Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Author 911: The Authors' Writing & Medical Academy: Cheat Sheets forWriting Body LanguageTranslate emo...

Author 911: The Authors' Writing & Medical Academy: Cheat Sheets forWriting Body LanguageTranslate emo...: Cheat Sheets for Writing Body Language Translate emotions into written body language  Body language tells a story and body language is ...
Translate emotions into written body language 
Body language tells a story and body language is central to our writing. Sometimes, it's easier said than written. The cheat sheets below (www.writerswrite.co.nz) will help you show a character's state of mind. Obviously, a character may exhibit a number of these behaviours. For example, he may be shocked and angry, or shocked and happy. Use these combinations as needed.

The Top Five Tips For Using Body Language
  1. Use body language to add depth to dialogue. 
  2. Use it because more than 50% of human communication is non-verbal.
  3. Use it to show how your character's emotions affect his or her actions.
  4. Use it to help you show rather than tell your reader everything.se it in moderation.
  5. Overused body language can slow your story down.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Needed for
Judith Lucci’s Street Team

Hi Everyone!

I’m inviting you to be a member of my Judith Lucci Street Team (we need to pick a name) to spread the word about my books.
I believe the best way to sell anything is via personal recommendation. Just tell or email or post on facebook about my books – it’s as easy as that – and doing that would be fabulous. And the more people you tell the better.
If you become a member of my street team you’ll earn my love and appreciation forever and ever and maybe a few other prizes.  Here are a few of the perks!
*Membership in the Exclusive Judith Lucci Online FB Community!  This is a place where I’ll be happy to answers any questions about writing, the business of writing, or my books – or your books. We will talk about best ways to market my books and I will ask for help with Beta Reads and editing as well. I’ll be seeking your opinions and ideas for my books too.
Other Perks…
* A chance to name a character in my books.
* A chance to win autographed print copies in a monthly special drawing for Street Team members only. All Street Team members will be automatically entered.
* A drawing each release month for a $25 Visa gift card or an Amazon Gift Card!
 *Random insider Street Team e-letters and info that most readers don’t know and insider tidbits about my characters.

Here are things you can do to be a Judith Lucci Street Member. Please do whatever you feel comfortable doing. If you even do one thing, that’s all you need to do to become a Street Team member.
In-Person Team Spirit:
* Talk the books up and share promo materials with friends & family to spread the word. Ask others to share promo info too.
* Buy my books the first week of release, which helps them get on the bestseller lists.
* Ask your local library to order my books. Give the librarians the title, name and publisher.
* If my books aren’t on the shelves, ask the bookseller to order it.
* Take promo materials (bookmarks, postcards, rack cards) to your local stores, place them with the booksellers. You can leave them with libraries and even at coffee shops and ask permission in doctor’s offices.
* Take promo materials (bookmarks, postcards, excerpts) to your local reader group, writer group and share with other members.
* With the bravado of a saint, take all of my books and front them on the new release table in the front of the store! (Note, if you insist on slipping one or two in a few best seller slots it won’t hurt my feelings.)
* Find people to sign up for my email list on my webpage at www.judithlucci.com

Online Team Spirit
* Feature interviews, reviews, excerpts or my video trailer via your blog, site, Pinterest, Google plus, Instagram, Twitter and other social media groups.
* Visit during online appearances (workshops, blog tours, chats, etc)
* Share your (honest) review of the book via Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com
Remember, do whatever you feel comfortable doing, even if it’s just one thing – although I’ll be YOUR biggest fan if you do all of these. Joining is easy! Help promote my book using one or more of the above ideas to help promote my books.

Please email me at JudithLucciwrites@gmail.com and tell me what you would like to do on my team and join my email list at JudithLucci.com. Please remember I am always open for suggestions in all areas.
Thank you for your interest and support!
All best,

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Writing Fight Scenes: The Real Deal with Eric Gates

Up for a Fight? – Writing the Real Deal
With Amazing Thriller-Writer Eric J. Gates

Hello Everyone!  I am happy to welcome the amazing Eric J. Gates back to Author 911 today to discuss the best ways to write a fight scene.  Eric is the author of the incredible Cull series, Outsourced, and the must have book on How NOT to be An Aspiring Writer.  I just finished reading his fourth book in the Cull Series, Blood Demon and is was Extraordinary....

