Gaye Mack’s Blog

INTERVIEW WITH CHICAGO’S BEST-SELLING THRILLER AUTHOR, JAMIE FREVELETTI

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Worth the Read, Writer's Work Leave a comment

 

It was my recent pleasure to interview Chicago’s own best seller author, Jamie Freveletti, one of this year’s ‘featured authors’ for the  2014 Love Is Murder mystery/thriller writer’s conference February 7,8 & 9, 2014 at the Inter-Continental Chicago O’Hare Hotel.

A trial attorney, martial artist, and runner and holds a black belt in aikido, a Japanese martial art. After law school she lived in Geneva, Switzerland while obtaining a diploma in International Studies. Back in Chicago, she represented clients in areas ranging from class actions for mass salmonella poisoning to securities fraud. Her debut thriller, Running from the Devil, was chosen as a “Notable Book” by the Independent Booksellers of America, awarded “Best First Novel” by the International Thriller Writers, awarded a Barry Award for “Best First Novel” by Deadly Pleasures Magazine, and nominated for a Macavity Award for” Best First Mystery” by the Mystery Readers International and “Favorite First Novel of 2009” by Crimespree Magazine. It has been translated into three languages and was an international bestseller.

Her second novel, Running Dark, released in June, 2010, hit both the Chicagoland and South Florida bestseller lists and the third novel in her series, The Ninth Day released in September, 2011 and was chosen as one of the “Best Thrillers of 2011” by Suspense Magazine.

In January, 2011, she was tapped by the Estate of  Robert Ludlum to write the next in the Covert One series. That novel,Robert Ludlum’s The Janus Reprisal, released on September 11, 2012. The fourth in her series, Dead Asleep  released on October 30, 2012 and hit  #1 on Amazon’s kindle bestseller.

Q:  Jamie, your biography states that you’re a trial attorney.  I’m sure your readers are curious to know whether you’re still actively practicing law or if you are now writing full time.  And, if you’re still actively practicing, how do you manage to do this and yet write such wonderful books in fairly quick succession?

 A:  Since the Ludlum deal (where I was asked to write a book for the Covert One series) in addition to my own series, I have pursued writing as a full time career.  It was clear that with two books a year to write that I needed to make a choice about how to best manage my time. I resigned from the firm and focused on writing.

Q:  In the current publishing climate, the odds of a new fiction author landing a contract with one of the ‘big six’ is very difficult, even when they have a prominent agent.  What led you to decide to enter this arena  with its somewhat discouraging statistics and how did you obtain your agent?

 A:  I’ll never forget the moment that I decided to pursue a contract with a “big six” house. It was in 2007 and the current e-book revolution hadn’t happened yet. I had been pitching to smaller houses that seemed more available and open to new authors. I was asked to create a CD with special requirements to submit to one. I’m technologically savvy, so I wasn’t worried about doing it, but I was still working as an attorney, raising two small children, and writing in the dead of night after I got the kids to bed. I remember thinking that I wasn’t going to be able to slot in even more time to package, distribute and market a novel in what was the then traditional manner. I made a decision at that moment to pursue an agent and shoot for the big houses. 

 I sat down and made a list of my “dream” editors and kept it on my desk. When I spilled coffee on it I wiped it off and posted it above my computer. Every day I looked at that list. In 2008, when my book Running From The Devil was acquired, it was by one of the editors on that list!  I also timed my query letters to allow for about two months before the next International Thriller Writer’s conference, where I knew they were having an “agentfest.”

I slaved over the query and submitted it cold to a batch of agents that I found through a search on publishers marketplace.com. Publishers Marketplace has a search engine that allows you to find all the thriller deals and the agents that sold them for the past several years. I picked active agencies that had sold thrillers in the past year and sent out the query. My current agent, Barbara Poelle, was brand new at the time and was one of several who contacted me. We met at Agentfest, clicked immediately, and three months later she sold the book. I credit the opportunity of being able to meet her in person as a key element that sealed the deal for both of us. 

