Author Archives: Keith Thomson

How to get Readers to Pay You to Edit Your Manuscript

One of the hardest parts of the writing process is getting honest feedback. Close friends and family think nothing of lying in order to spare your feelings about as little as a poem. So they’ll sooner tell you that your baby is ugly than that they didn’t like the manuscript you’ve agonized over for two years. “Like most writers, when I’m done with a book, I’m never sure if it’s any good, says Palo Alto-based novelist Keith Raffel. “I am definitely not my own best Continue reading →

The CIA’s Chain of Brothels

In my new novel, 7 Grams of Lead, the clandestine operations division of the Department of Commerce runs a international chain of whorehouses as a means of collecting intelligence. Early readers thought that this was over the top. If anything, it understates the CIA reality. But as my editor said, Doubleday can’t very well place authors’ phone numbers in the margins so that they can field questions and straighten out dubious readers. So I had to soften it. I will, however, publish the truth. Here. Continue reading →

How Pirates Live after Death

Back in Century #18, pirates banded together and effectively unionized, creating the Brotherhood of the Coast, which fostered a sense of fraternity unequaled in the history of crime. Not only did the Brotherhood create pirating rules (the hallowed “Pirate Articles”), it offered its members an Afterlife. Although they were viewed by everyone else in the world as ruthless criminals beyond hope of salvation, pirates were inculcated with the notion that they could still maintain a course for a Providence, known as Fiddler’s Green. To ensure Continue reading →

How to Write About State-of-the-Art Tech Before it’s Invented

Truth isn’t just stranger than fiction — it’s faster. In a spy novel I wrote in 2007, I created what was then a futuristic million-volt stun gun disguised as an iPhone. Today, you can buy a 3.5 million volt iStun online for $30. A covert operations officer in the same novel deployed a miniature unmanned aerial vehicle (a.k.a. drone) that in real life could be seen only on drawing boards, at least in declassified circles. In 2009, a German company offered a similar drone to Continue reading →