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4. My Plot and Storyline for James Patterson's Writing MasterClass

Cover Image

Red roofed Shaolin Intelligence Agency offices and residence for the monks of Golden Mount temple (above) downtown Bangkok.

The CIA has an eye on the conflicts in Bangkok, which is bad for American interests. The CIA send Cat, a junior analyst to get intelligence first hand from their Bangkok operative. She takes notes as the local American operative shows her around. He doesn't tell her of his illegal gun sales to the local underworld. The next day a bomb goes off in an industrial suburb of Bangkok. Cat immediately goes to the scene.

She's thinking, this is great, I get to report on a bombing. Her enthusiasm is dampened by the seriousness of the scene, the side of factory building blown away, emergency crews attending to victims. She's surprised to see her instructor from her CIA Asian cultural studies class. He is helping the Thai police organize and secure the area.

Her former Teacher simply says, "Hello Cat," and then instructs her to take photos of everyone in the area, "Now." This begins a partnership as they investigate the team that carried out the bombing. Teacher wants to protect his students, innocent people, many from the countryside trying to earn a better living. Cat wants to be a star reporter, she wants a promotion to Analyst.

Chan, the man responsible for the bombing wants to scare the Thai factory workers and cause economic problems for the foreign factory owners. Manipulating economic and political environments is his expertise. His employer is an international Asian corporation.

To track down those responsible, Teacher takes Cat to the Golden Mount temple in the heart of Bangkok.

"This seems irrelevant," Cat says. "Are you going there to pray for help?"

"No," he says. What he does is introduce Cat to the underground Shaolin Intelligence Agency. They operate out of temples, disguised as religious monks. They have a network of computers and people supporting a connected intelligence agency; Asian style.

Cat and Teacher end up in skirmishes in Thailand before following the enemy to Taipei. Cat learns the enemy also has an intelligence network, as the Shaolin Agency informs her that she is on their list of known CIA personnel. As others get involved, resistance rises against Chan's employer.

Cat graduated with a Masters in Journalism from Washington, DC's American University. She's a Chinese & Thai mix, living in California.

I enjoyed walking around the temple grounds, and ringing the bells and gong of the Golden Mount temple.

Before walking up to Golden Mount temple Golden Mount temple

Temple gong and bells

My Story Idea for working through James Patterson's Writing MasterClass

James Patterson writes thrillers. So, I shall write a thriller; which is fine, because I like thrillers with James Bond, Ethan Hunt, and Laura Croft. As Mr. Patterson says, ideas come from experience and I have experience traveling in Thailand, Taipei, and Hong Kong. I watch the travel reporting shows of Anthony Bourdain. I subscribe to the National Geographic Traveler magazine.

The Pitch

Working title: The Shaolin Intelligence Agency.

There are protests and riots in the streets of Bangkok which trigger a military coup. Cat, a junior CIA analyst reporter, arrives in Bangkok. She is determined to impress her director by reporting on the situation which will support her management's decisions on how to affect the situation in America's favor. She takes notes as the local operative shows her around, but he doesn't tell her of his illegal gun sales to the local underworld. At the scene of an industrial bombing, Cat partners up with her ex-CIA cultural studies teacher to hunt down the enemy. They get support from the local branch of the Shaolin Intelligence Agency. Together they track down an international association bent on political turmoil.

My experiences behind the idea:

The Teacher character comes from my being asked to apply for a job teaching CIA members cultural studies. My LinkedIn profile includes my skills as an international business travel with keen interest in languages.

CIA Job opening

The CIA has advanced computer devices. Example, I was invited to present my startup's product at the yearly Department of Defense (DoD) tech gathering. After my presentation, an army colonel commented to the room, "Doesn't this scare you?" Wow, I smiled to myself. Cool, I had put security fear into the DoD.

After visiting and working in Bangkok, in 2006 I began reading news about a military coup in Bangkok. The country was under martial law. Thailand is politically friendly to industrial investment. China, Japan, and Taiwan companies have parts factories in Thailand. A CNN Article called Thailand, the Detroit of the East. However, political instability causes supply problems for products, destined to the US. Which is bad for business.

I worked in the company which included CNN. At times, I have traveled in similar fashion to Anthony Bourdain for his CNN show, Parts Unknown. I have met and worked with Chinese, Taiwanese and Thai people. I have sampled their food and participated in their cultural rituals; as Anthony Bourdain would.

Me with my CNN cap

Note, I am not a CIA analyst. Seriously, I'm not.

To and From London's Heathrow Airport

A nice fast way, is Heathrow Express, a high speed train service between Paddington Station and the airport. I like it, it's convient, comfortable, nice seats, and only takes 15 minutes travel time. If you don't mind the price, under $30usd one way, $45 round trip. (Note prices vary).

The Tube, London's Underground subway is an inexpensive journey on the Piccadilly line. It takes about 50 minutes to downtown, slightly, ever so slightly, longer than a taxi ride.

I recommend the tube, as long as you don't carry too much luggage. If you have the extra cash and like your comfort, go on the Express. Taxi are the most expensive and the way to go if you want to be taken care of and not worry as to how to get to your specific destination.