 Q:  The publishing achievements of trial attorneys such as yourself, Turow and Grisham, would seem to indicate that there are particular skills acquired during your long years of legal training and courtroom experience which lend themselves to such successes.  This said, what in your experience would you say that might be directly related to such outcomes in general, and are there any particular skills that are a carry-over from your own training and practice as a trial attorney?

 A:  As litigators we have to tell a client’s story to a judge or jury in a way that makes sense and conveys the client’s intentions and acts. It’s perfect training for a writer to learn both the value of point of view and the need to order events in a way to form a plot. It’s invaluable.

Also, on a more mundane level, I have to again turn to the idea of time. Lawyers bill in small increments, sometimes as little as six minutes. You learn early on in your law career that time is valuable and become very aware of when you are wasting it. The discipline of billing hours has made me more effective in ordering my day now as a writer, because it takes a lot of self discipline to keep focused on a goal when it’s just you and your keyboard and a beautiful, sunny day is beckoning!

 Q:  Many years ago at ‘Dark and Stormy Nights’ I attended a session featuring Sara Paretsky.  One of the attendees asked her if V.I. Warshawski was her alter ego to which Sara replied there were aspects of V.I. she felt were her alter ego and others in V.I. which she would  like to have, but didn’tWith your main heroine, Emma Caldridge, readers can certainly see a bit of you in her from just reading your biography, but are there aspects of you in Emma the reader doesn’t see or characteristics of her that you might like to have or acquire in the future?

 A:  Emma is not me in a lot of ways. She’s a scientist, and that makes her much less emotional than I am. She is unafraid of plunging into dangerous areas of the world and is a bit of a loner. She is also a ton more patient than I am. I’m a social, emotional person who laughs more and worries a whole lot more than she does. I’d love to be able to slow down my brain and be more patient. I am patient with my kids, but get me behind the wheel of a car and in a traffic jam and I can feel the disbelief rising. Can it possibly take this long to drive a mile? Thank god for the radio. Music is what I love as much as reading. When the weather permits you’ll find me running errands on my bike and not in my car.  What we do have in common is athleticism. I love to run, bike and keep active, and so does she. 

 Q:  Every author in the mystery/thriller genre works differently during the process of creating  interaction and tension between characters against a background of escalating threads of action that eventually are drawn together.  Some use detailed grids, others use story boards or outlines and some let the story unfold once the initial germ of an idea or ideas is grounded in their mind.  In your creative process, what have you found works best for you and do you always use the same process?

 A:  I’m a seat of the pants writer through and through. I never know where a book will go when I sit down to write it. I have a simple, one or two sentence premise and I hit the keyboard. It keeps me interested through the months it takes to write a book. I’m discovering the story in the same, fresh way that a reader does. Having said that, I have been asked by the Ludlum Estate to present a synopsis of the book that I wrote for them. I shuddered when I first started that process, but I do see the beauty in planning, albeit just a little. I can’t ever see myself creating a detailed outline, though I have writer friends that do and they swear by them. For me, creating an outline would waste time that would better be spent writing. 

 Q:  Your writing style creates a wonderful ‘sense of place’ which takes the reader right into the locations.  As each of your books including The Janus Reprisal, is set in ‘interesting’ places do you feel a writer needs to have experienced the places they use for their stories?  And, if this isn’t possible, (especially in the case of foreign locations) do you have suggestions as to how one might successfully create a ‘sense of place’ for the reader even if they haven’t experienced it first hand?

 A:  I’ve traveled to most of the places that I write about, including Colombia, but not Somalia. For that country I ended up contacting a journalist who was there and we exchanged emails. I also use Google earth and street view. I will watch an area over the course of several days and get a feel for the rhythm of life there.  I suggest using Google earth and reading traveler’s blogs, especially back packer blogs.

The bloggers are wonderful in their often detailed explanations of the different areas that they visit. My next Emma Caldridge book is set in West Africa and I’m reading some wonderful postings from Peace Corp and Foreign aid workers. I’ll probably take a trip to Morocco for more research on this one, but I’ll stay in hotels and travel safely. The Peace Corp volunteers really see a country the way that Emma would experience it, and their journals are invaluable to me. 

