The Doomsday Clock

Founded in 1945 by Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the Doomsday Clock two years later, using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the planet. The Doomsday Clock is set every year by the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes nine Nobel laureates. The Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to global catastrophe caused by man-made technologies.

The Doomsday Clock was set at two minutes to midnight in 2019 and at 100 seconds to midnight in 2022. Last year, we expressed our heightened concern by moving the Clock to 90 seconds to midnight—the closest to global catastrophe it has ever been—in large part because of Russian threats to use nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine. How does this affect my book. Well, during the editorial phase, I had to adjust the Doomsday Clock in my manuscript too. Check out this extract:

[“Why MIT?” she repeated.

“My reason for choosing MIT was simple and complex.”

Claudine laughed. “Oh, that’s funny. What do you mean?”

“The simple answer is Jay Forrester.”

“Jay Forrester?” she asked. “I’ve never heard of him.”

“Yes, Mr. Forrester was a smart guy who pioneered work on digital computers here at MIT. He’s famous for his Global Sustainability Model, predicting that civilization would destroy the world in 2040. And what’s remarkable, is that his conclusion was the same as the one made by Isaac Newton in 1704. Their findings are confirmed by the Doomsday Clock.”

“Which is?”

“The time when our planet implodes. The Doomsday Clock is set at ninety seconds to midnight. Our time is almost up, and Armageddon will be upon us unless we do something radical to change the world.”

Claudine smiled. “That’s why I’m here.”]

Do Thrillers have to be Violent?

A very good question is posed by this post. Masterclass helps answer it:

6 Elements of a Thriller Novel

Whether you’re a bestselling author or a fiction writing novice, approaching the thriller genre for the first time requires an appreciation of the tropes of the genre. Here are some elements you may want to consider:

  1. A clear threat: Any successful thriller has a clear and imposing threat. What form that threat takes can determine which of the many thriller sub-genres your story falls into. There are many different types of thrillers including crime fiction thrillers, political thrillers, and psychological thrillers. If you’re writing a political thriller centered around a government conspiracy, the threat might be the FBI.
  2. High stakes: Good thriller writers keep readers on the edge of their seats. This requires ensuring that there are massive problems facing a protagonist along with clear, dire consequences should they not succeed at solving the problems.Piling one problem on top of the other and putting your characters in seemingly unsolvable predicaments is one way to raise the stakes.
  3. Twists: Most good thrillers have a storyline that is full of cliffhangers and plot twists. Subverting your audience’s expectations and throwing unpredictable roadblocks in your protagonist’s path will produce a great page-turning thriller and keep readers engaged up until the end of the book.
  4. Dynamic characters: The thriller genre is generally defined by complex and engaging plots, but the best thrillers don’t compromise on character development. Most thrillers have an archetypal good guy and bad guy, but as a writer, it’s your job to fully flesh out a character and brainstorm their backstory and point of view. In Silence of the Lambs, readers are introduced to a main character and antagonist who both have full character histories that inform everything they do.
  5. Memorable locations: Writing thrillers is exciting because of the wide variety of settings you can explore as a writer. A clear and detailed location is an essential part of writing a good thriller. Your readers should feel as if your characters are inhabiting a rich and detailed world; they should be able to picture the physical environment in which your action unfolds.
  6. Action: You’d be hard pressed to find a thriller that doesn’t include a fair amount of action-adventure elements. Action doesn’t necessarily have to mean violence or pyrotechnics. If your thriller is more cerebral, your action might revolve around psychological games and manipulation. The important thing is to keep your storyline moving and include dynamic action as you start writing the first page up until the end.

What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”

William Shakespeare uses this line in his play Romeo and Juliet to convey the idea that the naming of things is irrelevant. Now, who would I be to question Shakespeare. But, a name may be relevant in conveying something more important than the person or object? For example, we name our children after their grandparents for example. In my new novel, why did I chose the name Captain Ted Cooper for my submarine commander? Ted Cooper was a close neighbour and friend I knew in high school. We were both in a school play – King Lear as it happens. I remember being a guard in the play and Ted was backstage. After the last performance, to celebrate we sailed a twenty-four foot wooden boat into the night. We were blind like King Lear – unable to see in the dark  –  and eventually beached on an island to get some sleep. The boat leaked, but we happily explored and had a great time. Ted went on to serve in the merchant navy as a captain before passing away at a rather young age. Using his name seemed most appropriate for the submarine commander in my book. Any other name was (sorry, Shakespeare) not quite as sweet. Of course, I did check out the list of USA sub commanders, the most famous being Richard H. O’Kane of World War II fame. There was no “Cooper” among them and, therefore, unlikely to be any objection.

Editing for Incremental Improvement

Incremental improvement means taking small steps consistently. This can lead to massive growth and change.” I share this to explain what I am doing, as a writer, to improve my book each day until it gets published. My recent editing has been taking time to make small changes to improve each paragraph, page and chapter. But, and it’s a big but, I have to do this consistently in order to see the results. I just hope my readers do too :-).

