Guest Blog: The Psychology of a Serial Killer

I’m honored to be a guest blogger at the Writer’s Forensics Blog.  Jonathan Maberry and I discuss the psychology of a serial killer with comments from many of the experts we interviewed for  WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE. Check it out at here.

Good Vs Evil — The Ultimate Showdown

For WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE, we interviewed tons of experts aboutthe struggle of good vs evil in film, comics, pop culture, world myth, literature, and the real world. Here’s what some of them have to say about their favorite good vs. evil filmor book.

ROBERT GREGORY BROWNE:  On a flat out, visceral level, my favorite good vs. evil film has to be THE EXORCIST. Here good and evil are defined as the ultimate good versus the ultimate evil—or the ultimate serial killer, if you will—and we have many flawed characters at the center, battling their own weakness to overcome the kind of evil no human being should ever be faced with. And, in the end, the hero—a deeply flawed human being—makes the ultimate (there’s that word again) sacrifice and, in the process, rediscovers his lost faith.

JT ELLISON: I loved SILENCE OF THE LAMBS because of the acting. I AM LEGEND completely freaked me out – I have the Matheson book here and haven’t gotten the courage to read it because the movie so eloquently captured the fear I would feel if I were in the same situation. (I know some major liberties were taken with that film.) But in both of these movies, the evil was manipulative, purposeful, and ultimately scarred the protagonist. Which I think is it’s main purpose in the fictional realm. That said, I tend to shy away from scary movies. I spook too easily.

RICHARD MYLES: I thought THE OMEN was a masterfully written piece of cinema due to its’ biblical tenets and credibility. It was the type of film that made me think and question the coming of the Beast. I felt that this movie real in many profound ways, as though the forces around us found a host (through the movie) to promulgate the message to the world. Whenever I watch a movie that is real and credible, it affects me to the point of dominating my thoughts. When this happens, I know the movie represents something more than just cinema. This is what THE OMEN did for me. I started to ask myself what forces are responsible for depraved human behavior to cause such adversity in this world? Many people have a direct and/or indirect connection to a divine entity whether it is good or evil. Some folk believe that evil is ubiquitous, while others believe the polar opposite. THE OMEN represented the infinite clash between good and evil, in essence, the one who stands on higher grounds is the one who reap and reign the earth. The score was equally brilliant because it told you how to feel. I am a music composer myself, and have a strong interest in Gregorian chant, and the score in THE OMEN had a very spiritual and dark ambient flavor that will never grow old. It also influenced my music compositions to the level of adding Gregorian chant to most of my sound tracks.

JERRY ALAN JOHNSON: CONSTANTINE.  I like the plot, acting, and the action.

AMBER BENSON:  Definitely the work that I did with Chris Golden on The Ghosts of Albion books embodies a very thematic battle between good and evil. We have characters (ghosts and demons) that wholly represent both ends of the good/evil spectrum and then we temper them with our flawed human protagonists.

DR. WILSON YOUNG: I actually had several favorite good vs evil horror film however the most nostalgic would be the acclaimed film based on the true story of NANG NAK from Thailand. There is even a shrine dedicated to her in Bangkok which is supposed to be her burial place. In the end her soul was appeased by a monk (good vs evil) to remind her that life is impermanent, she shouldn’t be attached to mundane affairs. The ending strives to elicit several emotions i.e. sadness (regret that she can’t be with his beloved spouse), joy and happiness (triumph of good) she’s finally resting peacefully.

MONIQUE GATA DUPREE: I think you can find [good vs evil] in almost any film no matter how subtle or overt. One of my films in particular called SPIRIT is a film about darkness and light.

MELISSA BACELAR: When it comes to the Good vs Evil the fiction stuff doesn’t get me. I mean I like it and enjoy watching it. But the true Good vs Evil. Watch documentaries on Puppy Mills, Training Circus Animals, Hunting Wild Animals that are tame! The Fur Trade. That is EVIL. The people who buy the puppies and the Fur Coats and the products tested in labs! That is what scares me. Horror movies are for fun. The things real human beings do in real life…That is truly the evil we need to overcome. I think Good will win. Humans just need to stop making excuses for the evil they do.

