January 6

Choices – The Road or the Gardens?

… “Shall we get going then?” David asked impatiently.

Pierre did not respond. He took his time to scrutinize the faces now mingling beneath the canopies nearby. Nothing was unusual, except for a mixed-aged couple at the café opposite—a gray-haired man romantically entwined with a younger lady wearing a dark beret.

“Dirty old man,” Pierre thought, before turning back to David.
“With such an important meeting, we can’t take any chances. Let’s split up and meet at the hotel. It is only a short walk and we can take the taxi together when we arrive.”

“Great,” David replied, “but where shall I meet you at the hotel?”

“Wait for me in the main floor gallery—the Royal Lounge. You will not miss it. The huge circular room once hosted a fabulous ballroom. It’s often used for spectacular events and what could be more spectacular than the one we are meeting for?”

He laughed aloud before continuing. “Look for Marie Leszczynska—the painting of the red lady. She became a famous consort in France and married Louis XV.”

David was fascinated. “How did you say her name?”

Pierre spoke slowly. “Les-chenz-ka! Now, you take the back route. I will wander along the promenade.”

He pointed across from the café. “Follow the Rue Massena. It joins on to Rue de France. Turn left when you go past the gardens at Le Musée Masséna or, if the museum is open, you can walk through the gardens …

Life is about choices and David has the choice between taking the road or going through the leafy gardens of Le Musée Masséna (pictured here). I wonder which he will choose and will it matter?


January 4

The Plot Thickens for 3 WISE MEN

The two main ideas for the plot in 3 WISE MEN were swirling in my imagination for several months before writing began. These ideas were a springboard for a novel but, alone, were not enough – I needed substance for the scaffolding; substance that built characters, locations that fitted the themes, and carefully timed dramatic events. Without its plot, 3 WISE MEN would not have begun; with it, the subsequent twists and turns fell into place! A plot is like an hypothesis in a scientific experiment – it only gets you started.

Conclusion? “A good plot is a good start, but a good novel thickens it!”

January 3

Who wrote this fake news?

“… His head slumped to read the unfolded note in his hand.

“I would recognize my wife’s handwriting anywhere. Who wrote this lie?”

He crushed the paper as the truth exploded on him.
“Someone has set me up! Who? Did they follow me?” …”

In the opening paragraphs of 3 WISE MEN, Jak is confounded and can’t figure out whether he was being set up. This dilemma – in a foreign country and on the run – reminded me a little of Rodin’s statue – ‘The Thinker’.

Jak – like The Thinker – is deep in thought as he tries desperately to solve the puzzle and resolve his predicament. Everything around him is a swirling mess and he has to get to his meeting as quickly as possible. What a great way to start a thriller?

January 2

3 WISE MEN Tops 1000!

“It’s one small step for a writer …” Thanks for supporting 3 WISE MEN – the blog has now topped 1000 views, although I must confess that many are mine! The most frequent visits were from (in order): NZ, USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and Romania. Again, thanks for visiting this discussion area for 3 WISE MEN. Your feedback is highly valued too!

January 2

Opening Scene in 3 WISE MEN

“A few passengers glanced at Jak’s tortured expression before he slinked low into seat 21, anxious for the train doors to close. They gathered speed out of Antibes and he wiped away perspiration, taking care to avoid the purple-red wound over his right eye. With a shaking hand he sipped water and shaded the outside glare to search a vignette of fleeting images—a crowded car park blurring into splotches of grass and graffiti, and the rustic bastions of Fort Carré towering proudly above the headland.
“What happened to my wife?” he wondered.
The train swayed parallel to the coast, its rhythmical ‘cli-clack’, ‘cli-clack’ keeping beat with his thumping heart. On the horizon, the sun’s rays gathered into a fiery orb that sank abruptly into the tranquil Mediterranean.
He watched spellbound.
Streaks of tangerine flamed across the bay, and the numbing fear that had stalked him all day subsided. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and dozed—until a woman’s voice startled him.” (Extract from Chapter 1, 3 WISE MEN)

Why does 3 WISE MEN begin with Jak, the protagonist, on a train journey? It is somewhat ironic that this is how my writing began – on a train trip along the same coast (although mine was in the morning and Jak’s was later in the day). The concept for 3 WISE MEN began some two years earlier and I had planned to write the draft manuscript before visiting the south of France. However, I was not inspired to write until me train left Nice. So, what better way to start the novel than with a similar train trip – one that also gives a sense of going somewhere; a sense of intrigue as the story unfolds. Read more in 3 WISE MEN!

January 1

Could it be The Vatican?

