Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sweet Justice Is Coming

A frequent question readers, and often—other writers, ask a Best-Selling author, is where do you get your ideas? How do you develop the idea into a story? How do you research it? What is your motivation for using certain topics?

Best selling author, Jordan Dane, answers some of these questions and explains the reasons behind her Sweet Justice Series.

Imagine the horror of going to your teenager’s bedroom one morning only to find her missing. Her bed hadn’t been slept in and her clothes are gone.

In 2000, that’s what one mother in Florida faced. Her only child had conspired against her and ran away. And worse, she later discovered that her daughter had left the country—without having a passport. From the moment I read this news story, I was hooked and had to know more about how such an atrocity could happen. The teen’s trail might have gone ice cold, but her mother pushed authorities in a direction.

She knew where to start looking.

Only six months earlier, the girl had received a computer for a gift—a thoughtful present from a mother who wanted the best for her child. But this gift soon brought a virtual menace into their home. A charming and anonymous stranger lured the 14-year old girl to Greece—a man she’d met in a teen chat room. We’ve all heard stories like this. But after researching the facts behind this case, I was amazed at the audacity of this Internet predator.

And I wanted to shed light on the shrewd tactics of online predators in my upcoming book—Evil Without A Face (Feb 2009, Avon, $7.99)—the first book in my Sweet Justice series.

The online predator not only manipulated the teenager in Florida, but he also convinced law-abiding adults to cooperate with his schemes. These people thought they were helping an abused kid, but they didn’t know the facts, check with her family or contact local law enforcement. This stranger duped an employee of the local phone company into arranging for a private cell phone to talk to the girl directly. His slick manipulation scored him a purchased airline ticket (without a direct connection to him) and a clandestine ride for the girl to the airport. But after he bribed a child pornographer to acquire an illegal passport for her to leave the United States, the girl was out of the country before her mother knew she was gone.

And the chase to save the girl was on—a mother’s worst fear.

Now I know what some of you are thinking. This happened in 2000, before the added airport security measures were implemented after 9/11 in 2001. The girl would never have been allowed on a plane without proper ID. But after contacting a source in the airline industry, I was shocked to learn how many children travel unaccompanied and without a valid ID on domestic flights these days. So this extraordinary Florida case became the framework for my novel, Evil Without A Face. And I chose to set part of the story in the unique venue of Alaska where I had lived for ten years.

My novels have the feel of being ripped from today's headlines because real crime inspires me. Who says crime doesn't pay? Violence is like the ripple effect on the surface of still water. The wake radiates out from the victim and touches many people. In my books, I give a voice to the many victims of crime.

In Evil Without A Face, an illusive web of imposters on the Internet lures a deluded teen from her Alaskan home and launches a chain reaction collision course with an unlikely tangle of heroes. A new kind of criminal organization becomes the faceless enemy behind an insidious global conspiracy. And the life of one young girl and countless others hang in the balance. This is the initial driver to my new series. With an international setting, these thrillers will focus on the lives and loves of three women—a bounty hunter operating outside the law, an ambitious vice cop, and a former international operative with a mysterious past. These women give Lady Justice a whole new reason to wear blinders.

And their brand of justice is anything but sweet.

After researching the case in Florida, I became more concerned for naïve kids socializing in cyberspace—young people like my nieces and nephews. Savvy online criminals lurk in anonymity and carry on without fear of repercussion. I’m an active member of MySpace and Facebook and know how they operate. But these social networks aren’t the problem—the criminals are. And as you’ve seen in the headlines and on TV, the online community has become a real hunting ground for predators.

Why not? It’s easy pickings.

For the most part, the Internet is an invaluable tool. And it breaks down the barriers between countries, allowing many of us to have international friends. But the anonymity of cyberspace attracts all sorts of users with criminal intent. Terrorists have found new high-tech ways to recruit online and they have duped some Internet users into funding their activities or have resorted to outright stealing through subterfuge. And since crimes that cross over jurisdictions and international borders are harder to prosecute, offenders often get away with their schemes. That's why I wanted to write Evil Without A Face and dole out my brand justice. After all, who couldn’t use a liberal dose of ‘Sweet Justice’ when reality becomes stranger than fiction?