ROBERT BRANCATELLI: I’m not sure about favorite films, but I can tell you that I do not really like STAR WARS or THE MATRIX beyond their special effects. For me, they are too simplistic in their rendering of good and evil, as if it were all black and white. That is precisely what the Church tries to recognize: that evil is not so obvious and good not so easy. In other words, the Church is concerned with forming disciples who are mature and adult in their faith, capable of accepting ambiguity and paradox in their lives. Is there a film that expresses this?  Honestly, I don’t know. If I think of one, I’ll let you know.

SCOTT NEUMYER: My list could go on for days and days, but some of the most significant and influential in my life include THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, THE EXORCIST, THE MONSTER SQUAD, SUSPIRIA. Even many of the Whedonverse projects (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, ANGEL, etc.) have had an enormous impact on me as a viewer, critic, and marketer. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, in particular, has been a great influence in my passion and interest in film, fiction, and criticism. So much so that I actually have three Hannibal Lecter related tattoos.

My favorite good vs. evil film is also my favorite film of all time: THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Sweeping the Academy Awards was no fluke for one of the greatest horror films of all time. There’s just so much to chew on here; Lecter, Starling, Buffalo Bill, Crawford, Chilton… The list goes on and on. I’ve seen the film too many times to count and, yet, there’s always something new I find on every viewing. For me, at least, the lambs will never stop screaming

In the end, though, isn’t just about every film about the theme of good vs. evil? When you really break film and fiction down to the bare bones, you can always come back with some form of conflict between good and evil, which is probably what makes all types of stories (and particularly horror stories) so compelling.

Meet the Experts:

Robert Gregory Browne is an AMPAS Nicholl Award-winning screenwriter and novelist, the author of four thrillers with a supernatural twist published in the US, UK, Germany, Russia, Bulgaria and Denmark. He’s a member of MWA, ITW, RWA and is a regular columnist for the Anthony Award nominated writer’s blog, Murderati. His latest book, DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN, was published in July of 2010. He’s currently at work on his next novel.

JT Ellison is the bestselling author of the Taylor Jackson thriller series, including THE COLD ROOM and the forthcoming thriller THE IMMORTALS (9/2010). She is a former White House staffer who moved to Nashville and began research on a passion: forensics and crime. She worked extensively with the Metro Nashville Police, the FBI and various other law enforcement organizations to research her novels.

Richard Myles is Co-Executive Producer for Viper Productions, LLC , Mental Scars, LLC, and Viper Productions’ DEADZONE Magazine. His classic horror film Mental Scars was released in 2009.

Professor Jerry Alan Johnson, Ph.D., D.T.C.M. is a grandmaster in several schools of Chinese Martial Arts, Medicine, and Daoist Magic, having studied and taught for over 35 years. He is trained in esoteric alchemy and mysticism from both the Shang Qing (Mao Shan) and Tian Shi (Lung Hu Shan) Daoist sects, and is ordained as a senior priest in Zheng Yi Daoism.

Amber Benson played ‘Tara’ on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and is the author of Death’s Daughter and Cat’s Claw (Ace Books).

Dr. Wilson Young is a recognized expert in the field of taoist mysticism, feng shui, paranormal researcher, and Chinese astrology. He is the founder of

Monique Gata DuPree is a scream queen and star of SHADOWHUNTERS 2: ORIA and BACHELOR PARTY IN THE BUNGALOW OF THE DAMNED.

Melissa Bacelar is an actress, model, producer and animal activist.  You can see her pictorials and film credits at

Robert Brancatelli, Ph.D. is as a visiting professor in the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham University in the Bronx. He taught in the Graduate School of Education, Counseling Psychology, and Pastoral Ministry at Santa Clara University from 1998-2008 and is an adjunct professor at The Catholic University of America. He has written on Hispanic popular religiosity and the psychotherapeutic basis of catechesis. Currently, he is working on a book about marriage and relationships and a trilogy of novels entitled The Gringo, Laura, and Mia.

Scott Neumyer is a writer, photographer, and self-confessed pop culture geek with experience in online marketing and publicity and as a media buyer for a major national film distributor. You can check out more of Scott’s work here and here.