It’s All About AI

AI, or Artificial intelligence, leverages computers and machines to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind. Every day, the news carries AI articles—stories of job losses and cloned personalities that threaten the very fabric of modern society. The reality is far more frightening. AI is developing at a super-fast pace and will impact us all dramatically within the new few years. ChatGPT is a chatbot developed by OpenAI and launched on November 30, 2022. Based on a large language model, it enables users to refine and steer a conversation towards a desired length, format, style, level of detail, and language. It’s a great tool for writing essays and scripts (e.g. for real estate advertising). But, ChatGPT is just the tip of an iceberg. My new novel is based on AI and how it may threaten the banking industry. In fact. my pitch has a focus on AI: Can Artificial Intelligence topple the global economy or restore financial equality? Depends whose side you’re on…

In the wrong hands, AI is difficult to overcome. What happens when a group of devious computer nerds steal your ID and, along with that, steal your voice? Think of the implications. How can you prove that your duplicate is not you? How can you convince your bank manager or boss that you are who you say you are, when another online “twin” makes the same claims?

Oh, it’s going to be a bumpy ride into the unknown with AI and a clever group of thieves have already planned the heist to outdo all heists. How will they do this? Well, you will have to wait for the release of my new book. 🙂

Up Periscope!

Up Periscope is a 1959 World War II submarine film directed by Gordon Douglas. We often think the phrase “up periscope” is used when the skipper of a submarine wants to check his surroundings. I thought as much, but then realised that modern submarines don’t have a traditional periscope. In fact, they have two “periscopes”, or rather photonics masts which house instruments for not just observing the visual environment, but for collecting a range of scientific data.

“To raise either scope on a 688i boat (3rd generation Los Angeles class fast attack submarine), you just have to rotate a metal ring that actuates via servo the hydraulic pump to lift or lower your desired scope. And it’s not just the captain who does this. (The guy has other things to do than just look through a scope). Any officer who is qualified Officer Of the Deck does this as part of their job, and they announce whichever scope they’re raising or lowering as a courtesy to everyone else is control. Example; “Raising #2 Scope!”

This announcement lets the ships control party (Dive, Helmsman, Planes-man, Chief of the Watch) know that the ship cannot descend below a certain depth because that would limit the scopes visual / sensor abilities. Also, the boat cannot go beyond a certain speed with a scope in the air as driving too fast could potentially damage it due to hydrodynamic drag.

Radio, Fire Control and the Quartermaster appreciate knowing that there’s a scope in the air because the scope does more than just see. It’s packed with sensors that feed information to either of the three watch stations. Information like the presence of another ocean-going vessel that projects its own RADAR signal. Depending on that RADAR signal strength, Radio uses it as a proximity warning that helps determine whether to inform Control if we should dive due to fear of being run over by the otherwise unassuming ocean liner. (It’s happened before.) Radio will also use this opportunity to clear the broadcast of any necessary message traffic both sent and received. Fire Control always like having tech in the air because it increases their tactical awareness. The Quartermaster (navigation plot) appreciates this too because they can use a scope to help realign with satellite navigation and reset the RLGN’s for further submerged navigation.”

In my new novel, I had to avoid the “up periscope” cliche, yet give readers a sense of this classic action. “Raising #2 Scope” helped.

Happy New Year and Linking Chapters

I hope you all enjoyed a great start to the New Year. Mine was a bit different, with two funerals just days apart. I had the honor of speaking at the funeral of a very good friend who was once my math teacher in senior high school. He and his family remained close to ours ever since and his life was remarkable, yet humble. The second was the passing of my older sister after a long illness. There is little to link these two events, except that both deceased had been teachers and both much loved.

As I turn back to my new novel I have been struggling to link Chapter Two with Chapter Three. The third chapter is a completely different setting (underwater in a submarine) with new characters. How could I link these to help the book flow for my readers?

The answer was having both Chapter Two and Three refer to the same place—in this case, Gibraltar. The connection was obvious, yet had eluded me for quite some time. Gibraltar is pivotal to my story and it felt better to bring it forward in the novel to have it centre in the reader’s mind.

And a very Merry Christmas to you all

As 2023 comes to a close, I just wanted to thank all my readers for joining me on this literary journey – one where I seek the golden key to finding the ‘right’ literary agent . May your Christmas be filled with peace and hope for a better future. Meanwhile, this season may allow you time to pause and relax and enjoy family time too. My Christmas wish? OK, here it is:


Christopher Robin

In a poetic moment I revisited AA Milne’s Buckingham Palace and wove it into my introduction to my new thriller-heist. Why? Well, that may not become obvious until the final chapter(s). Meanwhile, the protagonist suspects that the king does indeed know all about him! [BTW: my sister is called Robin and I was named Christopher]. And, like Alice, there is ‘time for tea’ in Chapter One for the protagonist, among the rising tension of being followed. Perhaps the obvious connection is that the protagonist is called Sir Christopher.

They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace
Christopher Robin went down with Alice
"Do you think the King knows all about me?"
"Sure to, dear, but it's time for tea" Says Alice

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