How has your use of the Internet changed over the years? Have you become more suspicious of certain behaviors from online strangers? And if you have children who use online resources, can you share some tips on how you keep them safer?

Avon/Harpercollins launched Jordan Dane’s debut suspense novels in a back to back publishing event in Spring 2008 after the 3-book series sold in auction. Ripped from the headlines, Jordan's gritty plots weave a tapestry of vivid settings, intrigue, and dark humor. Publishers Weekly compared her intense pacing to Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardner, and Tami Hoag—romantic suspense that “crosses over into plain thriller country”. Pursuing publication since 2003, this national best selling and critically acclaimed author received awards in 33 national writing competitions. And recently, her debut novel NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM was named Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2008 and Romantic Times Magazine nominated NO ONE LIVES FOREVER as Best Intrigue Novel of 2008. Formerly an energy sales manager in the oil and gas industry, she now is following her passion to write full time. Jordan and her husband share their residence with two cats of highborn lineage and the sweet memory of an impossible to forget canine. For more, visit

Coming in November, 2009: THE WRONG SIDE OF DEAD


~Sia McKye~ said...

Welcome Jordan! I'm so happy to have you here. I visted your website and enjoyed the exploring it. You can find Jordan's website listed in her bio.

I have on fresh coffee and comfortable seats, so feel free to share your thoughts or leave any questions you might have. :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Caleb Fox commented, from Facebook:

"I used to say that people who have trouble finding ideas just aren't writers. Ideas are common as birds in the sky. They're on every page of the newspaper. Now that I'm writing a fantasy series (ZADAYI RED #1, SHADOWS IN THE CAVE #2) I'm groping for the RIGHT ideas for a long tale."

jordan-dane said...

I agree, Caleb. Ideas are everywhere. There's just never enough time to write all of them. I read recently that James Patterson (who keeps an idea file full of good stuff) does quite a few outlines, then picks which ones he wants to write and shares the rest with co-writers. That's how he deals with all his ideas.

And what is really cool is that every author will tell their story in their own unique way, filtered through their life's experiences and storytelling ability. I love writing--to create something from nothing but a blank page--that will put the reader into a scene with all their senses. How cool is that?! And I love how the reader completes the process by taking the journey with you. What an intimate pleasure--to read an author's words as if they are speaking only to you.

Thanks for commenting.

Jordan Dane

Diana_Duncan said...

Whoa, this is an amazing and horrifying story! I hope the girl was eventually safely returned home!

I worry about that as a mother of two daughters, and I constantly drilled internet safety into their heads. I also kept a VERY close eye on their computer contacts.

Just like with everything in life, evil people will always find a way to corrupt the system to their advantage. Thank goodness for our dedicated law-enforcement personnel who strive so hard to stop them!

Sounds like a GREAT series.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I've never heard whether she was or wasn't Diana.

Jordan, do you know what the end result was? I know you did a lot of research for this story.

BTW, how's your Dad doing, Jordan?

SueO said...

I read this blog and was so stunned/mortified that I was speechless for a moment and didn't know what kind of comment to leave. That takes some doing, let me just say!

However, what I walk away with isn't a conclusion of 'how to find what to write about'. The thought I'm left with is that the efforts of writing a good story can leave the reader empowered with knowledge, not just leave them in love with a character or entertained for the time spent reading. To do this for the reader without preaching is an amazing talent. I will check out Evil Without a Face!

Pat Bertram said...

Hi, Jordan. Sia is right, it's always great to hear where a writer gets her ideas, especially when they are ripped from the headlines. Not only do you tell a wonderful story, you use real life villains, which are more frightening than any horror-show monster.

I've always been a prolific reader, so I know about a reader completing the authors journey. It will be interesting to see how I feel now that I find myself on the other side.

jordan-dane said...

