Monday, January 31, 2011

Why Tranquillity Initiative positions Joan Meijer to compete with Robin Cook and Tess Gerritsen

Throughout Tranquillity Initiative are the consequences of the anthrax attack on the New York City. In his five star review of Tranquillity Initiative, Sean Remfrey talked about a woman he only met in a page that he cared about to his surprise. I believe that woman was Meggan Pollam. The reality of the threat of this is what caused Allen R. Cook to favorably compare Joan Meijer to Robin Cook and Tess Gerritsen in his review. saying:

"Look out Robin Cook and Tess Gerritsen – there is new competition
in the medical thriller field!

That competition is Joan Meijer!

Excerpt from Tranquillity Initiative:

In the vaulted space of the ancient third-story loft, photographer Meggan Pollam coughed violently as she stirred thick noodles into the vat of chicken soup on her gas stove. The loft had originally been built to house a sweatshop during the expansive years around the turn of the century. It now served as Meggan's studio. She considered herself lucky to have it, even though lofts had become popular on the New York housing market, and the rent was driving her crazy. The high ceilings, the fantastic exposure, the great light were a treasure in her profession. She loved 'the old fire trap,' as she liked to call it.

Meggan had felt like hell all day. At first she thought she had a cold, then she knew it was the flu. She'd been sick before, but never like this. After considering the financial edge on which she skated, Meggan had cancelled her appointments for the day. The cancellation of work was a true measure of how sick she felt.

She had considered dragging herself over to the Beekman Downtown Hospital Emergency Room, but she didn't have the money for an Emergency Room visit, nor did she have the energy for a ten-block walk. She had settled instead for chicken soup and sleep. Her mother swore by chicken soup. It would have to do.

She spooned some of the hot broth into a ladle and brought it tentatively to her lips. It burned a little and tasted watery. It definitely needed salt.

Meggan reached over the stove to the shelf at the back, which her ex-husband had built as a home for the numerous bottles and boxes of herbs and spices she considered essential for cooking. She had told him at the time that she thought it was a dangerous place to put a shelf, but he hadn't listened. Alex had never listened, which was why he was her ex.

In her weakened condition, Meggan did not take her usual precautions around the gas stove. As she leaned forward, the flowing material of her bathrobe brushed against the hungry open flame that reached out from under the vat of soup. By the time she noticed that the rayon was on fire, the flames were licking up her arms, melting the synthetic material onto her skin.

Even if Meggan had been well enough to react to the emergency, and escape the curtain of fire that fed on the highly flammable material, she would have been seriously burned. But she was not well, and her reflexes were slow. Within seconds, she had become a human torch, dancing in the agony of consuming flame.

Meggan could think of only one thing to do; run and get help. As her skin blistered and popped, and the subcutaneous layers of fat sizzled like bacon, she ran for the front door. Unable to see through the wall of flame that rose from her chest, scorched her eyelids and seared her breathing passages, she careened into the kitchen table. She paused only long enough to set fire to its cheerful checked table cloth before she bounced away into the doorway, where she set fire to the velvet curtain which separated the kitchen from the rest of her living quarters.

By the time Meggan Pollam collapsed on the braided rug near the front door, she had spread the fire to four different areas in her apartment. In the time it took her neighbors to notice the smoke, the fire had reached Meggan's dark room with the floor to ceiling shelves of volatile chemicals she had stored in anticipation of hard times. The resultant explosion guaranteed that the building and three of its ancient neighbors would not be saved. All anyone could do was run for their lives.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

How I Build Tension In A My Thriller Novels

I am unendingly interested in the technique of writing. I read and re-read novels to get an understanding of what they did and how they did it. In my novel "Tranquillity Initiative" which is about an anthrax attack on New York City, I created fear and tension in the reader by laying out exactly what would happen if an anthrax bomb were properly deployed from a skyscraper over New York. The following excerpt is from a discussion between Cassandra Williams, an anthrax expert from the Centers For Disease Control who has been sent to New York to investigate a mysterious outbreak of the rare disease pulmonary anthrax and Senator Richland Powell who has been warned that a bomb was opened accidentally and that the terrorists have a second bomb they intend to drop.