Recently I have been chatting with a friend and fellow author about writing fight scenes in her novel. Unlike most writers, this is an area that doesn’t give me too many problems, or at least, not of the same kind that they experience.
Let’s lay down a few antecedents: I have been trained in 26 different fighting systems, holding black belt degrees in 14 of these, and a host of weapons during a long and interesting life. But my knowledge is not just theoretical. Unfortunately, I have had to use those skills on occasion… and I’m still here, so they must work. I also have an encyclopaedic knowledge of many other fighting styles and weaponry. Oh, and with two exceptions, none of that stuff was oriented to competitions (with rules and regulations etc).

I love to read thrillers and there are many written by ex-soldiers. Whilst most get the details of the ‘conventional’ fighting right (using weapons issued by their army/navy etc), many have little or no experience of ‘unconventional combat, particularly the close-quarter variety that their protagonists display on the pages of their books. So as a source for a writer attempting to produce a convincing fight scene, studying them is not always the way to go. As for Hollywood, well forget it. Bruce Lee once commented on the difference between real combat and theatrical representation of combat – in movies you only ever see the latter.

Now I’m going to try the impossible here (those who know me well, will recognise the trait that gets me into trouble more than any other). I’m going to give you, the potential writer of fight scenes, a few pointers for making your combat more realistic. This will give you a good foundation which you can then embellish at will. So this post isn’t too long, I’m going to stick to unarmed fighting – maybe, in a hypothetical Part 2, I’ll talk about weapons, although they will get a mention or three here. The following will be Fictional-genre generic; I won’t be speaking about magic spells – never used them – you’re on your own for that.
There’s a huge difference in the way a trained fighter and Joe Public react to the threat of a fight. It all starts in the amygdala. This beastie sits at the base of our brains and associates stimuli with emotion. It’s the thingumajig that stops you holding your hand over an open flame (once you’ve done it the first time, of course). It’s a primitive part of our brains responsible for the fight or flight reaction. Joe Public will usually go for the flight option, if available. If it isn’t, then the submission option is next up. It’s only when Joe Public tries for the fight option that trouble occurs. A trained fighter is, of course, also subject to this process. The difference is analysis. Someone who has fighting skills (not just an experienced bar brawler) will take in a series of factors which will enhance the decision the lizard brain chooses.
These factors include:   

Product Detailsa  Number of assailants – even a large group is limited in how they can attack one person. I’ve fought more than ten at once, successfully, because I used the other factors below to restrict the number that could interact with me at any given time. Almost all group assailants will not have practiced their attack, so they will get in each other’s way naturally, something your protagonist can help with.

b Space and terrain – it’s a very different thing fighting in water, on ice, on sand or loose dirt, on a hard surface, on an incline or uneven surface, in a narrow area, on a moving vehicle (think cars, trucks, trains, aircraft, or even horseback). The area you have to operate can be used to limit what your opponent(s) can do, and it can limit your protagonist’s options too. Hollywood took this to a ridiculous extreme in the second ‘Kill Bill’ movie with the fight in the trailer. As a master swordsman, I teach my students to draw a metre long katana in a space the width of their bodies, in less than a second, and most get the hang of it very quickly. The trick is in the use of your waist and the way you ‘manage’ the sword scabbard. The scene in question, where the swords couldn’t be drawn because they kept hitting the walls, was hilarious, for all the wrong reasons! Using the terrain as a weapon (Hollywood again tends to limit itself to throwing dirt into the eyes of the fighters) is important. Many of the older fighting systems that use throws are based on this. When a human body is thrown onto a hard floor, against a streetlamp, railing, wastebasket, parked car etc, the terrain becomes the weapon. It’s not about using a kerbstone to hit the bad guy, just the opposite in fact.

c Natural weapons – in traditional Japanese fighting philosophy it is recognised that the human body has 16 natural weapons (obviously including items such as hands, which can be used in a huge number of ways, feet, head, elbows etc). Learning how to use these effectively is the basis for the world’s unarmed fighting systems. But there is another natural weapon that trumps all of these – your intelligence. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen people in casts because they threw a punch and broke bones in their hands or feet (of the 206 bones in our bodies, more than half are in our hands and feet). There’s a Golden Rule in striking – never hit something hard with something soft (an untrained fist against a jawbone is not recommended).

