Creep by Jennifer Hiller: Riveting Reviews

Melissa Sugar's Review: Creep by Jennifer Hiller

A Thriller of Deadly Attraction



Hiller's debut novel was released in July, 2011. It is published by Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster inc.

Rating: A+   5 stars

Summary:

Dr. Sheila Tao, a psychologist is a recovering sex addict who must break off  the affair she is having with Ethan Wolfe, one of her teaching assistants because she is engaged to be Married. Her fiancĂ©, Morris, is a good man, but she has been unable to come clean with him about her sex addiction. 
Dr. Tao breaks off the affair with Ethan and tells Morris the whole story-almost. She admits to her sex addiction which understandably upsets Morris and he leaves on a business trip without giving Sheila a definitive answer as to whether the wedding will take place in one week, as planned.  She doesn't disclose to Morris, the identity of the student she cheated on him with.

Ethan does not take the news well and is unwilling to let her go. He has plans for Sheila, that include ruining her reputation, her marriage and getting her fired. Sheila thinks she can handle Ethan, but she is in over her head and is  completely unaware of just how far he will go to stop her from leaving. He will not lose her to Morris.

While on his trip, Morris falls of the wagon and begins drinking again.  He also realizes that he can forgive Sheila, and he wants to proceed with the wedding . When Sheila fails to show for their scheduled appointment with the wedding planner he begins to worry, but his worry turns to sorrow then anger when he listens to a voice mail left by Sheila,  calling off the wedding. What he doesn't know is the she is being held captive by Ethan Wolfe, who forced her to make that call with a gun pointed at her head. 

Something about Sheila's abrupt departure from her home, her career and her life doesn't feel right to Morris and he hires a private investigator to  locate her. Will he find her before it is too late?

My Reaction:

I read Creep, when it was first released, but I was remiss in writing a review. Better late than never, right. This seems to be the perfect time for my delayed review because Hiller's second book, Freak, is scheduled to be released on August 7, 2012 .




  You can pre-order your copy of Freak by Jennifer Hiller at the discounted introductory price of $13.91 at Amazon.

Hiller's debut thriller, Creep  can compete with the best of the best thriller and mystery writers.  Hiller, hooks her readers with the first line of Creep.

               " Three months. That's how long Dr. Sheila Tao had been sleeping with Ethan Wolfe. Three months, four days, and approximately six hours."

In the next paragraph we learn that the affair is not her biggest problem. Her bigger problem is that she is engaged to Morris and the affair has to end.

This is one of the best opening lines and hooks that I've read and I have read thousands of books. I read primarily thrillers and mystery/suspense.  Hiller doesn't let up after the initial hook. I was captivated from the first line of the first page through the suspenseful ending.

What do we learn from every writing craft book, seminar, class, or workshop?  The most important factor in writing a book that readers won't want to put down is to create well rounded, fleshed out, and multi-faceted characters.  Hiller knocks it out of the ballpark. You won't find any cardboard, flat characters in Creep.  Her protagonist, Dr. Sheila Tao, is an example for new and veteran writers to learn by. She is someone we emphasize with. This is a classic example of giving your main character flaws, but still creating reader empathy and connection. Despite all of Dr. Tao's flaws and secrets we still root for her.

Hiller has done what we normally see from only skilled, veteran authors. She managed to make us pull for a less than perfect protagonist. I mean, having an affair when you are engaged to be married to a wonderful man; that's a tough one to pull off for even the most advanced authors. Dr. Sheila Tao's character arc is brilliant. She begins flawed and through a series of missteps and mistakes she emerges a truly and believable transformed woman.

Creating a character with an edge: 

It's not as easy as Hiller makes it look. Writer's must walk a fine line between damaged and unsympathetic. Do it right, as Hiller did, you get the former, but go just one step too far and you get the latter.

I resonated with Sheila Tao because I am not perfect; none of us are.  I have, as I am sure you have, my own  secrets and flaws. We have lived to regret the consequences of our mistakes.  Dr. Sheila Tao, is instantly relatable to readers. She is a protagonist I won't easily forget.

What makes the character, Sheila Tao, work for Hiller?

