Psychological Suspense and Psychological Thrillers


We open Psychological Suspense and Psychological Thrillers one layer at a time, never knowing what we’re going to get, and never getting what we were expecting. The books, (and TV shows, and movies) concentrate on the instability of the characters, and creating similar states in the audience as we wade through the rough waters, run through quicksand, or fly through virtual dream states. This post is about shared characteristics of the genres.

The narratives may be a mixture: Psychological Suspense Thrillers. They may include, or begin with Horror, Mystery, or even other elements such as Science Fiction (think virtual reality) or the Supernatural. The predominate feeling is slowly creeping and bewildering dread, with a mental puzzle the reader is driven to figure out, as is the protagonist, though if it’s Suspense, the reader usually knows more than the main character does, and wishes to warn him, but feels the frustration of watching events unfold. Still nothing is what it seems, and twists keep the reader guessing and surprised.

Anti-heroes are common, and they and all the other characters may use physical means of torment and mental ones, as well as using both elements to work their way out of the situations. The reader may feel claustrophobia, disorienting disequilibrium, or in the Gothics, a sense isolation.

Characters struggle against confusing mental traps caused by their own delusions or manipulations by the Impact Characters. They may play minds games against each other, or try to figure out social propaganda in order to reach lucidity. The action is not as overt and hard edged as in other types of thrillers, and the pace may be slower. Rather than being as plot-driven, the books may be character-driven.

Distinctions about morality are ambiguous, and we often see the world through the eyes of people who commit crimes, and we have some uneasy degree of feeling complicity. The roles of the police, church, government, Intelligence agencies, and the military are rarely as simplistically positive as they are in other genres. It’s not rogue agents who go bad, but the whole organizations are questioned in terms of shady conspiracy.

Who the protagonist is, who the good guy is — those are generally known in other genres, but may remain changing, up for debate, and unclear in Psychological ones. Sometimes the underdogs have to fight back by going against Draconian laws.

The reader can be immersed in uncertain complexity of convoluted Alice in Wonderland style strangeness, and that can feel in some ways like the Post-Modernist lack of objective truth we have grown used to, if we are honest with ourselves and don’t rely on religion or politicians to answer our questions about the nature of the world.

POV is variable, with some books being third person past, some first person present, some a combination. Most often there is more than one POV character if Suspense is emphasized, so the audience knows more than the victim does, and can feel the anxiety produced by what’s coming around the corner.

Psychological media explores mind control and manipulation, delusions, paranoia, mental illness, the effects of dishonesty, multiplicity of viewpoint even within one person and the validity or lack of validity and intersection of more than one. They are often nightmarish, sometimes involve advanced technology and can intersect with Science Fiction or Conspiracy, and often have Horror elements. Even the Literary Slipstream, which goes beyond the bounds of ordinary reality has a place, and when the Supernatural can occur, that leaves the characters even more vulnerable and the fright factor and characters’ challenges to their beliefs beyond intense.

The endings give us some degree of answer and solution, which can finish the cathartic process and make us feel somewhat stable again. But very often, there is still the haunting sense that much else is left ambiguous, that we don’t really know what happened, and that the world is not really possible to pin down and stamp: UNDERSTOOD. Therefore, these can be the best to watch with other people and discuss and argue over what the heck just happened. Maybe days, or years later, a new revelation about it will descend on you with a rush.

Profound questions and commentary regarding the nature of humanity are inherent. While the characters may be mentally ill murderers, we see the tenuous grasp we all have on our delusions that we substitute for the truth that we are in fact utterly lost in the face of our mysterious universe. Our text books leave out countless inexplicable anomalies, contradictory evidence, paranormal events, impossible odds, strange synchronicities, in order to make us feel we have a solid grasp of what the world is like. But that’s a joke.