d  Acquired weapons – there are so many everyday objects that can be turned into effective weapons that you would be surprised. In the average room, in an average house, there will be over fifty! In your car, probably about another twenty (I once took on three assailants, as part of a demonstration, while sitting behind the wheel of a stationary car. After a few seconds I had trapped all three using everything from the driver’s seat belt, steering wheel, window frame, and handbrake, left the vehicle and walked away). No I’m not superman, or Jason Bourne, but by using imagination tempered with a little knowledge (primarily of anatomy and physics) you would be surprised just what can become a weapon if needed. What’s the weirdest weapon I’ve used? It’s a tie between a banknote, a cardboard drinks coaster and an ice cube. Newspapers, magazines, umbrellas and walking sticks are almost conventional. It’s all about being flexible …in your thinking.

e  Attitude – I always advise my students (bodyguards, police, military, Joe Public) to act if attacked. The puffing out of the chest, bluster approach could get you killed or seriously hurt. It’s tantamount to incitement. I recommend making yourself smaller (than the attacker), stepping back at an angle (better defensive position as it allows offense while reducing target area), relaxing your whole body (it makes for far quicker reaction time), and slowing your breathing (deep breathing increases oxygen flow to the brain and muscles which helps think clearly, react faster and control the adverse effects of adrenaline). I also strongly insist that (in a mugging situation) nothing you have on you, NOTHING, is worth your life – just hand it over and forget about violence, even if you are confident in your abilities. Only if your assailant is clearly bent on doing you harm no matter how much you collaborate, should you react.
f)     Offense/defense – many Martial Arts taught as Self-Defense are based on allowing your opponent to make the first move. Whilst legally this allows for justification for your defense, one blow etc could be all they need. The old adage of ‘a good offense is the best defense’ may be applicable. When faced with multiple opponents, often the bluster-boy is not the leader. Scan the group, identify who’s in charge (eye contact between them can be a dead giveaway) then going on the offensive against them can be a good strategy if your protagonist has the skills. Don’t know who’s the leader? Go for the biggest. That scene in the Tom Cruise Jack Reacher movie where he explains his defense to the four thugs (something you should never do – explain, that is) is strategically accurate, believe it or not. In the herd mentality, when a leader is taken down, the herd usually is unfocused, needing time to find a new leader – time your protagonist should not allow.

h  Adrenaline – I’ve already mentioned this several times. I hinted at its adverse effects too. One of these is that it’s an exceptional natural anaesthetic. I‘ll give you a fr’instance: a few years ago, one of my students saw a bunch of some 30 skinheads beating up a single individual in the street. No cops about (cowards generally choose their terrain more carefully than their victims). So he intervened. Finally the cops turned up… and arrested everyone… including the victim and my student.  They were in a police car on the way to the cop shop when someone remarked that my student’s white shirt was bright red at the back – he’d been stabbed during the fight and was unaware of this due to the adrenaline coursing through his body. (As I’m sure you want to know - he did get released with no charges and he put 6 of the attackers in hospital before the cops arrived).

iAttacker’s weapons – In my experience, most attackers when wielding a weapon, tend to focus on that weapon to the exclusion of anything else they could do. This means that often, when you ‘remove’ that weapon from their control, psychologically you’ve won the battle. There’s something I also teach my students about using ‘recovered’ assailants’ weapons – if you know how to use it, keep it; if you don’t, throw it away where the assailant can’t regain control of it.
  Finally, don’t be too specific. This was the mistake I made. Compare these two short fight scenes (the first is from ‘2012’ my first novel, is technically correct, and makes this mistake; the second is from ‘the CULL – Bloodstone’ – see I’ve learned something too!):


The CULL - Bloodstone

I can’t (and shouldn’t) write your fight scene’s for you; it’s your novel after all. I will however put my knowledge at your disposal. Write to me via my website (www.ericjgates.com – contact Eric page) and ask specific questions please. I’ll do my best to help where I can. You don’t want to fight about that, do you?

