Thomas P. Hopp's Blog
May 27, 2018
On Saturday, June 30th, mystery writers in the Pacific Northwest are in for a treat when the Northwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America presents: MYSTERY WRITING, THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT. Two top-caliber writers of novels and short stories will join us in Gig Harbor Washington to explain the ins and outs of the publishing business with emphasis on the art and craft of mystery storytelling.
Jeffrey Deaver’s mystery novels have been perennial bestsellers, and have propelled him to the number one position on the New York Times bestseller list, as well as others. He’ll discuss ways to improve your fiction writing and take it to a higher level, whether you are a seasoned pro already or a new writer aspiring to your first short-story sale to a mystery magazine. At this year’s Edgar Awards Ceremony in New York City, I had the pleasure of watching him M.C. the event in his role as President of Mystery Writers of America, which is quite a credential in itself. I can attest that he is a master of public speaking, as well as writing. Attendees of our seminar can expect both wit and wisdom to be amply in evidence when Jeff makes his afternoon presentation. I have read a number of his works, and I’m midway though his James Bond novel Carte Blanche. I am finding it to be a clinic on how to weave convoluted plots, dish up characters of great interest, and ratchet up the suspense at every turning of a page.
Eric Witchey is a renowned teacher of fiction writing who frequently lectures at writers conferences in the Pacific Northwest. Having attended several of his mesmerizing sessions on such matters as coming up with fresh plot ideas and the creation of characters who seem to leap off the page at you, I thought it was time we had him work his magic for us in our morning session at Gig Harbor.
So, why not consider joining us June 30th? Gig Harbor is a place of great natural beauty and worth a trip from places far and near. And the combination of two prominent and accomplished speakers and writers of fiction is a rare event.
And while my attendance is mandatory to fulfill my obligation as MWA Northwest Chapter President to introduce our speakers and M.C. the proceedings, you can be certain I will keep pen and paper close at hand. I’ll be taking notes to capture as much of this great store of wisdom as I possibly can.
See you there?
Here’s a link to a PAGE where you can get more information on the who, what, when, where, why, and the how-much of it. Or if you are already convinced, then click the following link to REGISTER today. Seats are going fast.
December 3, 2017
The Juno space probe is looking over Jupiter’s shoulder these days. As we careworn mortals tread the surface of our small planet in day-to-day wanderings of scant consequence, above us in the infinite sky, one of our offspring loops around our solar system’s most majestic giant. And she sends home photos of unprecedented beauty. Click the image for a closeup of breathtaking proportions.
People have never seen Jupiter from this angle before. No one, and no thing, has ever flown quite this course over the cloud-swirling vistas of the King of Planets. No telescope ever saw and no space probe ever recorded such sights–until now.
Juno was sent to Jupiter to capture these images and vast streams of scientific data about the giant planet. And the little interplanetary robot is doing her job as tasked. But that’s not all she is capable of. The imaging systems of Juno were almost an afterthought for the scientists who conceived of her, designed her, built her, and launched her on her billion-mile journey.
But we who wait here on Earth for her deliveries of data packets, doppler shifts, and sensor echoes, know that she is capable of more. She is capable of art. She is capable of discovery. And she is capable of surprise.
Look at her images of the north polar pool of deep blue, cloud-crossed mystery. Is this icy water? No. Ice would become solid as rock and sink out of sight. This is a cool blue atmosphere, thousands of times thicker than the one over our heads. And hundreds of degrees colder.
Alien–but beautifully so. Who could ever have imagined such beauty lay, since before the time of the dinosaurs, waiting for us to reach out and snap some photos of it? Now that we have, the sights can never be forgotten. They will live as the legacy of human ingenuity and curiosity. They are with us now and will never be lost. They are what NASA and the space program are all about: bringing the beauty of the universe home for us to experience.
The images shown here are from NASA via Sean Doran, a computer artist. You can see more of his planetary work at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/136797589@N04/with/38180971386/
And I have tweaked the images even a bit more for this post.