For more on the struggle between good vs. evil, check out WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE by New York Times best-selling and multiple Bram Stoker award winning author Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman. It includes interviews with folks like Stan Lee, Mike Mignola, Jason Aaron, Fred Van Lente, Peter Straub, Charlaine Harris and many more; and the book is fully illustrated by top horror, comics & fantasy artists


Here’s what PUBLISHERS WEEKLY has to say about WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE by Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman

Wanted Undead or Alive: Vampire Hunters and Other Kick-Ass Enemies of Evil

Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman, Citadel, $16.95 paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-8065-2821-2

Maberry (Marvel Zombies Return) and thriller writer Bashman’s closeup look at the inevitable battle between good and evil spans decades upon decades of rich monster history, beginning with the definition of evil itself. Illustrations and interviews with top publishing, film, and comic industry names, such as Stan Lee, Jason Aaron, John Carpenter, add depth and intellect to a gripping and informative work. Lists of top villains and horror genre movies serve as appendixes and added entertainment value. Encyclopedic chapter insets offer bits and pieces of information and history on subjects ranging from the “Necronomicon” (the Lovecraftian “ancient and evil book of sorcery”) to ghosts and the definition of fear: “In modern speech the word ‘fear’ refers to emotions; but in Old English ‘faer’ refers to the specific ‘peril or danger’ and not the emotional reaction.” With its presentation of the story of evil through straight history, factual tidbits, and pop culture, this book is the horror genre fan’s best friend. No stone is left unturned in Maberry and Bashman’s fantastic and inventive approach to the world’s oldest war.

8 pages of color and 40 b&w images.

In bookstores everywhere August 31

ThrillerFest V – 2010

ThrillerFest V has come to a close following a few great days of workshops, panels and socializing. I had a fantastic time and will be heading back next year for my third ThrillerFest.

Here’s some links to articles about the event. I’ll be sure to post pictures soon.

Over at Publishers Weekly Barbara Vey has these posts:

Thrillerfest: Ken Follett Thrillmaster

Thrillerfest: Lots of Advice

Craftfest Kicks Things Off

Speed Dating with Agents

NPR has this piece titled How To Write A Page-Turner: Tips From ThrillerFest

Media Bistro shares what Gayle Lynds had to say about never making fun of your villains reports from a panel where Lorenzo Carcaterra chose the 10 best thriller films made from books, the 10 worst, and the 10 he most wants to see get made in this article titled Thriller Books-To-Films: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.

Meg Gardiner answered the questions we were all dying to ask about ThrillerFest here

Media Bistro shared Lisa Gardner’s advice in Befriend Your Local Law Enforcement: Thrillerfest Dispatch.

Spencer Seidel shares his thoughts about the highlights of Thrillerfest here

Over at KOSU News you can find a piece on How To Write A Page-Turner: Tips From ThrillerFest

Writer’s Digest editor Jessica Strawser shares R.L. Stine’s Secrets to Success in YA

Rebecca York shares her love of Thrillerfest and what Ken Follett and Harlan Coben had to teach her here

Jason Pinter talks about Thrillerfest: The Pillars of the Publishing Industry   at the Huffington Post

William Dietrich discusses Thrillerfest and the 100 Thrillers You Must Reads.

Over at the Variance Publishing blog is Back From Thrillerfest V…What a Ride!

And Gregory Fisher gives us a rundown on The 2010 ITW Thriller Award Winners

If you have additional posts to add feel free to leave them in the comments section.

Crime writer Dennis Tafoya

I’m a guest interviewer over at Sirens of Suspense where I talk crime writing with author Dennis Tafoya. Dennis’ latest book, The Wolves of Fairmount Park received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

Hope you enjoy the profile and quickies.


Five Myths and Truths About Publishing

Neil S. Nyren, Senior Vice President, Publisher and Editor in Chief of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, gave a wonderful keynote speech at the Backspace Conference where I had the pleasure of speaking a few weeks ago. With a smile on his face, he said, “publishing is a business model. Basically it sucks.” I must admit I love this quote, especially coming from a guy who works with Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, Patricia Cornwell, Jack Higgins, W.E.B. Griffin, John Sandford, Daniel Silva, Dave Barry, and others. But what you’ll quickly come to learn about Nyren, if you ever have a chance to listen to or chat with him as I did, is that he’s passionate about books, publishing, and his role in the industry. It comes across in everything he says, and there’s no doubt he loves what he does.

Here’s five of Nyren’s comments about the publishing industry:

1. Today we have the closest thing possible to universal access to books. More books are brought to more people in more ways than in the history of our nation.

2. Reading is not about the product. We are hard-wired to focus on story.

3. Last year 400 million books were sold, and it’s estimated there are about 250 new books published every working day.

4. There are two things that sell books, assuming you have a good book:  word of mouth and co-op (what the publishers pay to put the books on in front of the readers’ faces through store displays, emails from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.).