To revel in that, read and watch Psychological Suspense and Thrillers, including their subsets such as the Gothic stories, and sit back and relax into knowing there is really no point in trying to make everything in our lives make some kind of artificial sense. We can pretend. But when playing in the theater of the Psychological, why bother? Let your strange come out. Have a hearty laugh at making sense.


Psychological Suspense as Multi-faceted, Ambiguous Complexity of Life

hairbookWe are the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves and the nature of reality, and there is never a moment in those stories we can stand on, if we are honest, and calmly survey all the rest as our Queendom, which we keep in perfect order and control, all in its place, accounted for by census. We could stand on another moment and look around at the waters we are desperately drowning in, next to the other moments we flew out of laughing.

Reading “The Stray Horse,” from Piano Stories, by Uruguayan author Felisberto Hernandez, I am reminded how much I love immersion into the Alice in Wonderland reality of a mind grappling with reality. The narrator begins by telling us in a perfectly straightforward way about his childhood as he studied piano with a teacher he was inordinately fond of as a boy.

Then, the cohesive, linear, objective story stops suddenly as his mind is no longer able to maintain that semblance of reality. “I refused to enclose my memories in a grid of space and time.” He becomes disturbed, trapped in the belief that he is being is taken over by an inchoate partner. I find this shift in the narrative, where the book unravels, as compelling as any I have ever read. Perhaps the most honest I have seen in my life.

Like Proust’s digressions on the nature of memory, Piano Stories displays the raw inability to write a true memoir, the random links between things, the subjective causality and the reasonableness of what to include, the shameful parts that are left out with the implication they never occurred. So much lives in the white space between scenes and chapters. This is where truth exists. And we can only hint at it with that silence from which the semblance of reality arises, and is shuffled, is read by the readers a bit at a time in the bath, skipped over during moments of distraction, to be read again, and marked with a pen, the pages turned down, never to be returned to.

Any time if we examine our thoughts honestly, our memories do not flow out chronologically, in perfect detail and clarity; our identity does not remain the same throughout our live, and as we look back to assess it moment by changing moment. We are unreliable narrators to ourselves and to others, as we present ourselves as we want or as we fear, depending on the patterns our varying dopamine and serotonin levels present us with.

We affirm we’ve been a mild success in our lives after enthusiastic applause at a reading, for example. Or we’ve always really been a bit of a failure, when no applause is forthcoming, our audience looking away uncomfortably and talking among themselves. We’re good looking if we drink a bottle of water — or perhaps a glass of wine. We’re flabby and pasty if we don’t. We wake up from a dream of love believing we’re still young with dewy potential. An hour later we come to terms with our permanently wrinkled isolation. In other words, put in your own version of these unsettling shifts.

Maybe one day you believe in the God of your childhood and the next day you find it no longer makes sense. Maybe you thought your child chose you to be born to because you’d been together lifetimes and the next you realize he had no choice but to be made out of biological mass and is just struck with you. You felt a sense of fairness, believing your parents supported you because of karma, and then were humiliated when you discovered the dubious origin of of the concept of karma. Maybe you grew up reading books you completely believed in and later found out were fascist. Maybe you based your belief system on events you discerned suddenly were hoaxes. These are some of the kinds of revelations characters in the novels in my Agents of the Nevermind series face, particularly in Giant Jack.

Because none of us have changeless, monolithic minds, Psychological Suspense is an honest genre to portray humanity. The protagonists of books and movies of that style stand on unstable ground, often because they were put there by someone else who wishes to keep them in a weakened state. And ultimately, our culture needs us to feel insecure, needy, and incomplete, to be lucrative consumers and voters.

Sometimes obsessed protagonists have frayed morality they can’t grab onto and do criminal things, have serious flaws, yet we bond with them, uncomfortably recognizing our own nightmares of hiding someone we’ve murdered, or becoming a zoo full of braying and roaring animals let loose on an unsuspecting landscape.