November 5, 2017
Things are really moving and shaking around here. With one book just released and still in its early days, I’m halfway through writing the next. I hope you’ll enjoy them both.
Let me start off with the new project. After months of preparatory research I have begun to write my second natural disaster thriller tentatively titled, “Earthquake–Seattle!” or words to that effect. It’s about… um, do I really need to tell you?
One of the most difficult aspects of researching this story is that there are so many cracks in the ground around Seattle that it’s hard to pick a favorite (or is it un-favorite?). There’s the Southern Whidbey Fault Zone, the Darrington–Devil’s Mountain Fault, the Saddle Mountain and Rattlesnake Mountain Faults, not to mention the Olympia and Tacoma Faults, or the granddaddy of them all, the Cascadia Subduction Zone, a huge fault that runs the full length of Washington State’s Coastline.
Eventually I settled on the Seattle Fault, because, well, it’s closer to home. That’s a model of it above, in which the color scheme runs from green denoting not-so-much shaking, through yellow to orange, where you ask yourself, “What was in that drink? I can hardly keep my feet!” to red, where you are thrown to the floor and your house starts crumpling around you.
The more I research this story, the more I realize we could have a pretty nasty shakeup around here. So I keep writing. It will still be several months before the book is complete, edited, and prepared for printing and ebook delivery. Until then, I urge you to think, “Duck and cover. Duck and cover!”
Before I get back to the keyboard (Oh wait, I’m already there), let me remind you that my current offering, Kit Daniels Dinosaur Girl, awaits your discovery and enjoyment. It’s a great escape from the throes of natural disasters, which can be a bit weighty. This story is lighter fare, with much humor and a bit of romance thrown in. Not just for kids, this one is guaranteed to make even the stodgiest adult laugh out loud or shout for joy as Kit takes on the task assigned by her Hollywood film producer. “Ride that Triceratops!”
So what are you waiting for? Even if you are the world’s slowest reader, you can easily finish Kit Daniels Dinosaur Girl long before Earthquake—Seattle is published.
September 8, 2017
Kit Daniels and Chase Armstrong, the young heroes of the Dinosaur Wars series, have already saved the planet from a space invasion of laser-blasting dinosaurs. You would think they’d have no challenges left to face. But when a Hollywood director and his crew come to Montana to film Kit getting up close and personal with the dinosaurs that live on her father’s cattle ranch, anything can happen—AND DOES! Come join the adventure as pandemonium reigns on the film set. KIT DANIELS—DINOSAUR GIRL is an exciting adventure for all ages and both genders.
Click this LINK to find an ebook seller who carries KIT DANIELS—DINOSAUR GIRL. All the big booksellers do!
August 11, 2017
Good news for DINOSAUR WARS fans! I have just about finished writing the newest story in the series: KIT DANIELS — DINOSAUR GIRL. This is the latest adventure of Kit Daniels and Chase Armstrong in a world where dinosaurs live again. I’m just putting the finishing touches on it and expect it to be available within a few weeks.
To ease pain of the waiting, I thought I’d tell you a little about the story and introduce several of the key characters. Each one is prominently featured in the story.
First, there is Mrs. T, seen above with her horns silhouetted against Sandstone Mountain in Yellowstone Country, Montana. Chase Armstrong was the one who named her Mrs. T, though no one knows exactly why. Presumably the T stands for triceratops, of which Mrs. T is a fine specimen. She’s also the matriarchal leader of her herd, much the same way some big female elephants become the central figures in their extended families.
And like a matriarchal elephant, one would be well advised not to rile her up. She’s easily as big as a full-grown pachyderm, and is positively bristling with dangerous-looking horns and a beak that can snap a person in half. Take it from Kit Daniels, who learned the hard way that a Mamma triceratops does not like people messing around with one of her babies, even if the intentions are friendly.