 Q:  Could you speak a bit about how you came to be tapped by Robert Ludlum’s estate and selected as one of the writers for the ‘Covert One’ series?  Do you anticipate that you’ll be writing in the future for the series?

 A:   My understanding of the process is that the Estate was evaluating several authors that would be a good fit for the series. I learned that I was one of the three finalists on their list in New York after Running From The Devil won ITW’s Best First Novel award. I mean literally after, because I stumbled off the stage in a daze of happiness and tears and went straight out of the ballroom to settle down and regroup. My agent was with me and told me then. I tried not to think about it too much. because one of three, while good odds, is still not a done deal. Three months later Running From The Devil won the Barry award in San Francisco and again, after I got off the podium, my agent told me that we were to meet with representatives of the Estate in the bar for a drink and conversation. I learned then that they wanted me to consider the project. It’s been a great experience and I am in conversation to write a possible second. The details haven’t been pinned down as yet, but I’ll update the “News” section of my website when they are!  

 Q:  Do you have a new book currently in process that your readers can look forward to? 

A:  Yes! I’m working on the fifth in the Emma Caldridge series. This idea for this one came to me when I was reading about the Dakkar rally, a famous motor race from Paris to Dakkar, Senegal, that crosses the Sahara desert. Seems that the race was moved to South America after the unrest in West Africa and Mauritania became increasingly dangerous. I started reading about the area and decided that it was a fascinating “hot” territory bubbling with unrest and close to exploding.

I put Emma there, and she’ll be caught between two warring terrorist organizations vying for control of West Africa and forced to march to Marrakech through Mauritania. Along the way she collects aide workers and refugees and helps lead them to safety. She also takes on a few guerrilla camps when she finds that they are stealing the aide supplies sent from the West. It’s been a great book to write and is one of my grittier and more socially aware story lines. I’m also working on a stand alone thriller that will feature a new character, and then there’s the possible future Covert One. Needless to say, I’m writing full time and then some! 

 Q:  Finally, given the current publishing landscape that seems to be changing by the hour these days, how do you think it will look for aspiring authors say, within the next three years or so?

 A:  I’m fairly new to this industry and only have a short time line perspective, but it seems to me that there’s never been so much opportunity for authors to carve their own path than there is now. I love working with publishing houses, but I also enjoy that I can write a short story or novella and have a place to publish them. I wrote a serial novella featuring Emma in three short episodes called Risk, Gone, and Run. They were designed to be short enough to finish on a subway or train ride, but when strung together formed a complete novella and are published only in electronic form. The ability to work in different formats help keep things fresh and interesting, and I love it. 

I’m releasing another short story that I wrote, called Buddha’s Black Soul, which grew out of an actual incident. My father lived in rural Missouri and had a beloved German Shepard police dog. Someone in the area began shooting and killing animals under cover of darkness, including cows and other livestock, and Sheba was shot in the jaw. The vet tried to save her, but she died of an infection. I wrote the story out of anger, but when I was done it seemed to be really about karma and how our acts, either good or bad, circle back to us. Hence the title. I hope to release it in late August. 

Jamie Freveletti's latest!

Jamie Freveletti’s latest!

 

 

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THE MYTH OF THE CATHAR TREASURE

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Writer's Work 2 Comments

 

History, especially ancient desert and medieval history, abounds with myths and legends such as Hermes and the Philosopher’s Stone, Glastonbury Abbey, the Holy Grail, Merlin, King Arthur and the treasure of the Templars, just to name a few…and then there is the legend of the Cathar Treasure. 

In my previous post wherein I introduced the subject of this medieval religious sect, I noted their propensity for eschewing trappings of the mundane world.  This rejection was based on their belief that the physical world and their incarnation in it was not a creation of God but rather a creation of Satan. In adopting this belief, the dedicated Cathars, known as Parfaits, not only rejected the idea of procreation, but they also did not partake in the consumption of any food which was a result of procreation.  As material acquisitions for their own needs were kept to a bare minimum, it begs the question, ‘how did the legend of a Cathar Treasure arise’?  