We all have a distorted world-view. Since the age of Post-modernism, we have to admit the limited and biased science of humans can’t explain everything. Scientific studies can’t be replicated, or their replications show opposite results; scientists are bought off; their biases influence the answers; the logic is outdated; the truth is covered up and people who champion it are demonized.

Yes, the quest to find better truth, a closer sense of how things are, what we don’t and don’t know is admirable, and echoed in the protagonists’ journey through Psychological Suspense. Readers who feel the intensity of such a quest within themselves, who enjoy the rush of finding out they were wrong about one thing after another, and feel compassion for others going through that process can be drawn to Psychological Suspense and Psychological Thrillers.

Why Psychological Suspense?

glossalalia coverWhy would I want to write a set of Psychological Suspense books? Maybe for some of the same reasons you like reading or writing them. Maybe you haven’t thought much about the category, and its rules; I’ll address a few in this post that may clarify your experience with that kind of book.

The focus in Psychological Suspense is on character depth and complexity rather than technology, justice, or speed of action, as it is in some types of Thrillers. Studies show when readers identify with protagonists we remain physically changed by them for a long time. We vicariously go through their experiences in an intimate way.

I want to help readers imagine what it could be like to experience the kind of bewilderment is possible in this complicated world we live in. Maybe readers who have experienced long term confusion find such books familiar, realistic, even cathartic, as the protagonist figures things out. The world making some amount of sense can be a relief by the end, yet there remains the awareness that our society runs on continual illusion, and the nature of reality and personality are not likely to ever be fully grasped completely.

My books in this set could also be considered Political Thrillers, secondarily, as the confusion happens from outside sources deliberately affecting them for a large social agenda, not just personal issues. My interest is in how social engineering for political purposes creates personal illusions deliberately — and the glory of finding lucidity.

Psychological Suspense helps us identify with the victims who may or may not turn things around and come out in one piece, maybe toward the Thriller direction of saving a large number of others as well. As I’m not a policeman, lawyer, doctor, or in the military, I don’t feel qualified to write those kinds of Thrillers. But as a citizen in a society that runs on propaganda, demonizing truth-seekers, paid trolls, corrupt politicians, toxic environment, etc. I can speak for the masses who have to find their way through the morass. And I can help create a sense of empowerment by the end, motivating people to keep pushing for fairness, standing up for themselves, and focusing on facts rather than propaganda.

Psychological Suspense must be emotional, with feelings being honored. I find pure outward, technical action less interesting that something more well-rounded, though those things are also important to me. My writing is naturally full of science and facts, as I try to point out the effects of little-known history, and draw attention to military technology that is in place. So I counterbalance that by forcing myself to also remember the readers want to feel heart-pounding fear, and not get too caught up in the cerebral. Being in touch with authentic feelings is a good part of lucidity and being able to avoid being mislead by falsehoods.

In Glossolalia, Nancy has been traumatized in a way that affects her understanding of the world, and she must come to grips with how it’s changed her. She doesn’t just get it intellectually, but the emotions have to be part of her revelation for it to work. The reader’s personal involvement with her can make that kind of trauma real, and make it matter more than just reading about such things with the distance of non-fiction about how such processes take place.

Psychological Suspense Thriller Novella

glossalalia coverGlossolalia: a Psychological Suspense Thriller is a novella with a kick-ass female protagonist named Nancy.

What do you do when the proper authority to report a crime to — is the criminal?

Nancy just wants to keep the only job she can get. No one else would put up with her fugues. Who else but her uncle would hire her? So she works at his poison company even though it goes against her beliefs.

Hell, everything she puts in her mouth goes against her beliefs. But she stays in shape because she’s a wild kicker; her idea of fun is competing in Karate tournaments. Besides, defending herself could be necessary. She apparently gets into quite the scrapes in unknown territories.

Accompanied by Dog, and visions of Bennu, the traditional Egyptian flamingo god who is the shadow self of Osiris, she plays out her roles in the deadly game.