Kit’s mistake was to assume that Mrs. T would stand by idly while she took a short triceratops-back ride on little Topsy, the friendly triceratops yearling whom she had all but tamed. Topsy, being young and inquisitive, seemed at first to enjoy the idea of a human riding on his back. But in Dinosaur Country, things have a tendency to go wrong in a big way.
Before this story ends, Kit will have had the ride of her life and Mrs. T will have demonstrated the full fury of a seven-ton triceratops on a rampage. Hang onto your hats folks. This looks to be one scary thrill ride from the start to the finish!
May 29, 2017
As President of the NW Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, it is my solemn duty to inform you: there’s just one month left until the RAIN CITY MYSTERY WRITERS SEMINAR in Bothell WA, June 24, 2017! If you harbor an interest in writing and selling novels, then this event may be just the thing for you. Folks have been signing up at an increasing rate and space is limited. So you’d better act now if you’re interested, before the remaining places are taken.
Whether you’re a novice or a published author, you can never learn too much about the craft of writing or the art of selling books. Our acclaimed experts in novel writing and book sales, James Ziskin and Beth Jusino, are eager to share their deep knowledge of these subjects. Between them, these experienced professionals cover a wide variety of techniques to accelerate your writing career. Not just for mystery writers, these techniques apply whether you write mysteries, thrillers, romance, science fiction—you name it!
James Ziskin is the author of the Edgar-, Anthony-, Barry-, and Lefty-nominated Ellie Stone Mysteries. A linguist by training, James worked in New York as a photo-news writer, and then spent fifteen years in the Hollywood film industry. Jim will take a deep dive into the craft of mystery writing, from outline to finished work. He will discuss key elements that make or break a story: plotting, characters, style, drafts, revisions—even titles and covers.
Beth Jusino is a publishing consultant, award-winning writer, developmental editor, former literary agent, and teacher who helps others navigate the complex space between writing and publishing. Her book, The Author’s Guide to Marketing: Make a Plan That Attracts More Readers and Sells More Books, helps writers identify their strengths and build audiences even before they’ve finished writing their first book.
All signs point to an educational and entertaining day for pros and novices alike. Registration includes coffee service and lunch. And there will be a raffle with great prizes, like signed copies of some of MWA-NW’s authors’ latest books as well as other cool stuff.
So don’t be left out. Seats are filling and the deadline for early registration is approaching. Last-minute registrants will be accepted if places are available, but after June 10 the price of admission goes up from $80 (MWA members) or $90 (non-members) to $110. So save yourself a couple of Hamiltons and register today!
This is an official MWA University Event. To learn more, click HERE
To register, click HERE
Location: Hilton Garden Inn
22600 Bothell-Everett Hwy
Bothell, WA 98021
May 12, 2017
Sometimes when you’re writing a novel, there are little signs you may have something special going on. So swarms of small earthquakes that have shaken Bremerton Washington lately seem like early-warning signs to me.
You see, I am halfway through writing the saga of a big earthquake hitting the Seattle area in the near future, and a nearby storm of small earthquakes is exactly how my story begins. So, in this case truth really might be stranger than fiction. Let’s hope things don’t get out of hand any time soon, though.
Most people know Washington State is a geologically active place, with earthquakes and volcanoes often in the news. My most recent novel, Rainier Erupts! was focused on the volcanic dangers faced by the cities of Seattle and Tacoma, and it has been my most successful book so far. May I suggest you grab a copy and read it soon, before my earthquake tale eclipses it?
Washington owes its proneness to volcanoes and earthquakes to the fact it lies across the Cascadia Subduction Zone, where the crust of the ocean floor is dragged beneath the ever-moving crust of the North American Continent. Although the motions of the ocean floor and continental crust occur on a geological time scale of millions of years, the accumulated stresses build up until the ground itself cracks open, unleashing earthquakes and volcanoes to threaten local humanity with disasters large and small.