On the Tube you will see a cross section of Londoners, and bit of the country side and city buildings on 1/2 the ride. The seats are okay, the cars reasonable, not the newest, but okay.

Arriving into Heathrow. Arrive on British Airways

Heathrow is nice airport.

Heathrow Express Heathrow Express

Outside one of the Waterloo Station Underground exists (there are a few). Waterloo Station

The Underground has various levels of moderinzations. Overall, an excellent subway system.

Underground map showing Heathrow (bottom left), Paddington Station (center top) where the Express goes to, and Waterloo (lower right).

Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

Many things to see within walking distance from the Tsim Sha Tsui MRT stop. From the MRT stop, walk south down Nathan Road to Salisbury Road. Be prepared to ignore or say "no" to all the people selling watches and suits. Upon reaching Salisbury Road, which ends at the habour area, you will see the Clock Tower, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Space Museum, and my favorite, the Hong Kong Museum of Art.

On the right, on Salisbury, is the Chinese Cultural Craft Store which is a fun place to look around and maybe buy something. One advantage of this store is that you know what you are getting, where as at the open markets, if you are not an expert, you cannot be sure. Just past the Craft Store is a large indoor modern mall called the World Comm Centre.

On the other side of the Clock Tower is the harbour walkway, the best place to see the Towers of Hong Kong. The view is spectacular both day and night. At night, the lights are something to sit and watch. At 8:00pm for about 10 minutes, the lights are a show. It's a romantic place to take a date.

Hong Kong Harbor Day

Hong Kong Harbor Night

About a 10 minute walk along the habour is the Avenue of Stars, Hong Kong movie TV entertainment stars. For Bruce Lee fans, there is a statue of him.

Walk Of Stars

Stars: Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Chow Yun Fat, Anita Mui, Maggie Cheung

Walk Of Stars

Things to bring on a flight

The best flights are routine, safe, and relaxing.

The MP3 player, headphones, and eyemask for a quiet undisturbed rest.

  • Cloth sleeping eye mask, a dark-out mask. If you don't have one, ask the flight attendent for one.
  • MP3 player with insert earbuds (ear/headphones). Rubber insert earbuds are pretty good for blocking the plane and passenger noices. Comfortable noise canceling headphones are great, however, larger to carry.

Other things to take:

  • A pen for filling out documents.
  • A sweater or a long sleeve shirt to keep you comfortable when the air conditioning kicks in at high altitudes.
  • A notebook or paper printout of your itinerary of addresses, and phone numbers, of locations you will be staying. Electronic is fine, but paper is works when batteries fail. Suggestion: before leaving, give a copy to someone you trust.
  • Magazine or book to read during waiting times.
  • Satchel or small backpack for carrying electronics (tablet,camera), personal hygene products, and other things for use on the plane. After a long flight, if I'm going straight to the office or meeting someone, I like to cleanup on the plane or in the airport before meeting others. I don't want to search in my lungage, I want them handy.
  • I carry my own snacks such as fig bars which carry easily, don't get crunched in my bag. On international long flights, there are free snacks, but only when the attendents are serving.

Singapore Taxi Negotiations

Singapore taxis prices are very reasonable and most are clean and well maintained. Their attitude is often business cool. When it comes to paying be aware there maybe extra charges. I accept these as an offset for tips, as they don't expect any. The Singapore taxi system is controlled under well defined regulations.

Here are few guidelines:

  • The taxis are always metered, unless you negotiate a fix price.
  • There are predetermined extra amounts from predetermined places, such as: from the airport to the hotel.
  • There are predetermined extra amounts, at specific times of day, example, during rush hours.
  • All taxis have the same mileage/time rate, even the very nice Mercedes Benz taxis. However, the Mercedes Benz taxi may have an extra flat charge. Ask before you get in, and decide for your self if the high class ride is worth the high class extra flat charge. I was told there was a $10 Singapore dollar extra charge. However, it was worth it because it was Friday night, I was going to dinner, and the traffic was slow, really slow. It being in a nice car made it more enjoyable.

Point is, ask what the extra charges are, then there will not be any surprises, nor bad feelings, when it comes time to pay.

Negotiations with Asians:

  • Most everything is negotiable.
  • Be prepared to walk away and get another taxi if you do not like the deal. Most places and times, it is straight forward to get another taxi.
  • Negotiate the price before getting in the taxi. Else, he may drive off and then tell what the price is with you in a weaker position to say no.
  • Be respectful.
  • Be pleasant.
  • Taxi drivers do busy every time someone gets into their vehicle; they are good at negotiations.
  • They avoid confrontation. They like to save face for both themselves and you.
  • The driver and you are trying to get a good price, just that the driver's good price maybe higher than your good price.

If you have a pleasant conversational taxi driver, ask him to drive around the city. After a Friday night dinner, I said to the driver, "Singapore is a great city. Drive through to downtown tall buildings." The driver felt good to hear I liked his city, and he proudly took on the role of tour guide, telling me interesting points and showing me places I had not seen before. Again, well worth the extra $10 Singapore dollars.

Good luck, keep your cool, be happy.