Check out Eric Gates! He know just about everything!

check out  www.ericjgates.com to read extracts and discover the inside secrets...

follow me on Twitter: @eThrillerWriter  and on my Blog http://my-thrillers.blogspot.com/

Friday, May 15, 2015

Let’s Talk Blood!

Let’s talk about blood…the marvelous red, magical fluid that carries oxygen to our brain so we can think, pumps quickly through lungs so we can breathe and provides a quick, ready source of cash for college students.  Blood is the magical potion that British Rakes and Vampires lust after and many a folks have paid big bucks for legally and illegally to live.


Scientists estimate the volume of blood in a human body to be about 7 percent of body weight. An average adult body with a weight of 150 to 180 pounds will contain approximately 4.7 to 5.5 liters (1.2 to 1.5 gallons) of blood or about or 5 ½ pints.  The average woman has 6-7 pints of blood and the average man has about 8 pints.  Children, of course, have less blood. 


Usually, 40% or greater blood loss is considered the maximum amount of blood an adult can lose before the body can no longer compensate. In an 80 kg or 176-pound adult, this would be about 2.24 liters.


Hemorrhage is best defined as a blood loss and often occurs in traumatic injury that may be due to a car accident, gunshot wound or stabbing.  Other injuries can also facilitate serious blood loss

A Class I Hemorrhage occurs when a patient loses 15%, or less, of their blood volume. In an 80 kg person (or about 176 lbs.) this would be about 0.84 liters. At this level there are almost no signs or symptoms so in essence, your victim would be asymptomatic.

Class II Hemorrhage becomes evident when a person experiences a 15 to 30% loss of their blood volume or about 1.68 liters in a 176 lb. person. At this level of blood loss, the heart will start to beat faster, and the person will start to look pale and feel cool. When this occurs, the patient is in the beginning stage of hypovolemia shock so if action isn’t taken quickly, the patient will become worse.

Class III Hemorrhage represents a 30 to 40% loss of blood. In an 80 kg person this would be about 2.24 liters. At this level the heart will be beating very fast (tachycardia) as it works hard to keep up with the oxygen needs of the body. Remember, the heart always shuttles blood to the brain first, but the person will look very pale, and may appear confused, dizzy or may have nausea or vomit. The patient’s respirations or breathing will increased but ineffective. The lower extremities will feel very cool and may begin to discolor as will the upper extremities. The nail beds may discolor and appear a greyish-blue.  The victim is in shock and will be in severe trouble in a matter of a couple of minutes. If the patient is bleeding externally, a large amount of blood will pool around the wound onto the floor or wherever gravity takes it.

Class IV Hemorrhage occurs when there is a greater than 40% blood loss.  In an 80 kg adult this would be more than 2.24 liters. The body can no longer keep up with the blood loss and the person, without immediate care (IV fluids and wound compression) will die.

Types of Bleeding


Arterial Bleeding

With arterial bleeding, the blood is bright red and under pressure from the pumping heart. Therefore, blood is spurted from the wound in time with the heartbeat. A severed artery may produce a jet of blood several feet high and can rapidly empty the circulatory system of blood.

Venous Bleeding

With venous bleeding the blood is dark red in coloration. It is under less pressure than arterial blood, but since the vein walls are capable of great distention, blood may pool. Thus, blood from a severed major vein may gush profusely.

Capillary Bleeding

This type of bleeding can be characterized as oozing and occurs at the site of all wounds. Although capillary bleeding may at first be brisk, blood loss is generally negligible.
Need More Info About Blood

Until next time, take care and stay safe!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Broken Bones

Let’s Talk Broken Bones – Ouch!

Hello Writer Friends,
Ever had any characters break a bone in your books?  Well, I am expecting several villians to break a bone or two in my next Alex Destephano medical thriller.

Fractures can be tricky things and can also be hard to treat.  They are also extraordinarily painful with bone pain considered one of the most difficult types of pain to treat. If you witnessed any broken bones or suffered a few yourself, you know they can look pretty bad.  And I do mean bad and they can be very, very painful.

Just last summer, I slipped on a wet floor in my garage and broke both bones in my wrist and several bones in my hand.  My hand was literally on top of my wrist and covered part of my forearm. The ED doc took pictures. It was so awful and I’ll try to upload one for you.  In truth, it’s an image I’m trying hard to forget. 