Superimposed on the giant Cascadia Subduction Zone are myriad smaller, but still immense, faults that crisscross the landscape of Western Washington giving rise to many of its landscape features including the hills, valleys, and bays of Seattle itself. My house sits right atop one branch of the Seattle Fault, so you can imagine I occasionally wake up in the middle of the night thinking, “Boy, what if it ripped loose right now?”
I grew up in West Seattle, right on top of another stretch of the Seattle Fault. My memories of old times are of a placid community and a happy childhood. But when I was fifteen, things were not-so-nice. The Seattle Fault ruptured with a 6.7 Richter Scale quake right under my feet. To say I was shook up would be an understatement. People were killed. I was at James Madison Junior High School when the whole building lurched sideways in an instant. Heavy light fixtures crashed from the ceiling not far from me. I was in the Boys’ Locker Room, where long rows of metal lockers crashed against one another like falling dominoes. And a long crack opened in the floor almost directly under my feet. It spread about six inches wide, affording me a terrifying glimpse down to the basement below, and then it closed. And then it opened and closed again. Although there were no fatalities where I was, the shouts and screams of kids still reverberate in my memory.
My research for the book obviously draws heavily on my personal earthquake experience, but that source was aided and abetted by a phenomenally interesting (and scary) book by a Seattle Times investigative reporter, Full-Rip 9.0, which details the factual evidence about faults, subduction zones, and earthquakes in the Seattle Area. Author Sandi Doughton has really done her homework and the book stands as a clear and detailed description of the dangers we face.
I’d like to tell you more about my Seattle Earthquake story, but that’s not possible right now for one simple reason: I haven’t written the final details yet. So, who falls from a crumbling building, or who gets swallowed up by a giant crack in the ground, hasn’t quite been figured out yet. In fact, I have been shuffling heroes and victims around so rapidly that you’d think there was an earthquake going on inside my head. And in a lot of ways, that’s true.
After all, I’ve been-there-done-that.
March 26, 2017
Not too many people have one of these, I suppose. Or at least, not too many people will admit to having one.
This image is a front-and-back look at the receipt I got from NASA for my application to join the shuttle astronaut program back in 1980. I was trying to get accepted to the Mission Specialist position, and I proposed to do studies on bone metabolism in space. I was a recently-minted PhD researcher in biochemistry, doing post-doctoral studies in New York City. I was supported by my Washington State Senator, Scoop Jackson. And I nearly made the grade, only being surpassed in the final rounds by Judy Resnik, who got the job I had dreamed of.
The riddle of how and why astronauts lose calcium and their bones become brittle in space has never been fully unraveled. Who knows, maybe if I had gotten my chance, I could have figured it out by now.
Or perhaps not. I will never forget the day of the Challenger launch disaster, in which seven brave astronauts lost their lives. I arrived at work and they had a TV going in the lobby, showing rerun after rerun of the explosion, with newscasters saying the fate of the crew members was still unknown.
People gathered in a somber group were surprised when I murmured, looking in horror at the screen, “That could have been me!” I was trembling in agitation and grief. I knew well that aboard that shuttle, falling from the brink of space into the Atlantic Ocean, was Judy Resnik, the astronaut who had gotten my job.
All these things happened a long time ago. I found the NASA receipt while digging through a drawer of dusty old documents the other day. Strange, how life turns a page. I might well be dead now, had I gotten the opportunity I so craved when I was thirty years old. But now I am older, wiser, and more philosophical than ever about humanity’s future on and off this planet.
And my dream of finding a cure for bone loss in space? It’s not gone and forgotten. On the contrary, I published a possible solution several years ago in one of my science fiction novels. In Blood On The Moon, I described a “gravity pill” that astronauts could take to counterbalance weightlessness or low-gravity environments like the Moon or Mars. And based on my many years of scientific training and research there might actually be something to the pill I have imagined. I even gave a recipe for the types of molecules that ought to be incorporated into such a tablet. Who knows, maybe someday the formula I dreamed up will actually help astronauts overcome a critical health problem by simply popping a pill.
