his experiment, until that fateful day, just over eighteen months ago [note: this was written in 2009], when he hit all the numbers. The prize for that particular sweepstakes was well into the 2 comma category. Nine digits before tax, eight after. A small chunk (seven digits) was put aside to ensure permanent upkeep of the castle, as well as permitting both of his parents to retire. Although, if the truth were to be told, his father didn’t retire, per se. No Irishman in his right mind would voluntarily leave the premises of a distillery – he continued on in an advisory capacity at minimal wages.

Eamonn took the remaining funds, still a healthy eight digits in pounds sterling, and moved to Miami, away from the damp, cold land of his birth. He started a business with a vague enough charter to encompass almost everything, earning himself a permanent visa in record time. He has recently purchased a very spacious penthouse apartment on Biscayne Boulevard, with a balcony sporting a stunning view of the rising sun over the Atlantic.

That view of the sun rising over the Atlantic is one that he has not, I am lead to believe, seen yet. To see a sunrise would require Eamonn to rise far earlier than he ever has in his life.

And that is where we leave him for now. Fat, rich, warm and surrounded by greased up, tawny, bikini-clad beauties. The poor soul.

Stay tuned.

This was the genesis of one of my first books, still one my my favourites.

Mayhem, murder, and a $4,000,000 book.

In Miami.

Eamonn Shute is smart, capable and larger than life. There is nothing he can’t handle.

Until Nicky, the love of his life, is framed by her ex-husband.

Eamonn leaves no stone unturned in his quest to clear Nicky’s name, but the evidence is piling up, and Nicky’s troubles seem insurmountable.

Eamonn needs to hark back to his rough and tumble youth in Donegal, taking on some of the most dangerous people in Miami to clear Nicky’s name.

Amazon | Apple | Kobo | Barnes&Noble

"Compelling characters and a well paced plot make this story a joy to read. The suspense kept me reading long into the night. Highly recommended."
"By the end it was, sort of, like riding along with a racing driver around a race track... you can see a corner coming, but the driver doesn't appear to have even thought about hitting the brakes yet; I could tell I was almost at the end of the book, and disaster still hadn't been averted. Sure enough, just like the racing driver, Mr McFadden knew he had just barely enough time to hit the brakes and throw you around that last corner, and onto the home straight."

Batteries Not Included – Update

Nick Harding is an idealistic Private Investigator, trying to eke out a living after a spectacularly boring career in Financial Crimes with the Australian Federal Police.

The very recent widow of the billionaire founder of Dvorak Kars — Australia’s first and only EV manufacturer — hires him to root out the fraud costing what is now her company upwards of $5 million a month over the past year.

Nick reluctantly takes the case — we all have bills to pay — and quickly realises that the beatings, excessive running and cars on fire are barely compensated by the healthy day rate and the opportunity to drive one of the sweet, sweet Dvorak convertibles.

With suspects to spare — the wife, the head of security, the corporate CFO — will he figure out how millions of dollars are disappearing before he runs out of time?

Of course he will.

Available for pre-order now, release date September 1.

Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Target

Story Structure

I bang on this a lot, and if the truth be told, this is only a minor component of a good story, but one most often missing.

Stories have a structure. Generally, three acts. There are other structures, but they all resolve, in one way or another, to three acts. There are certain things a reader (or viewer, for movies and television) expects in Act 1. There are things readers and viewers will absolutely not accept in act three. And there are ways a story transitions from one Act to another that make the story more satisfying.

I’ve posted this before on previous incarnations of this or other blogs. I will do it again because I truly believe this is one of the crucial — and amazingly simple — ingredients to stories. I apologise in advance if learning about this ruins stories for you henceforth. You will recognise the end of the first Act and the move into the meat of the second Act. You will see the midpoint turn and feel the all-is-lost moment at the end of Act Two.

But that shouldn’t kill your enjoyment. It adds a layer of entertainment to good books and movies.

If you’re a writer and learning this for the first time, welcome. And recognise that once you know this, you can “forget” it. It will be the scaffolding upon which you hang your story. The real creativity comes in the bits between the plot points.

If you’re of the crowd who firmly believes that acknowledging such a structure exists and that following it will produce cookie-cutter, unimaginative and limp stories, I can only point you to “Witness”, “Breaking Bad” and “The Edge of Tomorrow”, all excellent, inventive and all following this structure. Pretty much every successful novel and movie over the past half dozen decades follow this three-act structure.

A high-level view first, then as the weeks progress, a post for each of the important bits.

As mentioned above, a story is divided into three Acts.

Acts are separated by the First Plot Point (between Acts 1 and 2) and the Second Plot Point (between Acts 2 and 3).

A note on terminology. Some call the first plot point the “inciting incident”, and that’s fine — this isn’t calculus — but for clarity going forward, I don’t.