Anyway, two surgeries later, one steel plate and 5 screws (the steel plate for my wrist cost $5,000 and one screw was $2,500) I can use my hand about 70% since surgery resulted in three numb fingers (yeah, bad news for a writer!) but it’s how I explain all of my typos.

Anyway, WebMD offers lots of great  medical info about any number of maladies and is a trusted source.  Check it out and see for yourself.

Until next time,

Monday, April 13, 2015

Michael James Gallagher

 talks about his new release
Diamond Rain

Bet you all want to know what I spend time doing when I am not writing or dancing? Amazing stuff like building snowmen with my two amazing grandkids or hiking and cross-country skiing in the National Park right on my doorstep. My other passion is making Internet-ready Learning Capsules for my students of English as a Second Language.

Sort of always wanted to change the world! That's why I worked on the frontline with recently-arrived people, single moms and high school drop outs. My magic wand would spread the idea that there is a silver lining in every cloud. Sometimes we focus too much on the clouds. When I was thirty-four, I lost the use of my right arm for two years. After hard work and lots of yoga, acupuncture and a special diet of pig's feet, I started dancing tango to strengthen the muscles around my spine. A really bad experience spawned one of the best things in my life. Tango did wonders for our couple life too. So my injury led me to tango.

Why do I write? Since reading “The World According to Garp” by John Irving many years ago, I have been intrigued by the effect of childhood tragedy on grown-up relationships. My first book inadvertently ended up being an exploration of just that problem. Without knowing it, all of my characters lost parents in childhood and their behavior reflects various shades of that reality. What's weird about it is that I didn't plan to do that. It just happened.

In my 20s, I wanted to be a serious writer and I travelled around the world carrying a guitar that I couldn't play and a diary full of, I hate to admit it, constipated prose. Did reading those stilted lines stop me from writing? Not at all, it just made me want to improve. I wrote my first novel at 32. It is still sitting in a drawer covered with scratched out sentences. I love to look at it because it shows me how far I've come.

So what made me write Tsunami Connection Book 1 of the Spy Stories and Tales of Intrigue Series? Two things did it. First, when I was listening to the news coverage of the Boxing Day Tsunami in Aceh Province, Indonesia, I had a flash. Really, the story came to me in an instant.  Before I begin, I mean no disrespect for the lost lives, broken families and suffering experienced by Indonesians by using this idea. It is all fiction. The tsunami was a catalyst.

Now, Aceh Province is known for its radicalized stance on fundamentalist issues. Let's set the scene here: Remember it's not long after we all watched the Twin Towers falling on September 11th.  What if some big power believed that Osama was in Aceh, training insurgents and wanted to get access to him? What better way than to inundate the place with a tsunami and then be responsible for rescue?
The US had the only helicopters in the area for two weeks after the disaster. My hypothesis or premise held water. All I needed was a weapon. So I invented one and put it on a rogue Russian Akula submarine. A book was born that day. Now the problem remained of how to make my work different from the mass of stuff out there?  I studied the market and decided that a woman Mossad agent that headed up an ultra-secret group of sleepers would fit the bill.

Kefira, meaning young lioness, danced onto my pages. Oh! I forgot to mention something. I am a tango maniac. Dance with my wife 15 hours a week and have done so for 16 years. My secondary goal was to write about Argentinean tango. Giving Kefira the role of professional dancer left her free to travel, perhaps not inconspicuously, but nevertheless free to be a spy, a sleeper.

An amazing thing happened when I wrote a thriller. The genre freed up my creativity. When I wrote pure fiction, I always got caught up in personal issues because the characters became fragments of my entourage and me. Espionage thrillers freed me up. I no longer had to think about whether or not the people in the story came from my life. I had no military experience and knew no spies. Why write about spies then? After all we should write about what we know, shouldn't we?

For 35 years, I have been a voracious reader of espionage fiction. The cold war lived in my mind constantly, even when I travelled in the East Bloc in the late 70s. My experience was vicarious and enchanted. The technology, the action and the characters in books by Le Carré, Deighton, Clancy and Lustbadder among others, animated my reading life. As I said earlier, I wanted to differentiate myself from the crowd so I wrote a woman protagonist, made her a serious dancer, and stabbed at writing a post-cold-war espionage novel. I must have succeeded because I have just signed with a publisher to translate Tsunami Connection to be released in Turkey and Germany. It's only a small run of books. Who knows, my wildest dreams are coming true.

