Kirkus Review: The Drone Enigma

Final CoverKirkus has been an authoritative voice in book discovery for 80 years. I’m pleased to post  Kirkus Review‘s review of The Drone Enigma.

Former lawyer and Navy SEAL Jake Palmer returns in McManus’ second thriller (Libido’s Twist, 2011), working a simple case that escalates into murder and a potential terrorist attack.

Investigative consultant Palmer is looking for an easy job, since his last left him with a bullet wound. Friend and fellow SEAL Wade Jansen, a vice president at defense contractor Lynnhaven Technology Group in Virginia, has just the ticket: He wants Palmer to investigate whether a failure of LTG safety measures led to a woman’s overexposure to the chemical thallium. That woman, an engineer for a high-tech drone project, has since died, and her death doesn’t seem accidental. Palmer also finds out that project leader Owen Fuller’s laptop was recently lost. A woman named Alona Green claims to have inadvertently switched laptops with Fuller at an airport, but after she contacts Jansen to return the computer, the VP is found murdered. Palmer swears vengeance against the killer, and soon realizes that the drone project may also have been compromised. It turns out that the murders may be connected to Islamic terrorists, led by drone-attack survivor Hassan Aswad, who are planning a strike against the United States. The author lays the foundation for a military thriller and fortifies it with a rock-solid mystery. There’s a bounty of action sequences, mostly in the book’s final act; these fierce, bullet-ridden scenes, which include more than one boat chase, may have readers ducking their heads to avoid gunfire. Palmer is flanked on all sides by female characters: Cmdr. Lara Hamilton, whom he’d dated 20 years earlier in college; the alluring Green, who calls Palmer for help; and, back in London, Fiona Collins, who shared Palmer’s last adventure and who just might be the woman he loves. But none of them measure up to Cora Donegan, an accommodating and informative LTG human-resources rep who has the novel’s best line, warning Palmer not to “do anything stupid,” followed by: “And when you do, be careful.”

A thriller with copious action and an exceptional mystery.

 

Five Reasons to Attend a Writers Conference

Have you wondered whether attending a writers conference is worth the cost. The price can range from $200-$300 for a small local conference to $1200 for Thrillerfest in New York. And that’s just the registration fee. Including travel, hotel, and incidentals, the total could exceed $2000.

South Carolina Writers WorkshopI attended my first writers conference in October 2008, the South Carolina Writers Workshop Conference in Myrtle Beach. At the time the plot of Libido’s Twist was forming in my head and the words were appearing on the screen of my MacBook Pro. My creative writing education, however, was limited to reading a few books. At the conference I attended every session I could squeeze in. I was amazed at how much I learned. But there were also these slush fests, ten or thirty page agent critiques, and pitch sessions. All of it was foreign to me; and to be honest, I did not know enough to fully comprehend what any of them were. In contrast, this year I participated in the thriller slush fest, had a thirty page critique of my manuscript, pitched to a pitch coach, pitched to three agents, and had a query letter critique.

Hampton Road WritersI have now attended four SC Writers Workshop Conferences and one Hampton Roads Writers Conference. So, are writing conference worth the cost? What can I expect if I go?

1. A chance to meet and talk to fellow writers: I know this is a generalization, but I believe most writers would score on the “I” side of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test. We are, by nature, introverts, quite happy to write in isolation. “I” time energizes us. On the other hand, we dread book signings, interviews, and self-promotion. When you attend a writers conference, you have the opportunity to meet and talk to people for all walks of life who, like you, also love to write. The vast majority of the attendees are not earning a living with their writing, although most all would love to do so. Learn from the experiences and mistakes of others.

2. Attend multiple sessions on the craft of writing, publishing and promotion: Writing conferences provide an incredible learning opportunity: You will be amazed by how much you learn attending the sessions taught by the conference faculty of authors, agents, and editors, covering a wide range of topics.

3. Meet and interact with agents, editors, authors, and publishers: Writing conferences provide an unique opportunity to meet and interact with these individuals during their presentations and at social events during the conference. But remember, it’s bad form to pitch your manuscript to an unsuspecting agent in the elevator—unless they ask—or leave your manuscript leaning against their hotel room door. That comes across as creepy.

4. Meet and hear from successful authors: The keynote speakers, depending on the conference, can be NYT bestselling authors. For example, I’ve heard and met Michael Connelly and Steve Berry. And at the 2011 SC conference, Andrew Gross, a bestselling author who co-wrote several books with James Patterson before going it alone, was behind me in line for a drink at the reception before the night before the start of the conference. My wife and I struck up a conversation and ended up talking to him for about fifteen minutes before others came up to meet him. And, even if you don’t meet the keynote speaker, other successful authors teach sessions during the conference.

5. Receive direct and immediate feedback: Be it a slush fest, critique, or pitch, the opportunity for feedback on your manuscript and writing is alone worth the price of the conference. Everyone I have interacted with has been helpful and constructive in their comments. Remember, they are they to help you and to discover new talent and clients.

ThrillerFest VIIIHave I convinced you to attend a conference in 2013? I will once again be attending the Hampton Roads Writers Conference and the SC Writers Workshop Conference. Maybe I’ll see you there. I’m also tempted to attend ThrillerFest VIII. I hear it’s well worth the cost for a thriller author, especially one hoping to find an agent.