Hey Diana--Thanks for joining us for coffee. The girl was 14 at the time and I read later that she was pretty traumatized by the whole event. She was stopped in the nick of time in a plaza in Greece, right before she was to meet the man who would have abducted her. He barely got punished, from what I remember. Very little time. But this poor girl will never forget. She got a life sentence in a manner of speaking. That's the way it is with victims. They are violated and never really feel safe again. The innocence of childhood becomes a casualty. What price can be put on that? In my book, my bounty hunter heroine has her own past to deal with. She begins to see the missing girl as a reflection of her own ordeal--and she finds ways to forgive herself for what happened--but her road back to recovery is ongoing. Every book in the series, brings new things for her to deal with as she searches for a path to gain her life back.

And yes, Sue--I like to shed light on the crimes I write about. That's why I've been blogging about internet safety as the more important message than the promo of my book. And I'm particularly fascinated with the victims and the loss of innocence. It's a line that is crossed and there's no ability to find your way back. Thanks for your comment.


Netti said...

That's just so scary... When we decided that my oldest daughter was "mature" enough to do the online bit we laid out the ground rules: No real names, no real birthday, no telling people where you really live. We periodically checked her myspace acct just to make sure she was following these rules. As kids do, she decided we were full of it and broke literally every rule we laid out. We deleted her myspace and made her write a 2,000 word essay on Internet predators. She was not pleased to say the least, but after her research she was terrified. She's now got another myspace account, which we check all the time, and is EXTREMELY careful with what she says and to whom. It's scary just how many people are out there that do things like that :|

Great blog, can't wait to read "Evil without a Face!"

jordan-dane said...

Hey Pat--Thanks for joining us. Great to virtually see you here.

I was an avid reader before I was pubbed. And I think I have a greater appreciation for reading now that I know what's behind Oz's curtain. I read slower now--and don't skim as much. And I'm much more appreciative of craft elements. I try new things with each book. It's the challenge that I'm drawn to.

For the reader, it comes down to the story, whether they like what an author does. But for the author, the craft of writing adds depth to the fun.

jordan-dane said...

Hey Netti--Great comment. And I like how you resolved the issue with your daughter. I have an author friend who did research on internet safety and learned that predators are adept at hunting online. They can look at the background of a photo to see hints of where anyone lives--or look at clothes and other details--to add to the puzzle. By the time they are familiar over a period of time, they can nail down an amazing amount of clues. And when you add things like friends comments that say personal messages like, "see you for dinner on friday at TGIFs", they have the kid's photo and where they'll be.

But it's a balancing act to make sure you don't scare your kids from living their lives without fear. There's no easy answer, but that's one of the reasons I wanted to write about this covert group of vigilantes in my series. Criminals have gotten smarter and have found furtile ground on the internet. It makes prosecution harder. So I feel more empowered to know there might be a group out there that is not bound by red tape. The research for this series has been phenomenal. A real eye-opener.

Netti said...

Oh you should have heard her talking about all her research ~ she was just amazed that there were people out there that do this. Thankfully she's the type that it wouldn't scare her from living life, but shocked her enough that she's very very careful now... the best part (in my mind) she's also passed this information off to her friends, trying to make sure they don't do the same things.

I think it's absolutely great that you are using your gift to not only entertain but to also teach. (Love your books btw ;) )

jordan-dane said...

Here are a few comments on internet safety that have come up in prior blogs:

1.) For younger kids, keep the computer in a more public part of your home so they don't have complete privacy.

2.) If your kids are in facebook or Myspace or other social networks, a parent should know how the network operates too. Create a page for yourself to learn how. Kids often tell parents that certain things aren't possible on the site--when it's simply not true. Only by having your own page will the rules become clear and you can gauge what restrictions you think are important for them to use.

3.) Get them to reveal their passwords so you can periodically check their sites.