  • Vulnerability
  • Desire to change
  • Redemption
  • True Character Transformation
The antagonist, Ethan Wolfe is just as three dimensional and complex as the protagonist.  How does Hiller create such multi-faceted and profound characters?  She does an excellent job of layering her character's secrets, motives, goals and characteristics and slowly unravels the backstory of her major characters with precise timing. I never felt removed from the story, there were no information dumps and the plot never stopped moving forward. Hiller does this with as much ease as bestselling authors Lisa Gardner,  James Grippando,  Dennis Lehane,  David Ellis and the likes.

Hiller is exceptional at weaving the depths of her characters into the plot. Just as we get to know more about the people we connect with in real life, little by little as their mask come off, Hiller shows us the different sides of Sheila, Morris and Ethan.

Ethan begins as just another cocky, good looking man who believes he can have any woman he wants. As his character unravels we learn more about him and what makes him tick. We see that he is bad, but wonder if he is really evil and if so is it because he is mentally disturbed ? As the plot progresses and his obsession with Sheila escalates we become privy to his past wounds and secrets. He is a bad dude with just enough charm and charisma to pull off his evil deeds.  There is even a time (albeit short) while he is holding Sheila captive when I very nearly felt sorry for him.

That is just how good Jennifer Hiller is at developing true to life, complex, well rounded characters. She peels back the layers a little at a time and at just the precise moments so that we understand (not agree with) why Ethan does what he does.

I was completely immersed in Hiller's story world and I read with fervent tenacity, her stupendous, gripping thriller. I finished this book in one long night as I was unable to put it down.  Her careful placing of clues were not obvious, but when I looked back at the conclusion of the book, I found myself saying, " Now, I see it. I should have picked up on that ..."  Just when I thought I could predict Ethan's next move, Hiller surprised me with another intense plot twist.

I was completely engrossed in this riveting thriller and the gripping pace in which the story unfolded.  Creep, is not the work one would expect from a debut author. Jennifer Hiller is now on my top five list of mystery/suspense/thriller writers. She ranks up there with the best.  Fans of Lisa Gardner,  Michael Connelly,  Lisa Jackson,  Lisa Scottoline,  Chelsea Cain,  Tami Hoag,  Harlan Coben,  and Laura Lippman will enjoy this deeply layered thriller that is rife with multi-faceted characters.

I just pre-ordered Freak and I am chomping at the bit for the release.  Jennifer Hiller is certain to become a recognized favorite author for readers of  thrillers and mystery/suspense.

Creep by Jennifer Hiller Makes the Gold List

Be sure to visit author, Jennifer Hiller's website and blog, The Serial Killer Files to read more about her soon to be released thriller, Freak.  Learn more about thriller author, Jennifer Hiller on her website.







Social Media and Photos of Our Children

Friday's Focus: Photos of Children and Social Media

How do you feel about other people publishing photos of your children on the Internet?



Digital photography and the accessibility of the Internet combined with the social media boom has increased the chances of your child's photo appearing somewhere on the Internet without your knowledge or permission.  

 I am not talking about people who post photos with malicious or criminal intent. I am talking about parents, family members,  parents of our childrens'  friends, teachers, coaches and others whose only intent is to share group photos.

Last night, I attended "Success Night" for my 4th grader. He is in an all year round school so it is getting near the end of the year. The teachers host an event that is somewhat like back to school night, but it is at the end of the year.  As we walked around viewing the student's projects  the buzz was all about  the Internet and photos of our children. There were digital photos everywhere of our kids- class photos, field day  photos, field trip photos and photos of the numerous clubs and organizations .

The buzz around the parents seem to morph into a debate on whether or not it is appropriate for someone to post photos of your child on the Internet without your consent. I'll admit that I hadn't given the topic much thought until I heard the arguments for and against.
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I googled "kids birthday parties" and this photo, among a thousand others,  appeared.  How likely is it that your children have attended a birthday party where another guest or parent snapped a photo and later posted it on Facebook or their blog?

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I have a daughter at summer camp and I vaguely remember signing a photo release waiver that allows the camp to include my daughter's photo on the camp's website.  I am certain I have probably signed waivers for other sporting events or organizations, but I never gave it a second thought.  I am sure that most parents don't even think about this issue when they post photos from a birthday party or a soccer game.  I know I don't.  But, clearly I should.

My thirteen and fifteen year old girls live on Facebook and Instagram. I know that they often post photos and even videos from their times together. They are innocent enough and nothing is posted with malicious intent, but I guess that is not the issue.

Listening to parents last night, one thing is certain- Parents are either completely for or vehemently opposed to the idea of photos of their children being shared on the Internet.  My take is that the vast majority of people online are nice people who enjoy sharing photos. Perhaps I am too naive?