"The next areas to break down would be police, fire and sanitation," Cassandra continued, describing what might happen if Tranquility were optimally deployed. She could see the scenario she was describing as if she was sitting in a movie theater. "The fires would be worse in the old buildings. Row houses, blocks of warehousing, could all go up in flames. New York burned to the ground once before, and without outside help, it might do so again. The first time New York had been incinerated, its Fire Departments had been decimated by a cholera epidemic. Firemen in the city would also have been infected by the anthrax. Fire stations would be critically short of staff. Without massive support from other states, half the city could burn."

"Would the National Guard help?" Powell asked, worrying about the how many Guardsmen would be available with so many of them in Astrakhan.

"I don't know. Are they trained for urban fire fighting? I mean it's a fairly specialized art. Maybe help from other cities with tall buildings would be more useful," Cassandra mused, trying to work at the parts of the problem that were not her specialty.

"I'll look into it," Powell said, making a mental note.

"Provision would have to be made to start collecting bodies. Secondary diseases would spread rapidly if the bodies weren't collected," Cassandra closed her eyes. She could picture the way New York would be. It wouldn't be Armageddon of course, the rest of the country would still be functional, and many people could come to the aid of the city, but it would be very ugly before things got under control. "Sanitation departments would also have been decimated by the disease, and the task they would face would be daunting even without reduced personnel. That's probably where your National Guard would be helpful.

"It's entirely possible that once the public got wind of the epidemic there would be rioting: looting would spread in volatile areas. Especially if people thought they were going to die anyway. It wouldn't matter that there would be whole areas of the city that would not be directly in the path of the infection. That probably wouldn't register with the rioters. The police force would have been decimated by the disease as well, and there would be too few of them to control the rioting."

"We'll definitely need the National Guard," Richland Powell whispered, his administrative mind organizing the problems that would have to be dealt with if even half of Cassandra Williams' scenario became reality. "They definitely can be used to control the rioting."

"Yes, and don't forget the body collection. I can't begin to tell you how important that will be," Cassandra replied, not fully registering the fact that she and the Senator had just changed tenses. They were now speaking in the future, as if Tranquility had become a reality.

"Finally, a lot of people will try to run away. You'll have free-for-alls at every exit out of New York. The bridges and tunnels will become killing grounds. As soon as the suburbs figure out that hordes of hypothetically infectious New Yorkers are heading their way, there will be vigilante attempts to close the outlying towns and cities down to anyone but residents. You can expect mass slaughter on top of whatever damage the disease and the riots will do."

"But they wouldn't be infectious," Powell said, hoping he hadn't missed something.

"No, but try telling that to a home owner with three kids in Connecticut who's been watching what's happening in New York on CNN." Cassandra was quiet for awhile, as the pictures her words had elicited sank in. "The good news is, that's not going to happen."

Richland Powell hardly heard her. He asked, "Is there any way to prepare for it? Could we vaccinate the city or something? Could we at least inoculate the police and fire department personnel?"

Cassandra suddenly became aware that he was not treating her story as theoretical. Hearing fear in his voice, she asked, "Is there something I should know, Senator?"

To buy Tranquillity Initiative go to To see what reviewers are saying about "Tranquillity Initiative" visit my press room at autographed copies are available on my store.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

David Baldacci’s Hells Corner - Book Review

The fourth in the Camel Club series is okay – at least I finished it – although I could have put it down at almost any time and not felt I was going to miss much. I don’t find Baldacci a totally satisfying writer and probably the only reason I still read his books is because my sister gives them to me.

In this story – in Baldacci’s constant theme of protecting America from its Spy Masters – John Carr (a.k.a. Oliver Stone) a recovering top assassin turned all American hero, is once again at odds with the government. He’s hired by the president to work for the government, then fired by someone in the government, then works on his own, then seems to be working with the government again…. It’s that kind of book. He avoids working with the Camel Club, then works with them, then tries to protect them, then endangers them… I could have skipped the ending even if it was needed to tie up a loose end.

The story opens with Carr nearly being blown up while walking in Lafayette Park across from the White House. The explosion turns out to be more than it seems as missed clue after missed clue is revealed. The theme of the story is about being misled by “clues” that turn out to be diversions. Unlike the other Camel Club stories in which the fuddy-duddy members of the Club are in focus and make the story character rich and fun, this story is more like The Clash of the Titans and the Titans aren’t all that interesting. The usual and predictable people wear the black hats.

This book, unlike other Camel Club stories, has a lot of Deus Ex Machina twists and turns in which things happen and no one knows why. Its solutions to its multiple problems are contrived and in many cases unbelievable. Baldacci is a good story teller but I find his books really badly constructed.