“Who do you represent?” I asked him.
“That was a good question, Pierre. Did you find out?”
“He said it did not concern me. I asked him if it was the church.”

David was even more curious, “And?”

“The priest said I should ask no more questions, but that he represented sovereign monarchy—one who had absolute power. Well, it got me thinking. Who has that kind of unfettered control?”

David looked puzzled and asked,  “Who, indeed?”

“Yes, an absolute power who would not give up their secrets or allow anyone to steal or copy them. I wondered if he meant the Vatican, but was too scared to ask. Who else could it be? Then he told me to stop all my research in Florence. His exact words were, ‘Halt all investigations if you value your life.’”

The extract above is from 3 WISE MEN and suggests that other groups are also after Jak’s secret formula. But, who are these religious zealots? Does the priest indeed represent The Vatican – a state that has absolute power and doesn’t want it to be lost to meddling researchers like Jak and his friends? Read 3 WISE MEN to read more about this mysterious and unexpected meeting.

December 31

And those other names?

3 WISE MEN features real locations, real cafes, and real hotels , etc. in order to give authenticity to the novel. The plot is also plausible and based on a genuine ancient document.

The sense of place – places that reader have heard about or visited – was essential for me as a writer. In fact, one idea for the story was dropped – simply because it was a far-fetched possibility that our protagonist would be able to circumvent the security in place. I had checked it out carefully and realized that there was a slim chance of getting past the guards, but this was highly unlikely.

I hope the exotic locations and real places give 3 WISE MEN that touch of reality that I was looking for. Even the airline and train schedules needed to be correct. Some research took a while!

Finally, I was grateful to Galimard in Grasse for allowing me the rights to use their company name in 3 WISE MEN.

December 29

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name – a character’s name, that is? In 3 WISE MEN the protagonist, Jak Daniels, was a very simple name to think up – a name, like the author’s, that causes confusion and mistaken identity. Jak meets a woman on the train – and her name is Sasha. In the early draft she had a different name – an older name, and one less fitted to her young looks and outgoing personality. ‘Sasha’ fitted her persona better and it was a name that worked well alongside ‘Jak’. But I wanted to mention another name used in 3 WISE MEN – Ambrose. His name was, in the first instance, ‘Ambroise’. One reader commented that he found it difficult to say ‘Ambroise’ correctly. Therefore, I reverted to the simpler spelling – ‘ Ambrose’. Again, this small revision made the text much easier to read. Finally, and one that I struggled with, was the name of Jak’s dog. I laugh thinking about it, because the first manuscript had a glaring error – I had given Jak’s dog three different names! Yes, names in a novel are important and need to provide – for a thriller at least- a measure of contrast and good (or bad) character-fit. The names of our 3 daughters also appear in the book, which was a nice touch to honor them. Another name – Andrea – was used (with permission) following a very special tour around Milan by someone of the same name. It took quite a while to come up with names that matched, but I do hope you find the names used in 3 WISE MEN appealing.

December 29

How Many Words Should a Thriller Have?

This is a very common question and one that I have looked at many times. 3 WISE MEN was originally around 68,000 words when I thought I had finished it. I say “thought” because this was the word count when I told my wife (and friends we were staying with) that “I had finished the novel.” What I should have told them was that I had finished the plot. When I advertised this fact, my writer friends informed me that the long period of editing would follow and that completing the draft was the “easy part.” They were correct, but it was still a real joy to have the draft done. Several months and many re-writes later, 3 WISE MEN was up to a word count of around 86,000. On close inspection, I discovered that there were too many adverbs and overuse of adjectives, etc. A culling of unnecessary words and phrases dropped the total work count to about 78,000 words. This period of review gave me time to clean up many sections of the book, split long chapters, etc. and generally improve the writing in sections that did not “flow” as well as I had thought. 3 WISE MEN seemed much tighter and better-paced as a novel at this stage and I was pleased to get it published. Then, helpful feedback from close friends gave me pause – especially from one who enjoyed more detail to help build up the tension of thrillers. With this advice in mind, I reviewed several parts of 3 WISE MEN and discovered that just over 80,000 words allowed better “breathing space” in the novel. This helped in describing characters and drama. I was still quite happy with my description of places, but broke up longer chapters where it seemed natural to do so. Finally, with the 2nd edition of 3 WISE MEN, I can now say that the novel is more complete! So, how long should a thriller be? It depends how long it takes to build characters, describe locations, create tension, and tell the story. But, at close to 80,000 words, the book seemed, for me, to be the right length. I just hope that you, the reader, agrees. If not, please let me know!