With Facebook rapidly taking the place of photo albums, scrapbooks, wedding albums and baby books, chances are a photo of your child is floating around out there on the world wide web. Parents are flooding the social media sites with images of their children at birthday parties, sporting events and other places.

With more and more parents flocking to  social media sites, we will continue to see a rise in the amount of photos of children that are  being shared.  
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Here is are two more examples of the types of photo I found just by googling "kids-activities"




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Can you even stop another parent from posting a group shot of the soccer team or cheer leading squad? Can you prevent a photo of your child attending a party or social event from being published? Legally, you don't have much expectation of privacy if your child is photographed while out in public.  Celebrities have dealt with this privacy issue for decades, but only recently has it become commonplace for us common folks.

Most parents are careful when it comes to their children and we take precautions on our social media sites. We use strict privacy settings when we include photos and details about our children and we assume we have control over what others can see, but we don't.

Can we really control what our babysitters, nannies and other caregivers post to the web? Can we stop other teens from posting group shots that include our teens? What about other parents who innocently post a party pic from a classroom party or a pep rally?

Do parents have a right to be upset about discovering  a photo of their child on the Internet? Or is this some sort of techno panic overreacting?

How would you feel if you stumbled across a photo of your child on the Internet that you did not  know about?

Top 5 Notebooks for Creative Thoughts & Notable Notes

Melissa Sugar's Five Favorite Writing Notebooks:

Top 5 list of notebooks for a Writer's Creative Thoughts


As a writer I know that I am in the minority when it comes to actually writing a novel. I am sure that in 2012, most of you find the luxury of a laptop with all the bells & whistles and a fancy word processor far superior to the old school notebook. I love notebooks. I love the way they feel, smell and I feel naked if I leave home without one.

There is something intimate about the experience of jotting down my creative thoughts and ideas and watching them magically transform into quirky characters, mysterious plots or vivid settings. I take it out when I overhear scandalous tidbits of conversation while standing in line at the grocery store or eating lunch at the deli. I  mimic strange or unusual dialects and accents and phonetically spell out words and phrases I overhear.

I use  notebooks for the  plethora of list I can't live without.  I jot down  notable blog post  and thoughts for my upcoming opening statement or closing argument in a jury trial. My notebooks are filled with song lyrics, ideas that would otherwise be long forgotten, important telephone numbers, appointment times and dates and even the numbers on the license plate of the car that once sideswiped me and kept going.

What I am saying is that I love notebooks. Every creative idea I've ever had originated in one of my five (5) favorite notebooks. As a compulsive notebook'er, I have tried just about every kind from the fifty cent one at the dollar store the upscale Moleskin. I like to experiment with different kinds to see how they meet my individual creative work flow and needs.

Here is a breakdown of some of my favorite notebooks:

Notebooks that Make the Gold List:


1. Moleskin - Most of you have heard of the legendary Moleskin notebooks. I used to wonder what all the hoopla was and why anyone would waste that kind of money on a notebook.  That was, until I received my first Moleskin as a gift and I fell in love. They now come in an array of bright colors and designs.


2. The Action Journal by Behance, is based on the online Action Method, a suite of products that all sync to your online Action account and are designed to capture task, collaborate and get organized. I really like it  because I am utterly unorganized and on a mission to attack my vice. Action has a host of nifty gadgets that are helping me.

3. Rhodia  is not a new brand, but new to me. I have seen an upward trend among lawyers and other business executives sporting these pop orange, eco friendly designer notebooks. They are less expensive than most of the other notebooks preferred by writers and other artist, but they are not my favorite. If you are like most people and fancy a smaller notebook that is easier to carry then you will like Rhodia. I am that odd person who has a passion for gigantic notebooks.
4. Writersblok Wouldn't you know that just as I grew to love another notebook, I discover that it has been discontinued. You can still find them at Amazon and a few other places. The are cute, made of 100% bamboo pulp paper and I just kind of got stuck on the catchy name. I won't let myself become attached to Writersblok notebooks now that they have been discontinued because I refuse to get into an eBay type bidding wars over a notebook (it happened with my favorite Lancome cologne and I have to duke it out on eBay every six months.)