She watches what she suspects is a crime in progress at the company, and a death defying chase ensues. Can she stay alive long enough to find out what happened and save the lives of countless people, animals, and plants?

Only if she can discover who she is in time.

Dave McGowan battling aggressive cancer: wrote 9/11 was a lie on 9/12

Truth and Shadows

This post features the full text of an article Dave McGowan wrote on Sept. 12, 2001, questioning the official story of the “terrorist attacks” 9/11. This is preceded by introductions from me and from Truth and Shadows contributor Sheila Casey.

** Since the publication of this article, it has come to my attention that Dave McGowan is in desperate need of funds so that he can cope with the effects of his illness. His brother Craig wrote on Facebook: 

As far as the donations, most of you know that dave has been struggling financially the last 8 months and made less than 5 grand total on the book “Weird Scenes.” Our family is, for no better term, poor, or, in the lower middle class realm, if that even is a class…Like David, I have a very difficult time asking for financial help from others so I’m not going to…

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Setting Yourself Up as a Publisher

If you write Genre Fiction, as opposed to Literary Fiction, you’ve probably noticed that traditional publishing is falling out of favor more and more on a daily compared to the interest in doing it yourself. The statistics for how much money self publishers make are encouraging. Looking at the searches online, I researched “how to get published” and other variants are going down at a steady pace. The interest is instead in publishing yourself and marketing it so it ranks well in Amazon. Ranking as number one in your book’s category really is a matter of marketing, and if you don’t have a lot of money to put into it, you’re at a disadvantage, as many people are putting 250,000 into a launch. But if you give out lead magnets on your website to gain newsletter subscribers and send your books on KDP during free and discount periods every ninety days to the hoards of sites that alert their subscribers to them, you’ll have a chance to get reasonable sales for Genre fiction. I wouldn’t recommend doing that with Literary, as the people who subscribe to the free and discounted book lists are a different set overall than the Literary readers.

The sales rank of your book depends to a large degree on marketing. Many online tools, many of which are free, such as SumoMe, which brings more traffic to your publisher’s page, free trainings by webinar and email marketing are available to publicize your book, and free or inexpensive sites to submit discounted or free books to abound. Building a list of sincerely interested email subscribers to a newsletter can take time, using a Lead Magnet to make people more likely to fill out the opt in form, but once it happens, sales can follow a mention in the newsletter.

But most people discussing self publishing skip over the stage of setting up a business in their trainings, blogs, advice, and personal stories so authors can easily forget this is important. For publishing Literary Fiction it’s not necessarily a big deal to do it because sales will generally be low unless you have a large following due to a powerful position in a magazine for example. So beginning to just test the waters before taking the plunge is reasonable. Still, legally, if you decide it’s your path, beginning as soon as you can to set yourself up officially is the safest way to approach it.

Unless you publish it with your own name as the publisher, you’ll need to register a Fictitious Business Name Statement. You’ll need to fill out the name/s and pay 40.00 for the first one, and 7.00 for each one after that you’re registering at the same time. The form is simple, and you can download it from your county clerk’s website and snail mail in the original and three copies to the county clerk. I found emailing the clerk responsive to my questions.

You’ll then need to publish it for a month or more in a newspaper. Companies can help you do that, but you must wait until you file before you start, so you can give them the file number.

In the meantime, you can apply for your EIN online. Only go to the official IRS website, and do not pay any money to any site asking for it. If it does, it’s scamming you to steal your identity. This is an easy and quick process and you can print the confirmation. Getting the name the same in the different applications is the hard part. For example, one form may allow a “/” and another may not, and one has plenty of space and the other cuts it off with a limited amount of space: yet we’re supposed to write exactly the same thing.

I was never able to find the information though I asked directly and read everything I could find about registering with not only the overarching name and also sub-imprints. What I did was register them both and try combining them when necessary so I’ll see how it goes when I get the paperwork back.