My new book, Diamond Rain: Adventure Science Fiction Techno Thriller (Book 2 of The Spy Stories and Tales of Intrigue Series), hot off the presses, takes my writing journey in a familiar but new direction. What if a paradigm-shifting nanotechnology changed everything? Would the world of spies change and how would those changes unfold? The book started as a series of flashbacks roughly inspired by the Sci-Fi great Robert Heinlein's Starship Warriors film.  To my pleasant surprise, the words in the first draft flowed onto the page with fun and pleasure. Oh yeah! I forgot to mention that I learned I desperately needed an amazing editor if I wanted to continue in the writing game. Why? 'Cause it takes me at least six drafts to get it right. After some rough starts with Internet-based editors, I lucked into someone who filled the bill. Chris Roper, my editor, has 30 years of successful writing experience, using various pseudonyms and has just released his first novel, The Gyrfalcon File: An Edward Morgan Novel. . By what stroke of luck Chris decided to work with me I am not sure, but I am very happy he has. This game is all about collaboration. I start the idea but it is a group effort of writing, editing, beta-reading and proofing that makes the final product.
Since Diamond Rain is in pre-order to be released on April 10th 2015, any clicks on the pre-order link on the Amazon page would be really appreciated. In fact, any reader who takes the trouble to email me a link with an honest review of Diamond Rain on Amazon will get a gift card for Tsunami Connection (and vice versa if you read and review Tsunami Connection first). So here's the email to get a free book: tsunamiconnectionmjg(at)gmail(dot)com.  Enjoy!

Ooops! One more thing please take the time pick up Diamond Rain before the pre-release sale price at just 0.99 cents US  runs out.

Michael James Gallagher

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hackers, Crackers and Cyberterrorism

Eric J. Gates


Hello Everyone!  This morning on 911 we have the mysterious thriller-writer Eric Gates as our guest on Author 911. Eric is the author of the highly acclaimed Cull Series and Outsourced, Full Disclosure and How Not to be An Aspiring Author. His books are amazing and so is his wealth of information about things most of us don’t know about!  So, move over Patricia Arquette, we’ve got the real deal.

Hi Eric, many, many thanks for joining us this morning on Author 911 to talk about cyber terrorism. Authors have been writing about this fear for years, particularly Tom Clancy in Clear and Present Danger, The Sum of All Fears, and Patriots Games and you have done extensive development with SANTA in The Cull Series and other systems in your other books.  Can you talk about them for us and how you used information in the development of these systems?  But first, for the purposes of our discussion can you offer a definition of cyberterrorism?


Steering away from a standard dictionary definition, I think it’s better if we turn back the clock a little and explain some of the basics.  Back in the day when I first became involved with Information Technology Security (note, we don’t say Computers as this somewhat prophetic phrase foresaw the use of IT in many other manifestations, some of which we now call smartphones, tablets, cars, traffic systems, hospital systems and a long list of etcs), those who wanted unauthorized access fell into two camps: the hackers and the crackers.  The former treated their exploits as puzzle-solving – a game mentality pervaded and it was all about circumventing the controls over access and either leaving a mark (Kilroy was here) or taking a copy of something to prove they had succeeded.  The cracker, on the other hand, used the same methods but to steal information or destroy it or the systems that managed it.  They were motivated by their beliefs or by money (industrial espionage).  Cyberwarfare (the use of IT as a means to wage war) was born more from the crackers than the hackers, although covert cyberspying follows many of the tenets of the hacker (success is not leaving any trace of your exploit).

As in conventional warfare, the cyber battlespace (military term for where the war is fought) came into its own once the Internet and the World Wide Web became prevalent.  Prior to this, to successfully ‘hack’ and target a system you had to be in the same room as the machine or find a way to interface with that machine by introducing code into it (Trojan Horse anyone?).  This doesn’t necessarily imply that all cyberwarfare is done by people sitting in secure rooms behind rows and rows of computer monitors.  I still recall a couple of really innovative instances where the internal chips of photocopiers and printers were modified to store images of everything that passed through them; then they were sold on the Black Market to countries considered enemies.  That’s cyberwarfare too.