The Inciting Incident in this model (not my model — it’s been around long before I started writing) occurs in the first 10% to 15% of the story. It’s the thing / event / whatever that triggers what will eventually be the first plot point at the end of Act 1. Like if a box of dynamite explodes to trigger the end of Act 1 and the start of Act 2, the inciting incident is lighting the fuse. Or, in one of my books — G’Day LA — the inciting incident is our protagonist Ellie Bourke discovering her friend and roommate has died, which convinces her to abandon her fledgling acting career and return to Australia. The First Plot Point is Ellie’s realisation that it wasn’t suicide, as the police believe, but a murder. She then abandons her return home to find the killer.

Can’t forget the Hook. Earlier in the story, the better. If you can hook the reader/viewer in the first page/scene, so much better.

In my current WIP, the opening pages have Dan McGinnis, owner of McGinnis Investigations, arriving at the office one Monday morning to find his surveillance expert passed out in a pool of blood in the office kitchen. This drives the rest of the story.

In Act 1, the status quo is defined. What are the protagonist and antagonist doing in their daily lives? What elements of their lives would be put most at risk by taking up whatever the First Plot Point brings them? If at all possible, any characters involved in the Act 3 resolution (which we will get to) should be mentioned, even if in passing, in Act 1.

Now, remember that Act 2 represents the protagonist stepping into what is the meat of the story. The First Plot Point pushes the protagonist out of their status quo into “the story”. You can’t just have the main character say, “okay, let’s go do this,” and expect your reader / viewer to merrily go along for the ride. There should be resistance in Act 1. Resistance to taking that step. Something should hold the protag from launching into the story. So you need something at the end of Act 1 that triggers this launch.

This “something” is the First Plot Point. In G’Day LA, it was the fact that her roommate had booked a career-changing gig, something he’d been dreaming of for years, for the afternoon of his apparent suicide. She then knew she had to do something about it.

Act 2 is generally split into two halves. It takes up roughly 50% of the story pages / viewing time, and this is where the meat of the story unfolds. Obviously, there needs to be an arc through this. The protagonist needs to work through real and fake clues in crime fiction. In romance, the couple must learn about each other, faults and all. I will focus on crime fiction because that’s what I write, but the principles are non-genre specific.

The first half of Act 2 should be an envelope of fog. Get the obvious solutions to the problem out of the way first. Why don’t they go to the cops? The cops have already made up their minds. How are you sure it wasn’t a suicide? The victim’s agent had confirmed attendance on the show just before the alleged suicide.

In the middle of this first half of Act 2, throw in a scene to demonstrate the abject evil of the antagonist. It’s not necessary for the protagonist to know of this evil at this time, it’s enough to show the reader. This is called the First Pinch Point.

But if the protagonist sees it also, so much the better.

Once the obvious has been put to bed, the MC starts down a path that seems like the right thing to do. Maybe based on misinterpreted facts, maybe based on fake facts. But they are invested in their path until


they stumble across the “this changes everything” Midpoint. This keeps Act 2 alive. It’s a long Act. A full hour in a two-hour movie. Two hundred pages in a standard novel. The midpoint twist needs to be a logical extension of what has already been explored (and possibly mistakenly discarded). No out-of-the-blue surprises. What it does for your story is restart the investigation. Old clues can be revisited with a different eye. New clues can be brought to light. It’s a whole new story. Sort of.

Much more progress is made, and about halfway through the second half of Act 2, mirroring the First Pinch Point is the Second Pinch Point. It provides a similar purpose as the first but can also be used to show the depths the protagonist will go to defeat the baddie. Embrace it.

It’s not all easy, though. The end of Act 2 plays best when the protagonist is at their lowest, seemingly defeated with nowhere to go. The All is lost moment. This is when the final piece of information gives the hero the path to victory. This final piece of information is The Second Plot Point. And what follows is:

Act 3. This starts with the battle of all battles. Two women enter, and one leaves kind of battle. The kind of battle that, at the end, with the protagonist victorious, seems like it’s over. But there’s one final twist. The “it’s still alive” moment. One final nail left for the coffin. It is a hard slog to the finish with as many relevant obstacles as possible.

When it’s time for the happy ever after (if you’re going that way), it works really well if your final scene mirrors your opening scene as much as possible.

And you’re finished.

Some admonitions:

  • Your hero needs to be a hero. Don’t have them rescued unless that rescue is 100% driven by something the hero has already provided.
  • Don’t add characters, skills, weapons, or anything in Act 3 that drives the conclusion. I read a book recently where the main character threw a fastball with unerring accuracy at a bad guy, hitting him in the head and knocking him out just before he attacked. The fact that he played baseball in college wasn’t revealed until AFTER that throw. That’s cheating. Introduce the baseball career in casual conversation in Act 1.
  • Make sure your transition scenes flow smoothly with scenes that lead up to and out of them. The First Plot Point can’t drop from the sky any more than expertise in baseball can.
  • No fucking cliffhangers. Finish the story. Resolve all threads introduced in the first two Acts. If you want to set up a sequel, fine, but finish the story you started.

If you have any comments, questions, or disagreements, please let me know below.