5. If the fiction is fresh and fully-realized and says something that people want to read and listen to, that book will get published.

What are your thoughts on Nyren’s comments? Do you agree or disagree? Have any comments to add on the subject?

Five Things You Can Do To Get Your Books Into Stores

While presenting at the Backspace conference, I had the pleasure of watching a number of other panels and presentations. One panel, “Buying and Selling: From Publisher to Bookstore,” consisted of publicist Dana Kaye Litoff, Agent Colleen Lindsay, Random House Book Rep Ron Koltnow, and Bookseller Dustin Kutz. Author A.S. King moderated the panel.

 Here’s five things these fine folks had to say about how to get your books into stores:

1. Find out who your local book rep is from your publishing house and introduce yourself to him or her. — Ron Koltnow

2. Trust booksellers to know where to place your books. Introduce yourself to them and make yourself known. — Dana Kaye Litoff

3. A lot of buying is reactive (to publicity, reviews, etc.) not proactive. Find stores where you have a connection to the people who shop there and ask the booksellers to stock your book once you make that connection known to them. — Ron Koltnow

4. Authors should tour their publishing house and meet the editors, publicists, etc. Putting a face to a name makes a big difference. — Dana Kaye Litoff

5. Say thank you via e-mail to your publicist, editor, bookseller, and everyone else who helped in the making of your book. —  Colleen  Lindsay

What ideas do you have about getting your books out there to the public? Have you done anything interesting to get your book known? What great advice have you heard at a conference or from another writer, editor, agent, publicist, or bookseller?

What’s Hot and What’s Not — Buzz From BEA

At this month’s writers coffeehouse Jonathan Maberry and other writers discussed the buzz making the rounds at BEA (BookExpo America) . Here’s what’s hot and what’s not in the book publishing industry:

Jonathan Maberry1. Paranormal Thrillers for Middle Grade Boys—wide open and red hot.

2. Vampire Novels for Teenage Girls—starting to reach critical mass but will continue to be published for years.

3. Children’s Picture Books—for the first time in six years, we’re starting to see some life being breathed into the market for new authors.

4. Chapter Books—selling again, particularly those with a historical slant.

5. Middle Grade Books—industry is looking for them, particularly those with a mythological slant.Writer's Coffeehouse

6. Ghosts—not so hot right now.

7. Westerns—the popularity of Steampunk is bringing back the Western.

It’s important to note that although the word on the street may be that a genre is dying, it can regenerate overnight if someone comes out with a book in that genre that is hot and the book takes off.

So what do you think is hot, or not? Do you have any buzz to add from BEA? Any buzz to add from other conferences, meetings, or encounters with those in publishing industry? I’d love to hear your comments.

Five Things Television Teaches Writers

Writing LifeWe’ve all watched television—dramas, police procedurals, reality shows, newscasts. Although television is a different medium than writing, it provides an abundance of advice wrapped inside the programming that’s relevant to today’s writers.

1. Jump Right In—Television shows start smack in the middle of the action to grab and hold our attention from the get-go. This method discourages the viewer from flipping the channel to find something more interesting. Once we’re hooked, backstory is revealed. Tune in to any drama or even the news and you’ll see this method in action. Today’s readers expect the same from their books. They want to be hooked after reading that first paragraph, the first page, the first chapter. They want a book so exciting that they can’t put it down, a story that captivates their hearts and souls and fires up their imaginations. They want a story that pulls them into a new world and threatens to hold them there until the very last word. It’s up to writers to hook the readers, to keep them interested enough to keep reading. And it all begins with the first scene. Make it exciting. Start with action. Right in the middle of it. Grab the readers’ attention and make them want more.

2.  Keep Them Hooked—What keeps us hooked to television shows when the distractions of home, family, friends, work, the internet, etc. threaten to pull them away?  It’s simple really. Good storytelling. But it goes beyond that. Just because it’s good doesn’t mean viewers will stay tuned, especially once a commercial comes on. Television shows tease us when going into a commercial or ending the show. They leave us hooked with an unfinished question or scene that makes the viewer want to know more and makes us wonder what will happen to the characters in the future. This process is a deliberate effort to keep us watching the shows. And it works. For writers, it’s important to begin and end a scene with a hook. It can be an unfinished question, a line of dialogue, or a bit of action—anything that grabs the reader’s attention and make the reader wonder what comes next. The hook compels the reader to turn the page and read more. As readers, we’ve all experienced that book that keeps us up well into the night when we have to get up early the next day. What keeps us reading each page, each chapter, when we know we should really go sleep? It’s simply a good story combined with great hooks.