So, where do these neat ‘hacking’ tools come from?  Well, believe it or not, there’s a supermarket of sorts.  By now just about everyone has heard of the Dark (or Deep) Web, Darth Vader’s version of the Internet.  Let’s digress a minute and I’ll explain this.  Imagine the largest shopping mall in the World has just opened in your city.  You visit it for the first time and the very first thing you do, after walking through the doors, is consult the layout plan which tells you where every store is and what they sell.  That’s the Internet, made up of millions of individual computers and servers full of all kinds of information and INDEXED by the Search Engines we use every day.  Now, outside the mall, a huge chunk of the car park is taken over by a mish-mash of stalls selling all kinds of stuff.  There’s no real order to this flea market; no easy way to locate where a given product is being sold – in short NO INDEXING.  This is the thing that gives us that Aladdin’s Cave thrill of discovery as we wander the aisles and encounter the unexpected.  That’s the Dark Web.  Those stalls are invisible as far as the mall’s layout plan is concerned and they use this very factor to sell everything from drugs to weapons to… you name it.  They also sell ‘hacking’ tools: bits of code or keys that have the specific purpose to break into IT systems and to steal and/or destroy the information held there.  And this may come as a surprise to you: our Governments shop there too!  In fact, they are one of the major buyers on a regular basis – that’s the equivalent of an Army buying from an Arms Dealer, so nothing new there.  As a Brit by birth living in a Spanish-speaking country, I used to be asked frequently who won the war in the Falklands/Malvinas?  My response was always the same: the French.  Once the look of bewilderment settled on the face of my questioner, I pointed out they were the ones selling weapons and support to both sides.

Now you don’t have to be a nation state to buy stuff in this supermarket, just know how to access the Dark Web and where the appropriate stalls can be found.  Then it’s just a case of finance.  When individuals or terrorist cells purchase their ‘weapons’ there, that’s when you have ‘cyberterrorism’.  Mainly their goals and motivations are similar to those of the aforementioned crackers.  They attack what we call Critical Infrastructures, the backbone of our way of life.  This could be the electrical grid, power stations, communications, hospitals, and another long list of etcs.  The recent attack on Sony was not a Critical Infrastructure attack, rather a Critical Asset attack (in that only Sony and its competitors were affected – there was no domino effect on US Infrastructure).  The retaliatory (?) dysfunction of the Internet on several occasions in North Korea, however, was a Critical Infrastructure attack.   

Now specifically, the IT systems I refer to in my novels are either generic (ie. Invented by me as a device for the novel but based upon existing technology – such as the SANTA system in ‘the CULL’ series) or real (the systems mentioned in ‘Outsourced’, although I tasked them to novel-specific  targets).  SANTA is basically a surveillance system powered by Artificial Intelligence which allowed me to permit its ‘growth’ as the novel series progressed – it changed in the same way as the two protagonists changed, acquiring (revealing) new skills that helped it, and the tale, evolve. Does SANTA exist? Probably, and that’s scary: imagine you find yourself on a no-fly list because a computer system didn’t like the websites you visited. If you really want to blow your mind, read Book 3 (the CULL – Blood Feud) then follow the clues using my website as Katie’s writer friend’s site. I’ve left a nice Easter Egg there for fans of the series… or is it?
Sorry about the long answer but it’s a complex subject and difficult to summarize in a couple of paragraphs.


I know you have an extensive and impressive background in information systems and information security.  Can you tell me about your experiences in this area?


For over forty years I was a Consultant specializing in IT Security Internationally. My clients were as varied as you could imagine and most of the projects I worked on are as classified and secret today as they were they were live. And yes, there have been hidden microphones, car chases, people following, threats, and all manner of things I cannot go into – let’s just say my martial arts skill came in handy more than once. It was exciting work… and boring work – there never seemed to be any middle ground. I’ve broken cryptographic systems with pencil and paper in a room full of ‘interested parties’ in a very Agatha Christie moment, broken into systems and buildings to test their security (got shot at once too), even jumped from one rooftop to another between a couple of skyscrapers (not something I wish to repeat). No, I’m not Jason Bourne! Nowadays, I just write about that stuff – it’s much harder!


