ScienceThrillers welcomes Joel Gomez-Dossi, author of Lethal Elements. Enter to win a copy below!
In the wilderness, man is the deadliest element.
Geologist Tom Burrell’s relationship with his husband, Roman, is on rocky ground. So when a mysterious company asks Tom to perform mineral studies in the Adirondack Mountains, he jumps at the chance. But before he can finish his tests, he finds himself lost in the wilderness and chased by a hired gun. And now it’s up to Roman to rescue his husband. But in order to succeed, Roman must first piece together the missing elements of Tom’s disappearance and discover the secret goals of the company that hired him. If he fails, Tom will die and one of the nation’s most unique ecosystems, the Adirondack Mountains, will be in danger.
Everything I learned about Science Thrillers I learned from TV
Guest post by Joel Gomez-Dossi
What causes acid rain?
Why is the sky blue?
How do arctic explorers get the energy they need?
The answers to these questions and more, on the next Newton’s Apple.
After working on the television show “Newton’s Apple” for ten seasons, I became tired of hearing that blurb and then seeing an animated opening of a cartoon apple hitting Isaac Newton on the head.
The show was a popular Emmy Award-winning PBS science show that ran during the 1980s and 90s, and it was very formulaic. A main segment was followed by a shorter one, with a couple of fillers stuck in for good measure. Each segment had to follow three tried-and-tested rules. While I often hated those rules, they provided a road map for presenting scientific information. And I put those rules to good use while writing my first science thriller, Lethal Elements, recently published by Bold Strokes Books. In fact, just about everything I learned about writing science thrillers I learned from working on that show.
Rule #1: What’s the question?
Perhaps obvious, but the plot of a science thriller has to revolve around a piece of science that will interest the audience. Usually a question longs to be answered. With LETHAL ELEMENTS, I held that question in my hand: my cell phone. What made it smaller? Smarter? Faster?
Rare earth elements (REEs), known for their special magnetic properties, are modern electronics’ most vital materials. Often called “the seeds of technology,” they’re found in everything from cell phones to electric cars. China supplies over 90 percent of the world’s rare earth, and much of it comes from rogue and illegal mines. Perfect fodder to wrap into a thriller.
Rule #2: The hero can’t be a know-it-all.
The protagonist can’t have all the answers. Yet, he can’t be clueless, either. The hero must ask the same questions the reader is asking.
The protagonist of LETHAL ELEMENTS is geologist Tom Burrell. When a mysterious company asks him to perform mineral studies in the Adirondack Mountains, he jumps at the chance. Before he can finish his tests, however, he finds himself lost in the wilderness and chased by a hired gun. Now it’s up to his husband, Roman, to rescue him. In order to succeed, Roman must first piece together the missing elements of Tom’s disappearance, which, you guessed it, revolve around REEs.
Rule #3: End with a bang
Every Segment of “Newton’s Apple” needed to end with a bang. Something that made the audience think their investment of time was not only fun, but worthwhile, too. The same principle holds true for thrillers. In addition to being entertaining, we want to believe in our hero’s cause, cheer his successes, mourn his losses, and learn a little science in the process.
Joel Gomez-Dossi started his professional career as a theatrical stage manager, but he spent most of his working career on the Emmy-award winning PBS series, Newton’s Apple. In the nineties, he turned to freelance writing, working for regional publications across the country. He is the author of three novels published by Bold Strokes Books, PURSUED; DEADLY CULT; and LETHAL ELEMENTS, which was released on August 17. You can reach Joel on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JoelGomezDossi, or on the web at www.JoelGomez-Dossi.com.