4.) Know how to search your computer for a cookie trail to find out where they go online. And there are keystroke loggers and parental control features that can help with this.

5.) Set ground rules on what happens when a stranger contacts them online. People can pose as teens and be adult pedophiles. If your kids restrict how much of their profile is seen online, this can help with eliminating the stranger threat. (And if you're feeling particularly devilish, pretend to be a stranger and set up a fake persona. Contact your kid to see how they act when they don't know it's you.)

6.) Restrict their time online. Make sure they have a well-rounded schedule full of various activities so that the computer doesn't become too big a part of how they learn to communicate.


jordan-dane said...

One of my nieces pulled a fast one using AOL insta-messenger. She tried to lie to me about how IMs work. What she didn't know was that I traded commodities using IMs every day as part of my job in the energy industry.

So I told her that like Al Gore invented the Internet--I invented insta-messenger. I called her on every lie. And it scared the hell out of her. I made it clear that I still loved her, but that what she did was wrong and I was very disappointed. I never had to have that conversation again--and it allowed me to enter a new phase in our relationship. LOL

Dellani Oakes said...

Excellent article! I like the reality of your stories.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Jordan, some very sensible precautions. I tell my son that if I don't have the pass words to his accounts, then he can't be on the intrenet. he's 14 and he thinks because he's not a girl, whats the big deal? Like they could get him. I might borrow a leaf out of Netti's book and have him do some research on it.

Dad and I have check his internet tracks and there were a few times he was not allowed on the computer as a result. I check his MSp too. He's skated close a couple of times to forbidden territory, but so far he's been following the rules. If we find he isn't, at any time, then we'll take appropriate steps.

Kat Sheridan said...

Outstanding article, Jordan. Sia, you always have the most interesting guests! I thank goodness every day that I raised my son in the days long before the internet, cell phones, IMs, etc. Reading stories like this are just terrifying. Your books sound exciting, and I do want to add them to my TBR stack. I love the absolutely unique concept behind them.

Sia mentioned to me that your dad was ill. Sending thoughts and prayers your way as well.

jordan-dane said...

Thanks for the well wishes for my dad, Kat & Sia. He was rushed to an emergency room one evening last week and had to have some unexpected surgery but he's fine now. It was a wake up call for all of us to pay more attention to our aging parents. I'm learning a lot from the experiences I've had with them lately. My folks are in good health and are still living independently--so I'm counting my lucky stars. But it's hard to find a balance between watching over them and taking away their independence too soon. Thanks for the prayers. Very thoughtful.

jordan-dane said...

And thanks to everyone who commented today. It was fun being here, Sia. I appreciate your support of a new author. You're terrific!! Have a good weekend.


Judi Fennell said...

Hi again, Jordan! The scary thing about taking ideas from the headlines is that they are usually so much worse than what normal, every day citizens could dream up to write about. And what does THAT say about our society? I remember the Susan Smith case where she claimed car-jacking when she'd really pushed the car into the lake with her 2 boys. It's a scary world out there. And the internet just adds to it.

Hell, I was terrified just reading your post here, so you KNOW I'll be reading this. Many congrats again on your books!

aries18 said...

Excellent article! Sia, you bring us the best guests! Jordan, I'm lucky to have raised my children before the era of the internet but there are my grandchildren now to worry about.

I check on their profiles frequently on MySpace and I let them know I'm watching. Their folks are very internet savvy as well so they are monitored closely.

I'm placing your books on my TBR shelf, your topic interests me and I'm looking forward to reading your work.


~Sia McKye~ said...

"It's a scary world out there. And the internet just adds to it."

Judi, you're so right, especially what headlines say about our society. I also remember the article a few months ago in People Magazine of the young teen set up online with a fictious 'boyfriend' by the mother of another teen as revenge. A form of Cyber bulling. The result was the teen set up committed sucide. So watching our kids is vital and it's scary knowing these things can happen.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Jordan, Thank you so much for spending time here at Over Coffee. Quite illuminating.

Looking forward to your next book!