You can set up a bank or credit union account for ease of tax records but it’s not required.

If you expect to buy any of your books, say from CreateSpace, and sell them to people in your state, whether in person or online, rather than directing them to Amazon, you’ll need to get a Resellers Permit. This one is much more complicated than the others, and you’ll need to know the BOE account number of CreateSpace, or wherever you’d be ordering books wholesale from to sell in your state. You can’t use the permit to buy from them if there is any question about whether you’ll resell. You need the account name that you’d be taking credit card orders with: Stripe, for example.

When I was planning to get a permit, I emailed CreateSpace asking for their BOE number to fill it in, assuming that’s how it’s done. They didn’t answer that question, but wrote back with this info:

“As you are ware, in order to enable your account for wholesale ordering; we also require a copy of your Reseller Certificate as well as a copy of our Resale Verification Form found at the link below.

Please allow one week for form processing. The reseller number you submit must be registered in the name of your business to qualify for the exemption. Please write your CreateSpace Member or Customer ID number – 285977 on all the forms you submit.

Once we have verified and processed your certificate, you will not be charged sales tax on future orders of your own titles or titles enrolled in the CreateSpace Direct program that are shipped to the state for which you hold a permit. We will email you confirmation of receipt and verification of your forms.

After the your reseller form is verified, you can follow the steps below to place a wholesale order:

1. Log in to your account at:
2. Click “Place Wholesale Order” on the upper-left section of your Member Dashboard
3. Enter the desired Title ID number or ISBN, and click the adjacent red dot
4. Enter the desired quantity
5. Click “Proceed to Cart” to complete checkout

You’ll receive an order number after checking out, and you can track your order in the “View My Purchases” section of your Member Account.”

For people who have taken books to local readings and hope one will sell one day, this is a lot of work, and then you’re expected to keep careful records of certificates. After filling it all out, I actually decided it may make more sense to not bother with selling books in person and letting this go, and just focusing on online sales. Book tours are outdated now, and blog tours are in. If you buy a book you’ve published POD, you pay the sales tax, which makes it prohibitive to sell to stores without doing this. But if you only might sell a few on commission some day or at one or two readings, ordering books wholesale for only those in your state wouldn’t be worth the reduction in book cost. However if you expect to buy in bulk from home and aggressively sell to people in your state, you definitely do need to get the Resellers Permit.

You’ll be asked your NAICS code, and for publishers, that’s 511130.

Some states require you set up with a Business License. You will also need to set up one in your city. Check out the SCORE (Service Corps Of Retired Executicves) chapter for help with that.

I’m excited to finally be taking the step to become a serious publisher aiming to make a profit at this point. The process isn’t particularly fun, but having it done will be.

Weird Story

You may be familiar with the Weird classic book, The King in Yellow, if nothing else because of references to it in season 1 of True Detective. I wrote a story riffing off of it. Alphanumeric published that Weird Fiction, Performance of the King in Yellow.

“I never would have taken the summer job doing all the little things, like supplying props, designing the signs, making the masks, and ushering, for the stage play of The King In Yellow if I’d known the rumors of the effects of reading the second act. Not that I believed in the supernatural, but I would have thought few would attend, for fear of being taken down into the depths of psychosis after their last sane intermission of their lives. And I would have assumed the reverse placebo effect would make all involved with the production act out every shadowy wildness in their psyches they didn’t want to take responsibility for.

But I’m a guy who keeps commitments. And I’d signed on to rent a golden-painted attic with a slanted roof and a tiny closet along the floor, which was two blocks from the theater for three months. It took the last of my money, and I had a drawing habit to support, so I had no choice. I decided to embrace the adventure with a sense of glee. It would be macabre fun to watch the world around me go mad. I’d draw the distraught actors, the intrepid director, the fainted audience, and sell the art around Paris to the locals and tourists, as the event would no doubt garner some voyeuristic fame.”