According to author and Cathar historian, Zoe Oldenburg, by the end of the twelfth century, the Cathar movement of the Languedoc had amassed a considerable fortune.  To begin with, the majority of Parfaits were men of substance who turned over their property to the church.  In addition, there were also credentes, ‘rank and file’ members, who left legacies of their entire fortunes to the church. And, while living, many credentes made generous donations of cash, land, houses and even chateaux.  While the Parfaits never broke their vow of poverty according to Oldenburg, they accepted all donations which were then put to the best use in the interests of the church.

 As a Community, the Cathars were known for providing support to the poor and those in need in the cities and surrounding countryside.  They maintained communes which incorporated schools, monasteries and hospitals.  Furthermore they founded working craft guilds, particularly in the art of weaving which not only provided product but also functioned as an educational training ground for the young and ‘novitiates.’ 

While such amassing of property and goods certainly would be considered a ‘treasure,’ references to ‘The Cathar Treasure’ often imply that it was something of far more importance and legend such as the Holy Grail… which of course has never been found.  Speculative circumstances surrounding the Treasure’s disappearance often tell of it having been hidden some two months prior to the fiery execution of  two hundred-plus Parfaits on March, 1244 at Montseguer. Possessing the secret of the Treasure’s hiding place, three Parfaits and another man, possibly a mountain guide, escaped the flames on the night of March 16 by repelling down the side of Montsegur’s pog.   The men then hid in caves protecting the secret and were never discovered.

 Oldenburg surmises that the Cathar cache consisted of goods for trading as well as gold and silver coins; this certainly makes sense given the atmosphere of persecution and brutality of the times.  However, perhaps even more precious to the Cathars was that for them, the Treasure consisted of their most sacred books and writings which were critical in helping maintain allegiance to their dogma and tradition.  This possibility makes even more sense as literature in the early middle ages onward, was considered as precious as gold in many cases.  Whatever the truth is, to this day the location and substance of the Cathars’ Treasure remains a mystery.

cave

 Caves with Secrets

 Photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.

 

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PLUTO AND BACH FLOWER REMEDIES: SHIFTING OUR PERCEPTION WITH THE HELP OF THESE UNLIKELY BEDFELLOWS

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Balance, Karmic and Self-Discovery Astrology, Writer's Work 2 Comments

Sometimes during a reading, an astrologer will make a mildly humorous reference to an approaching (or current) Pluto ‘transit’ in the client’s chart as a way to lighten up the atmosphere.  The quip, “life happens while you were making other plans,” or, “Pluto; the cosmic 2×4,” are good examples.  Regardless, the real purpose of such energy is to get our attention and shove us out of complacency… of course, always for our ‘own good.’  

Astrologically speaking, when Pluto comes calling in your life you can count on the fact that ‘change’ is in the air often accompanied by what feels like Chaos.  Even in non-astrological terms, it goes without saying that Chaos can enter our lives without the help of Plutonian energy.  Either way, we’re getting a message that change in how we are living or our perceptions, need to change in order for us to move forward in our evolution.  This is a tough assignment; human nature doesn’t like change.  Change is scary to most of us because forging into unknown territory can be like playing ‘blind man’s bluff.’  

This said, a significant action of any of the Bach flower remedies is that they support and assist us in the ability to shift our perceptions.  This is particularly true of Bach’s Walnut.’  Dr. Bach spoke of our Soul holding the innate wisdom for each of us…and when we are in a disharmonious emotional state, its as if a ‘fog’ drops over this wisdom. When we’re emotionally distressed our perceptions are ‘off’; we aren’t ‘seeing’ clearly…it’s like trying to see clearly through a dirty window.  The remedies help us to ‘shift’ our perceptions, clean the window so that our vision is cleared.  When this happens, we then have the ability to interpret our external and internal landscapes more realistically.