5. Habana is quickly becoming my second favorite notebook behind Moleskin. They are comparative in price. Habana has a distinguished look in black, but I can't get enough of the sleek ivory color.  The Clairfontaine paper has an exceptionally smooth satin finish. This notebook proudly boast that is is the choice for many fountain pen users.


 6.  Leuchttrum I confess that I haven't actually used this notebook, but a friend recently recommended that I try it.  As I have vowed to conquer my unorganized life, I can see the benefits of this brand. Apparently, each book has numbered pages, a table of contents and a set of stickers for labeling. I intend to order one soon. Do any of you have anything to share about this style?





So, there you have it. My top 5 list of notebooks for writers and other creative souls + 1 that I am aiming to try.

Are any of you still partial to writing with pen & paper? If so do you have any notable notebooks or favorites to share?



Blogging Hiatus

Blogging Hiatus:


Greetings blogger friends.


It has been a while since my last blog post. I have also been remiss in reading and commenting on your blogs. Actually, I have read many of your blog post, but I have not left many comments. I read here and there when I am feeling disconnected from all of you, but it has been sporadic.

Many of you know that my oldest brother was diagnosed with lung cancer a little over a year ago. He was fifty eight years old and on May 30th, after a courageous battle, he died at home.  The funeral was held on June 2, 2012.


(Photo above: My brother Chip, holding Blake, while she was still in the N.I.C.U.- she was a preemie, weighing 1 pound 13 oz. when she was born)



(Photo above: Blake now at age 13)


Our family is divided, further exacerbating our sorrow. The funeral felt and probably resembled an old rerun of the Hatfield and McCoys. I wanted to stand up in the sanctuary and scream, "WTF, come on people, let's put our petty differences aside and come together for the sake of our family. Can't we get along and properly honor our brother's memory?" But, I didn't.

My father, who is the head of our dysfunctional family, is in his mid 80's and he looked like his will to continue living was being sucked from him. I won't go into the specifics, but my brother's wife of thirty four years does not like my mother, her step-mother-in law or any of the children born of my mother and father's marriage of forty six years and apparently begrudges my father for having a second family.

Our family is a classic example of "Yours, Mine & Ours."  I have far too many whole brothers and sisters, half brothers and sisters and step brothers and sisters to even attempt to explain our complicated family tree. The important thing is that none of us (the children-although we are all pretty much grown now), but none us  consider the other or refer to the other as half, or step. We are all just brothers and sisters.

This has been a very difficult time for our family. Of my five brothers, only one is still living. My mother has lost sons and my father has lost two and I have lost four brothers. One died in a car accident in 1980, My brother, Blake, whom my daughter is named after, died in a car accident in 1990 and another brother died in a car accident in 2003.  All four of my sisters are  alive and well and I treasure every single moment I have with them.

I just wanted to write a brief post explaining my absence. A good friend and fellow blogger, Laura Barnes, has an excellent blog that focuses on helping  authors build a successful media presence. She offers blog critiques From A Marketing Perspective (FAMP), each Monday.  Laura is one of many bloggers who  stresses the importance of letting your readers  know when you will be away from your blog for an extended period of time and when you will resume posting. 

While I could not have anticipated the date my hiatus would begin, I should have explained  my absence.  It is never a good idea to just disappear from your blog. I really did not foresee being away from my blog this long.  That's one of the things about grief ; you never now how long it will last.  I am feeling much better and I anticipate that I will return to regular postings by the end of this week.

Until then, my message to you :

Cherish your family and loved ones and treat them with love and respect. Don't let petty disagreements fester into grudges. Tell your loved ones that you love them. Apologize when you are wrong and accept apologies from others when they are offered with sincerity.  Hell, for the sake of happiness,  apologize even if you don't believe you are wrong. Remember, it is not about who is right or wrong or who wins or loses.  If you want the relationship to win,  be willing to give in. If you have a difficult family member who will not meet you half way, then be the better person and meet them seventy five or even ninety nine percent of the way.  If  letting the other person believe  that they are right or that they have won the dispute will  bring peace to your  family, then just do it. 

Ask yourself:  "Will this matter a month from now? A year from now?"  Concentrate on what is truly important in life. To borrow from popular author,  Richard Carlson,  "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff."    Don't hold grudges.

"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."~ Gandhi
                                                                                 

"Without forgiveness life is governed by... an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation." ~ Roberto Assagioli

"Forgiveness is like faith. You have to keep reviving it." ~ Mason Cooley

Do you have a favorite forgiveness quote?




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