I have always heard the some of the most vulnerable areas of attack in the US and anywhere else for that matter, would be any military system infrastructure the power grid, water storage defenses such as dams that can be manipulated to cause massive flooding etc.  What systems do you view as our most vulnerable?  How do you assess the risk of cyber terrorism against the West?


Going back to my first answer, Critical Infrastructure is a concept we have been talking about for over thirty years.  It’s not a question of which is the most vulnerable system, but which system is made most vulnerable because of the lack of effort put into protecting it. When an army, or individual, attacks a fortress, they will always attack the weakest point. With Critical Infrastructure, any weak points, through the domino effect, will always lead to indirect damage in associated systems. A simple example in your terrain, Judith: an attack takes place on the electricity grid. This doesn’t have to be a logic bomb; it could be something as simple as a major blackout caused by a physical device taking out a power station (explosives or ElectroMagnetic Pulse weapon). Result: no power. Now Judith’s hospital has Uninterrupted Power Supplies for its critical systems, and in-house generators that kick in to allow the hospital to keep functioning.  But, whilst management have spent millions on ensuring their tech keeps working, no one has given any thought to maintaining communication with staff. No power means cellphone relay towers are down, phone batteries die and cannot be recharged. Key staff, off-site when the emergency occurs cannot be located. They become the critical infrastructure.

To factor in the plausibles and possibles you need professionals with peculiar mindsets to produce effective Critical Infrastructure Recovery and/or Disaster Recovery Plans and most organizations do not have these people on staff as they are too specialized for most business structures especially in times of financial crises such as we have all experienced. This is defensive Cyberwarfare and unless your Fortress is protected, you shouldn’t be going all-out offensive.


Wow, Eric, that example is so likely to happen someday. Nothing good can happen in a hospital, or any complex system without communication. Perhaps some of this content should be integrated into their Disaster Plans and operating documents. 

What are your thoughts about cyberterrorism and surveillance systems.  How are they used in counter terrorism or terrorist activities?


There’s an on-going battle between the need to protect our liberties and the need to retain our privacy. In all ‘business’ ventures (and the military and Intelligence circles are just that albeit using different terminology), exaggeration of potential threats (crying ‘wolf’) is a tried and trusted tactic to obtain a larger share of the budget. Yet, it’s been my experience that most of the measures undertaken happen AFTER the risk materializes. I remember once being asked to perform a risk analysis on the probability of a Financial Institution’s Data Centre being taken out by a flood (it was in the basement of a building). I pointed out the flood in question had occurred the previous month! All they were looking for was a chunk of paper to justify a bigger budget. That’s the wrong mindset, and that’s why far more money is allocated to FEMA (in the States) than to effective Critical Infrastructure protection and education. There’s an old saying about an ‘ounce of prevention’, right?
Surveillance systems are a part of our lives now. The question isn’t, should we allow more to be installed, but how can we ensure those who use them don’t abuse them. I remarked to my wife last week as we watched the news from France regarding the terrorist attacks how I expected most EU countries to announce measures to facilitate Internet surveillance by Law Enforcement and Intelligence Agencies within two days – I was wrong: France, the UK, and Spain announced new laws the very next day.
Will this be effective? There’s another adage called Information Saturation (better known as not being able to see the wood for the trees) – if the results of surveillance produce far more data than we can process, what’s the point of adding more data gathering? Surely we should concentrate on improving how efficiently we utilize what we have. Currently it seems we collect info only to cover our backs when post-incident investigations are under way.

Do you think al Qaeda, ISIS, Taliban, and other extremist groups have the skill sets needed to damage the west?  How about other areas of the world?


The concept of small cells or ‘lone wolves’ can easily be applied to the battlespace of Cyberwarfare. Keep in mind that ‘hacking’ and ‘cracking’ predated the Internet era – don’t believe me? Look up Phone Phreaking on Google. Remember, as long as you have the cash, the stalls of the Dark Net are open to all.


Eric, many thanks! This information, while more than scary, can give us many ideas in our thrill writing.  We’ll see you again soon back on Author 911.


Thanks, Judith, as always for having me!

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