Like everyone else, I’m experiencing the effects of the on-going Pluto/Uranus square which I’ve written about in previous postings.  While I’m emotionally aware of the impact in my life, I’m also getting the ‘point’ in a very mundane way; its as if the Universe is wanting to make sure that I ‘get it.’  Currently, we’re having a lot of repainting done in our home which has necessitated taking down all of our pictures, moving furniture.  If you’ve ever had painters take over your house you know that the atmosphere is nothing less than ‘chaotic.’  This morning as I was looking at the bare walls in my office, climbing over drop cloths draped over furniture, the light bulb suddenly went on.  Once the walls are finished, there’s nothing that says I have to arrange all of the pictures or furniture exactly as they were before the arrival of the painters.  Instead, I now have an opportunity to make changes in how these things are placed which in turn will give an entirely different feeling to each of the rooms.  Nevertheless, I am hedging my bet so that I ‘stay the course’…I’ve just pulled a bottle of Walnut out of my cabinet!

 

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Dr. Bach’s ‘Walnut’

Photography©Dr. Edward Bach Foundation

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EMBRACING THE WISDOM OF OPPOSITIONS IN YOUR BIRTH CHART & IN LIFE WITH DR. BACH’S ‘IMPATIENS’

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Balance, Karmic and Self-Discovery Astrology, Writer's Work Leave a comment

In astrology, birth charts almost always reflect at least one if not several ‘mathematical oppositions‘ between the planets; in other words,they’re placed 180 degrees apart.  Thus the energies between two planets (or sometimes several planets if they are ‘sitting next to each other’) are at first glance, at ‘odds’.   These placements in a birth chart remain constant throughout this lifetime, as do other mathematical relationships between planetary energies such as squares, conjunctions or trines, just to name a few.  What they have in common is that in these relationships, they reflect particular evolutionary challenges or support that we’re meant to work with.  And as with all configurations in our chart, these placements are the Soul’s messengers delivering the syllabus for this lifetime’s Soul agenda.

When seeing one or more oppositions in a chart some traditional astrologers  might sigh and mutter “oh, dear…dear…”  But in evolutionary astrology, we look for the higher expression of the placements; in other words, what are the symbols trying to tell us and how can we best use their energies for our Soul growth? While you might not think so, even with oppositions there’s a ray of sunshine…there is a point of common ground to be had that’s mutually beneficial.  We just have to see it.

Case in point: Sagittarius is on the eternal quest:  what’s the ‘meaning of life’?  Why are we here?  That’s a pretty big question and because Sag is ruled by expansive Jupiter, details are not terribly important…just give the broad stroke of the brush and get to the point… which is why Sagittarians ( or those with significant Sagittarius in their birth chart), can suss out underlying principles faster than a speeding bullet!  

Enter Gemini, the sign opposite Sagittarius in the zodiac.  Gemini is the epitome of ‘curious’… “inquiring minds want toKNOW HOW AND WHY…that’s Gemini.  Gemini ruled by Mercury, is a ‘mind sign’…those Geminis are always thinking and despite their fast minds, they can get mired in ‘wool gathering minutiae’ in trying to decide which train is better to board.  Sagittarius on the other hand says, ‘to hell with that, I’m out of here, I’m just getting on a train and will figure it out later’….So where is the common ground here?  Actually it’s in the middle…both signs have a desire to explore and learn, it’s just that each uses a different methodology.  However in their desire, each is prone to ‘impatience‘ in their search.  

The energy of every opposition in a chart is unique because it depends on the planets and signs involved. Nevertheless, within the nature of oppositions there will be some facet of impatience or agitation involved.  Finding the common ground emotionally is the key to pacifying the energy so that the best of both can be utilized and in this effort, we can call upon Dr. Bach’s ‘impatiens’ flower remedy to help support this process.  

Impatiens was one of Edward Bach’s original ‘Twelve Healers’ and is the one remedy in his 38 flower remedies whose name exactly describes the emotion meant to be addressed; impatience!  The positive action of impatiens (which by the way, is one of the five flower remedies Bach put in his famous ‘Rescue Remedy’) is that it brings about a shift within our perception of calming down and embracing TOLERANCE within ourselves and for others.  

