Friday, March 25, 2016

Guest Post by Carole Buggé: Dateline Woodstock and Scotland

While preparing for seven weeks in Europe, I’ve invited the versatile and talented Carole Buggé (C. E. Lawrence) to entertain you with one of her lively travel stories. Carole has nine published novels, six novellas, and a dozen or so short stories and poems. Many of her works appear in translation. Winner of both the Euphoria Poetry Competition and the Eve of St. Agnes Poetry Award, she is a two time Pushcart Poetry Prize nominee and First Prize winner of the Maxim Mazumdar Playwriting Competition, the Chronogram Literary Fiction Prize, Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Award, and the Jean Paiva Memorial Fiction Award. She was a finalist in the McClaren, MSU, and Henrico Playwriting Competitions, and nominated for a New York Innovative Theatre Award. Her plays and musicals have been widely presented in New York City and internationally.

BOOK BLOG: Lee Campbell “Silent” Thriller Series
Hi Everyone!
The experience of writing this series about serial killers was interesting, because I wrote most of it in a secluded cabin in the woods of Ulster County.  My “security” consisted of a feeble hook and eye lock that a five year old could pry off with a screwdriver.  My Home Protection System was a fat, indolent tabby who was more interested in chasing chipmunks and coming home smelling of skunk than warning me of intruders.
My beloved cabin is part of Byrdcliffe Art Colony in the Catskill Mountains, where I slaved over a hot manuscript for several summers, researching by day and writing by candlelight.  I put in requests to the Woodstock Library for every book they had on serial killers, forensics, and other sordid topics.  The first book was written during the Bush administration, so I’m surprised they didn’t flag my library card – I kept expecting a Lincoln town car to pull into my driveway with two Men in Black wearing Ray Bans and ear pieces.  I imagined being whisked away by the FBI or the NSA to languish in an Egyptian prison, where I would finally give up the names of my “handlers” – Pia and her colleagues at the Woodstock Library, where they don’t charge late fees, because, according to Pia, “We tried it once, but it was too much trouble.”

Such is the spirit of Ulster County at its best, and such were my summers, where recreation was playing an old upright piano (formerly owned by The Band), in between death matches of killer ping pong in the barn with fellow writers.  The closest I came one summer to real danger was the hike I took in the Catskills with Byrdcliffe colleague Alexandra Anderson and painter friend Lucy Nurkse.  We entered the woods at about ten in the morning, thinking we’d be out by tea time.  Our Three Hour Tour turned into a Death March that had us staggering out around sunset, covered with mosquito bites and poison ivy, down to our last bottle Evian.  I’m not sure which of us was Ginger and which was Marianne, but I’m pretty sure I was Gilligan.  We’re still not sure why our copious maps led us astray, but I learned something that day:
The woods takes no prisoners.
So I came back to my cabin, settled in with a bottle of ibuprofen and a cup of coffee from Monkey Joe in Kingston, and worked on my manuscript.  I had a first draft by the end of the second summer there, and the rest, as they say, is silence – as in Silent Screams.

I wrote the sequel at Hawthornden Castle, an international retreat for writers in Scotland where I was a Writing Fellow (I love saying that).  The castle is a medieval structure which provided shelter to William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, and Bonnie Prince Charlie, during their rebellions against the British crown.  I hiked through the glens to Wallace’s Cave, where he allegedly camped while in hiding from the English.  The castle was later owned by poet Lord William Drummond, and now is a retreat for writers owned by the heir to the Heinz corporation.  So every packet of ketchup sold by McDonalds helps support working writers.

In Scotland, I learned to eat haggis (notice I didn’t say “liked”), took long hot baths in a tub the size of the East River, and was taken very good care of by the wonderful Scottish staff.  They kept tea out for us at all times, which was good, since the Scots apparently don’t believe in central heating – Scotland in January will freeze your tatties off.
Words can hardly do justice to a landscape that, even in January, brought tears to my eyes daily.  The glens are as romantic and craggy as I had hoped they would be, and the Scottish people were as friendly as their landscape was rugged.  My fellow writers included two wonderful British poets and a lovely Russian writer who spoke no English.  We communicated through a computer translator program, which was rather like being on a bad episode of Star Trek.
Ah, Scotland!  Ah, Ulster!  I long to return to you soon . . .

Visit C. E. Lawrence’s website:
And dont miss her Rafflecopter drawing!

Friday, March 4, 2016

I SPY at Left Coast Crime, Phoenix

At the Left Coast Crime conference in Phoenix last week, I was assigned to appear on the “I Spy” panel with authors Art Kerns, Jeff Layton, Ryan Quinn, and moderator Annette Rogers. I’m a devout reader of espionage novels and have written a few…which got me thinking about the genre and what it’s really about. Spy fiction fascinates us because it deals with timeless themes of love, power, revenge, greed, ego, sacrifice, both the idealistic and dark sides of our nature. It’s about our world, the secrets and lies, conspiracies and plots that take place behind the scenes and impact us all.

As practiced by Kipling, Joseph Conrad, Graham Green, John Le Carré, and Alan Furst, the genre was traditionally about great power rivalry. The end of the Cold War cracked open the former spy v spy plot line with the emergence of rogue states, international criminal organizations, global terrorist networks—as in The Riviera Contract, by panel-mate Art Kerns—and technological sabotage and espionage, a theme of Ryan Quinn’s End of Secrets, about a rogue domestic spying program. Even former ideological enemies may find themselves on the same side as in Jeff Layton’s The Good Spy.

 My novel, Stinger, is an end of the Cold War spy thriller set during the Soviet-Afghan War in the mid 1980s. The action opens with the disappearance of six U.S. Stinger missiles that have secretly found their way to Peshawar.

How did I become interested in this genre? I started traveling at a young age, and the places I had read about or even truthfully never thought about became real. Their peoples became real. I will never forget Mohammed the waiter in Gilgit, in Pakistan’s far north, who took us to his home where he introduced us to his wife and daughters and served us tea under a picture of Ayatollah Khomeini, and yet he was not our enemy. We are all humans after all. I think about him as a minority Shiite in Pakistan. What has happened to him under Taliban control?

So I started reading the newspaper differently. And stories started to emerge, conflicts, characters. An article about a collegial meeting of former spies in SF led directly to Stinger.

I’m interested in the cusps of history and how the intrigue and conflicts affect my characters, e.g., a Hollywood actress and Cambridge-educated Maharaja at the end of the British Raj in India (my not yet published novel, The Star of India); an American businesswoman and Russian music conductor during the desperate last days of the Cold War in Russia (another new novel, A Conspiracy of Lies). And in Stinger, the last battleground of the Cold War, the conflict of a rogue CIA officer and SF journalist, each with secret agendas.

I’m interested in borderlands and often there’s a place on a map that calls to me. For Stinger, it was the Khyber Pass and cross-border tribal lands of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Mekong region of SE Asia was the focus of Into the Fire, my latest book. After her adopted Chinese daughter is kidnapped, a woman reunites with her former case officer to mount a desperate search that takes them up the Mekong into southern China. 

At the conference, I met author Chris Holm. His tattoo has become my motto.