I give it three stars.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Opening is Familiar

My 5 star rated book " Tranquillity Initiative" opens with a familiar situation - President in an unpopular war facing election needs to "win the war" and resorts to an illegal solution. This book has been likened to Robin Cook and Tess Garitson for it's medical thriller - I like it to John Grisham for the underlying politics.


Wars were the inevitable result of the destabilization of the Middle East. They were small wars as wars go; bloody, destructive, battles waged between ethnic groups in the wake of the American invasion of Iraq and its subsequent defeat at the hands of the insurgents. Even with the emergence of dictators, who kept their mutual hatreds and suspicions in check for a time, the differences between ethnic groups and religious factions could not be held in check forever. Now those differences emerged with new vigor.
The wars that were the creation of religious leaders hoping for bigger power bases, focused the people's attention on the grievances of their divisive past at the expense of any hope for a prosperous future. Brushfire after brushfire flared up throughout even relatively stable Middle Eastern nations. Before long, they had traveled up into the Muslim areas of the former Soviet Union. They spread in all directions, until they came at last to the sixteenth century Tartar strongholds in the ancient war zone that surrounded the historic city of Astrakhan.
The members of the European Economic Community and NATO, threatened by their own Muslim communities, were determined to avoid involvement at all cost. Burned by the War in Iraq, and wary of their own huge Islamic populations, they steadfastly refused to be dragged into the swirling vortex of ethnic dissention playing out in ever widening circles on their eastern flank. They chose, instead, to let the various factions settle their differences among themselves. The predictable result was genocide.
Then, ten years after the turn of the 21st Century, the bloody skirmishes took on a whole new significance. The Nation of Islam united, and began to ascend outside the Middle East. When it became obvious that the bottom third of the former Soviet Union was falling under the influence of the Iranian mullahs, Europe became restless. As the Jihad nibbled at the corners of the western world once again, Europe went on the defensive.
The United States became involved in what became known as the Astrakhan War, by increments. It had all looked good on paper; a UN Peacekeeping profile, with the support of NATO, doing the right thing to prevent world war. Americans joined their allies in an all out effort to contain the threat to the European way of life. There was worldwide agreement that something had to be done and, if done in concert, would naturally be victorious. Once again, American mothers sent their children to fight on the side of right. Once again, the leaders of the free world were dead wrong.
The concept of peace through war only works when the countries seeking to interfere in the affairs of another country are, and continue to be, committed to the fight. In a religious war, people who lack fanaticism are at a decided disadvantage. As the Astrakhan Intervention dragged on, the American population was once again faced with a test of its resolve. 9/11 was a distant memory, and without a similar catalyst, Americans could not see the point of protecting the citizens of a country thousands of miles from home. What had started as a firm desire to do the right thing, became a grinding intervention in the kind of civil unrest that would not go away. Taxes were raised, the balancing of the budget was put on hold, body bags began to flood into hometowns, and the people took to the streets.
It was now six years after America had stepped into the Astrakhan Intervention, and tear gas flooded American streets with increasing regularity. President Charles Boynton Anderson's election four years earlier had been the war's repudiation. Anderson had campaigned to end the bloodshed and bring the troops home. Americans had flocked to the polls and, despite the fact that polls showed that 63% of the electorate didn't trust his ethics, they had elected Anderson by a landslide. The American voter had spoken.
But ending a war without victory is a daunting task for a politician. Three years after his election, Anderson found himself bogged down in a bloody, costly conflict that would not end.
In January, Anderson had begun to face concerns for his own reelection. As early primary results came in, the President was made painfully aware that the American public, urged on by a stable of hungry candidates, was holding him responsible for the nation’s continued involvement in Astrakhan. It didn't take rocket science to figure out that if he did not take some drastic measure, he would be without a job in November. He needed a final solution to the Astrakhan War, and he needed it badly.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

And Another 5 Star Review.

Tranquillity Initiative gets another 5 Star Review from "The Book Review" warning Robin Cook and Tess Garretson that there's a new medical thriller writer on the block. This is really gratifying.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Another Five Star Review for "Tranquillity Initiative"

5.0 out of 5 stars

creepy, scary, but excellent book,

January 6, 2011


A. Zittel (MA) - See all my reviews

This review is from: The Tranquillity Initiative (Paperback)

This book was a thriller, all right. I do not generally read thrillers (nor do I like to watch them) - those are the types of things that keep me up at night, or give me nightmares, and I already have problems enough sleeping. But the premise of this book caught my eye & I agreed to review the book (I received a copy for free by the author).