So, when we’re feeling particularly agitated or intolerant within ourselves or with others(!), it’s most likely because one or more oppositions in our natal chart have been activated by a current planetary transit to these  points in our chart.  Nevertheless, Bach’s Impatiens or Rescue Remedy are there for you, you just have to reach out for them!

 

 DR. EDWARD BACH’S IMPATIENS
Impatiens-300x267
Photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.

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THE MEDIEVAL CATHARS-ROME’S RATIONALE FOR ITS BRUTAL INQUISITION

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Worth the Read, Writer's Work 4 Comments

The scene is the medieval castle at Montségur in the Languedoc region of southern France.  Here in the spring of 1244, one of the most diabolical massacres was carried out against the Gnostic religious sect known as the Cathars.  History reports that on March 16th after suffering a nine month siege by the Seneschal of Carcassone and the Archbishop of Narbonne, some 200  Cathar men and women were marched out of the castle stronghold  to the field below where they were systematically burned to death as heretics.  Such a scene is nearly unfathomable and begs the question for those unfamiliar with this event, what precipitated such unspeakable brutality by Rome on this peace-loving community?

The Cathar history is a complex one that begins in the late 1100′s with esoteric threads that have spilled into the 21st century.  This is a story that recounts relentless persecution by the Catholic Church, but also it’s  one that is deep, complex and fascinating  with many facets worthy of exploration, including legends surrounding the Holy Grail and an illusive‘Cathar Treasure.’   While the movement is believed to have originated in the Balkans, it spread to other parts of Europe, appearing  in the Languedoc region at  the beginning of the twelfth century…and there it multiplied like wildfire.  

The Cathar philosophy was fairly simple, but clearly heretical.  It was a religion of duality that believed God did not create the mundane world, Christ was never embodied, therefore did not suffer on the cross and certainly baptism with water would not bring salvation.  Furthermore, Catharism believed in reincarnation and honored women equally!  Their only sacrament was the Consolamentuma ritual of baptism by the holy spirit.  There was very little hierarchy in  Cathar clergy  of men and women who were  known as Perfects or Perfecti.  Once a Prefect was ordained with the Consolamentum, he or she then abstained from meat and sexual intercourse.  They did not have a high regard for the temporal world believing it to be a creation of evil but nevertheless, they were known for their skills in the arts of medicine, botany and astrology.  At the end of the day the underlying foundation of their doctrine was one of simplicity and peace and in this spirit, lay Cathars were required to receive the Consolamentum in order to reach salvationoften as they hovered on the brink of death, .

Considering these basic facts, it’s apparent why the Cathars were such a thorn in the side of Rome with their blatant disregard for Rome’s dictatorial belief that its priests were the only means to commune with God, the Church’s trappings, money and control.  Going back as far as 1208, once Rome realized  the Cathars were gaining sympathy amongst the powerful  Languedoc lords, the initial crusade against them was launched and led by Simon de Montfortit was a crusade carried out with overwhelming violence and lack of mercy.  Following de Montfort’s death in 1218,  Pope Honorious III then embarked on a second crusade led by King Louis VIII.  The rest is history, as it’s said.  With the final assault on Montségur in 1244, the Cathar heresy was snuffed out and Rome’s Inquisition launched to bring the surviving believers to heel.

While I’ve read about the Cathars for years, early this fall I’ll be traveling to Cathar country in the Languedoc to take in more of the history as a backdrop for my next historical fiction book, Flight of Doves.  In the meantime, I plan  from time to time, to blog more on this intriguing aspect of esoteric history!

Suggested Readings

There is a great deal of information and books written about the Cathars, ironically much owing to the meticulous records kept by the Inquisition!  However, here are a few of my favorites:

The Great Heresy-Arthur Guirdham, MD

We Are All One-Arthur Guirdham, MD

The Cathar View-The Mysterious Legacy of Montsegur-David Patrick, Ed.

Massacre at Montsegur: A History of the Albigensian Crusade-Zoe Oldenburg

 

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