The discovery of that old slip of paper from NASA triggered some lost memories and showed me how life can come full circle. If my insights about gravity pills ever have an impact on space exploration, then I may have accomplished what I set out to do when I was thirty—just in a different way. And none of it would have happened if I had aced out Judy Resnik for the Mission Specialist position instead of the other way around.
Rest in peace, Judy.
March 6, 2017
I am delighted to announce that my publisher is offering three of my novels for FREE this week while supplies last. This includes my latest natural disaster thriller RAINIER ERUPTS! as well as one book each from my medical mystery and science fiction series. Click any of the titles below to reach my publisher Smashwords’ giveaway page for the book. Versions are available for all ebook readers including Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, and more.
RAINIER ERUPTS! tells of a day of disaster when the big picturesque volcano that looms over Seattle and Tacoma blows its top spreading hot lava, ash, and dust far and wide. It follows the fate of a cast of characters who live or die by the decisions they make in an apocalyptic catastrophe almost beyond comprehension.
THE SMALLPOX INCIDENT, a Peyton McKean medical thriller, portrays a terrorist attack with a deadly genetically altered form of the smallpox virus. Dr. McKean races against time to find a cure that will save millions of lives — including his own!
In DINOSAUR WARS: EARTHFALL, a race of human-sized intelligent dinosaurs return from space to reclaim their home world — our world! As alien weapons and huge beasts of the past threaten humanity with extinction, wildlife biologist Chase Armstrong and Montana rancher’s daughter Kit Daniels team up to become mankind’s last hope.
This giveaway is a great way to get acquainted with my stories if you haven’t already. Smashwords only has these events about once a year and the time is now! The offer runs through this week only and ends on Saturday March 11, so don’t delay!
I hope you will enjoy reading these tales as much as I enjoyed dreaming them up.
January 10, 2017
Nature greeted Shelley and me with resplendent beauty at every turn of the road. Everywhere I looked there was another vista of both compelling loveliness and awe-inspiring revelation about just how powerful the forces within the earth can be.
When Mount Mazama blew its top seven thousand years ago, it devastated the land for sixty miles in every direction and left a yawning hole in the ground more than a mile across. When it first formed, there was no lake in the hole. There was just a barren, craggy landscape devoid of life, swept by sulfurous fumes, and punctuated with a central lava vent that spewed out a whole new mountain over the following years—a cinder cone that somehow looks small within the crater now, but which would make a grand summit if it stood elsewhere on the landscape.
Over the millennia since the big blast, life has returned to the crater, and trees even dot the cinder cone, which goes by the name of Wizard Island now that rainwater has filled the hole up to about the halfway level. That water has a legendary deep blue tint to it, something that scarcely comes across in a photograph and really has to be seen to be believed.
At the end of RAINIER ERUPTS, a new vast hole in the ground existed where mighty Rainier had once stood. But ever-nurturing Nature was already raining down torrents of water that would someday work a similar transformation from devastation to heavenly beauty. That slow-but-sure process would, however, take thousands of years to accomplish.
So I faced an authorial dilemma. In writing a sequel to RAINIER ERUPTS, was I going to start with a State of Washington that had a gaping hole in it, or would I start with things the way they really are today, with Mount Rainier standing tall, white, and beautiful on the horizons of Seattle and Tacoma?
My next natural disaster story is likely to be about an earthquake, a tsunami, or an asteroid impact—I haven’t quite decided which yet. But what about Rainier in those stories? Will she be present or absent?
I decided to press the Reset Button.
Rainier will be officially restored to her former majesty and all the destructive forces she unleashed will be undone. That way, the next book in the series can take a look at a whole separate scenario of Nature venting her wrath against an overconfident, complacent civilization that is as yet untouched by disaster.
Never fear. Even though I am determined to look into every dire situation that might arise and put my home state through some major changes that actually COULD happen, it remains true that Nature and time have the power to heal the land and restore the world-renowned beauty of the place.
Conveniently, as an author I can just hit the Reset Button.