I was immediately hooked into the book, and read it in a little less than a week. I could have easily finished faster, but the book is darker than I would have liked, so I couldn't read it at night (again, read the bit about giving me nightmares). This book is a very scary read -- not horror movie scary, more like Stephen King "Under the Dome" scary, but worse. I think what makes this book such a scary read is that it is so believable, and in the crazy world we live in, you can see most of these events actually happening, especially the germ warfare part. My coworkers saw me reading this book on my lunch break, and we got into conversations about germ warfare, and got us talking - good stuff!

There are a few scenes that were graphic for me, that I could have done without, but this book is excellent & I would definitely read anything else Meijer comes up with!

The next great writing moment

I took my musician son to the opera a few years ago and was delighted to discover that he had watched the orchestra more than he watched the stage. He was fascinated by the interaction between the musicians, the conductor and whatever was happening with the actors. I can honestly say I have never watched the orchestra at an opera. As a student of character development it fascinated me.

Then one day I had the pleasure of going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York with an artist friend. I believe it was in the Greek exhibit when it became clear to me that I didn’t see like an artist. She described a Greek vase to me and I couldn’t believe all the things there were to see. In a flash I understood that this was how she translated the world around her and why she was such a good artist.

This week I noticed how I read. I notice things about character development and interaction, structure and word choice that I bet a person who isn’t a writer would never think about.

I realize that people who work in an art see according to their art. They see and experience the art of other people differently from those who are not practicing an art form. I think I recognized that I had become a professional when I realized that I was excited about structure and form as much as I was in reading a story or watching a movie. I might read good books several times – the first time for enjoyment, the next several times to pick apart how the author had accomplished something interesting. I have read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series dozens of times, each time exploring her mastery at writing as much as her good story telling. It's a variation on the theme of "Hang out with greatness."

Being this focused on the writing rather than the story doesn’t destroy the story for me. It adds another layer of excitement to the reading. I’m always looking for the next great example of fine writing to pick apart, examine and admire.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A review of my book that simply took my breath away.

It is so exciting to receive reviews like this after all the years of wondering if I really could write. This is really amazing and gratifying.

Book review for:
Tranquility Initiative

Written By Joan Meijer

This is a book that all should read, especially in today’s unsettled world where anything could disrupt peace and every day living. Tranquility Initiative gives the scenario of anthrax being spread across the world, started by The United States through a secret project. While it is fiction you will find yourself shuddering every time the danger of anthrax and the individuals hurt before a grueling death it places within a human. The story tells just how easy it would be to spread such a fatal disease by several humans working together to steal one or more of these anthrax bombs and drop it to kill as many people as they possibly could at almost any location where it would kill the most.

The anthrax was first spread by The United States in a nation called Astrakhan ten years after the turn of the twenty-first century. The death in Astrakhan was devastating dropping people that never knew what had attacked them or who did the attacking. Supposedly top United States government officials secretly planned and carried out this genocide after Europe fell apart and was being controlled by the Nations of Islam united. Two pilots noticed the red, white, and blue coloring on some strangely shaped bombs that were being loaded into their airplane. It reminded them of years past when their parents and grandparents told of germ warfare, but this couldn’t be that since it was outlawed by past presidencies. But the closer they came to taking off and dropping those “different” looking bombs, the more they worried about what they were about to do. They did not want to kill innocent people.

A few of these bombs were stolen with no one certain they actually disappeared. However, when anyone responsible for handling, transporting, or dropping these bombs started to vanish, it got very strange; they were found dead or disappeared. The CDC was notified about the anthrax and Dr. Cassandra Williams was brought into New York where the anthrax was now appearing. Meanwhile the families of the ones that released the anthrax in New York City became sick as well as the bombers themselves. They still had one more they had to set off so the race began against death. An unknown government official had to be involved in this but that person was not known. A United States Senator, Richland Powell, was also involved assisting Dr. Williams in tracking down the source of the disease.

This book will blow your mind away. When one thinks it couldn’t happen here, the reading of this book will change your mind. Those that would hurt us for any reason will find a way around anybody and anything to make that hurt come about. I highly recommend this book. I compliment Joan Meijer on her writing. It is very complex without leaving the reader behind.

Review written by

Cy Hilterman of a book supplied by the author

January 4, 2011