3. A Break From Writing Is Not a Waste Of Time—We’ve all seen the television character who can’t solve a problem but who is then hit with a great idea while fiddling with the remote, hanging out with friends, playing basketball, or cooking. Some of the best ideas come to us when they’re least expected. Some writers believe that writing is the only way to find new ideas or resolve problems, but sometimes taking a step back from the process yields wonderful results.

Brainstorming4.  It’s Not Always Best To Brainstorm Alone—Ideas don’t occur in a vacuum. Television cops don’t work alone, the women on ARMY WIVES solve problems together, and the creative group on MAD MEN is just that—a group of individuals who work together to brainstorm ideas. Many of the ideas are terrible and are rejected, but then a unexpected gem emerges from the give and take among the group members. When stuck for ideas or for solutions to plot problems, writers often stew in their chairs, surf the internet, knock out chores, or play games on the computer with the hopes that the solutions will magically appear. Sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn’t. Shooting an idea past a colleague or brainstorming with a friend can be just the thing to bring freshness and excitement to your work.

5. Diversification Is Key To Success—How many good television shows have gone stale? They show the same twist on an old story line over and over again. As a result, we become bored, abandon the shows, and find new ones to watch. Also, have you noticed how advertisers don’t focus on only one market? They diversify among television, print, radio, and the internet and adjust their advertising to each market to achieve the highest success rate and to reach the widest audience. As writers we must diversify in order to succeed in this ever-changing industry and to ensure our work is constantly in demand. If we focus on only one market and that market becomes stale or fails, we’re out of work. But if we diversify and continually look for new opportunities in untapped markets, the opportunities are endless.

What forms of media have inspired your writing, and how?

Five Publishing Tips from the Writers Coffeehouse

Jonathan Maberry and Don Lafferty at the Writers Coffeehouse

Now more than ever it’s important for writers to know what’s happening in the publishing industry — the latest trends, the markets, how to pitch and sell, social media, connecting with readers, marketing, trends, etc. — and how to use that knowledge to sell books and articles. The days when all a writer needed to do was write are long gone.

That’s where the Writers Coffeehouse comes in. Moderated by New York Times best-selling author Jonathan Maberry and The Philly Liars Club, this group of published and non-published writers (often as many as fifty) meets the last Sunday of every month to network and discuss writing and the publishing industry. This isn’t a critique group, but a discussion about the business of publishing.

This month Jonathan Maberry (author of DRAGON FACTORY and ROT AND RUIN), Dennis Tafoya (author of DOPE THIEF and WOLVES OF FAIRMOUNT PARK), Don Lafferty (Social Media Strategist), Tammy Burke (2011 The Write Stuff conference Chair), Rob Kall (Executive Editor and Publisher of, Gerri George, and others left their keyboards at home and chatted about the biz.

Writers Coffeehouse

Following the coffeehouse each month, I’ll share five useful tidbits that we discussed about the business or craft of writing. So, grab a cup of Joe and join us.

1. The great test screening of the new Stephenie Meyer’s movie (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) has increased the sales of her books significantly. As a result, sales of vampire books and the advances paid for them have also increased.

2. The fastest growth in the male book reading market is the middle grade (12 to 15 year old) market. Editors are gobbling up books. And, the books are selling to foreign markets and are being optioned for film.

Gerri George, Rob Kall, Writers Coffeehouse

3. When revising a novel with multiple points of view, consider editing each point of view separately from the rest of the book, from beginning to end. This will help in creating a consistent and engaging voice for each point of view.

4. Some of the nonfiction books that are grabbing the biggest advances right now are those that deal with how to survive in these challenging economic times. Diet, fitness, home buying on a budget, and do-it-yourself home repair books are on the rise. With any non-fiction book, platform is essential.

5. When the publishing industry finally makes downloads affordable, it won’t be worth the risk to pirate books anymore.

To join the conversation live, meet us at the Barnes and Noble, 102 Park Avenue, Willow Grove, PA the last Sunday of every month at 12:00. No experience necessary. Join the conversation online here:

I’d love to hear about your local writers group and the things you guys talk about.