Wednesday, February 19, 2020


So you made those New Year's Resolutions and maybe they've taken a little bit of a slide—or disappeared altogether. Now what?

January is that time of year when a lot of us take stock and create a resolution to change and by February you may be struggling. If you're like me you sit down and write a list that goes along the lines of I'm going to... (cook more, train better, organize the house). Feeling motivated on that first week, when the schools are closed, the city is quiet, and the gifts of clothes need to find space in the closet, we dive in. Unfortunately, statistics give the grim truth;  most of us will not keep these new habits going past January.

This year I decided to delve into the science of change. How do we form new habits and what does it take to change old ones? I've read lots of advice over the years, but this article from Psychology Today by behavioral scientist Susan Weinschenk Phd gave a list of concrete ways to keep these resolutions moving forward. And what I loved about it is that it notes the power of the stories we tell ourselves. As writers we know what power stories have, so it was great to read that science supports their importance as well.

First, start small:  

The first step, apparently, is to start small. People tend to write "Exercise more" which is a large category and could mean anything. Scientists say that we need to write something more along the lines of small change. For example, if you don't exercise at all perhaps write "Walk to the bus and take stairs up two flights."   

Second, tie the new habit to an existing one:

The theory is that you've already may tons of habits during the course of your life so of course you can start a new one. Makes sense, right? But habits don't come out of thin air, so tying the new one to something established will help. 

I think this is brilliance. Last year I wanted to change my training schedule, which was geared toward running, to incorporate more weight training. I made the resolution and joined a gym near my house. The problem was, I'm not all that interested in weight training and indoor training, so I rarely went. And when I did go, I ended up running on a treadmill rather than weight training. 

One day I was running on a track in a new park and came across an outdoor gym. I stopped and tried to "walk" on my hands across the parallel bars, do the dips, tried to do a chin up on the chin up bar (no chance, not even one!) swing on the monkey bars, etc. All of these exercises incorporated lifting my body weight. It was surprisingly difficult. Really, really difficult. After that first attempt I made a point to run that track every other day and to stop to try again. Within three months (long, I know) I was able to work the entire body weight circuit and I noticed a change in my upper body strength. While the pull up is still a challenge, I'm planing on keeping at it until I can do at least two or three in a row. I actually look forward to the days I run to the outdoor gym. A bonus: I cancelled my gym membership and saved that monthly fee. I now realize that by tying the new habit to my existing running schedule was the key. 

Third, take note and change your self story: 

This is a fascinating idea. According to the article, we all have a self story that we think defines us and this story drives a lot of our behavior. In fact, we will subconsciously do things to support this story, even if what we do is ultimately bad for us. Changing an existing story, even if the change is beneficial, creates unease. Rather than feel this, we default back to the familiar, bad habit. Scientists suggest that we first write down our self story and then create another that matches the new changes we wish to make. 

So if your story is "I'm not an athlete, other people are," we subconsciously keep this front and center. However, if you want to try an athletic endeavor, then you will have to rewrite a self story that says, "In the past I wasn't an athlete, but I never really tried it for long and now I'll give it a year."

In short, stories are powerful, but changing them to fit the new you, or the you that you aspire to be is possible and beneficial. This suggestion seems too easy to be true, but if science says it works I'm willing to give it a try! 

I hope your resolution stuck, but if they didn't, maybe science will help. And if you have anymore tips to keep those resolutions going, please leave them in the comments. I would love to hear them!

May your 2020 and beyond be happy, healthy and filled with joy.

Best, Jamie Freveletti

FEBRUARY'S ROGUE RECOMMENDATION CLUE and the chance to win a free book!

CLUE: "This former lawyer hails from TX, loves cowboy boots, and has an affinity for serial killers."

A quick recap for those of you scratching your heads. 

In May of 2019, Rogue Women Writers and The Real Book Spy formed a lethal alliance dedicated to bringing you a monthly ROGUE RECOMMENDATION.

What's that mean? 

On the third Friday of every month, the Rogues team up with The Real Book Spy to bring you a  reading recommendation, highlighting a thriller that sizzles with entertainment, breaks boundaries or in some way stands out as "Rogue." Written in the unique voice of The Real Book Spy, recommendations may include, among other things: author interviews, author blogs, reviews and photos.

This is your chance to win more than just bragging rights! 

Do you like to win books? If so, there are three ways to enter into the drawing!

1. Post a comment below and you'll be entered into a drawing for a copy of The Real Book Spy's FEBRUARY ROGUE RECOMMENDATION

2. Visit our FB page and share the clue with friends and fellow thriller buffs.

3. Tweet out the clue on Twitter. 

Game on!

Sunday, February 16, 2020


by Karna Small Bodman

Enjoying the romantic Valentine chocolates received last week while reading a thriller, I reflected on a question I’ve heard asked at many writers’ workshops and conferences: Should we weave a romantic relationship into our thrillers, or “play it straight?”

It turns out that of all the genre fiction, the most popular IS “Suspense/Thriller” with over twenty million of these novels sold per year. However, a close second is “Romance,” which has grown into a “1.5 billion-dollar industry.” A few months ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that THE most watched TV channel during the Holiday Season was Hallmark with its romantic stories featuring inspiration, a relationship plus a happy ending.

So, is there a way to gain even more readers by combining the two? I recall that when my first thriller, CHECKMATE was released, I wrote about a young scientist paired with an officer on The White House National Security Council staff who work together to track down villains while falling in love. I did receive (just) one email from a reader who said I should not have included a love scene because “it slowed down the action.”

Of course, different readers have different ideas about pacing, and a number of authors have found great ways to combine these two most popular types of stories, now called “Romantic Thrillers.” One of the best in the business is prolific author, Nora Roberts who has penned 215 novels in both the strictly romance category under that name and romantic thrillers using the pen name J.D. Robb. Booklist writes that her recently released Golden in Death has a plot that “seamlessly fuses danger, propulsive pacing and a sexy partnership between a tough-as-nails heroine and a man of mystery.” These books have consistently hit The New York Times bestseller lists as soon as they are published.

An author of 71 bestselling novels with 80 million copies in print world-wide, and translated into 34 languages, is Sandra Brown, who has also successfully combined suspense with budding relationships. Her recent release, Seeing Red, is described by the Associated Press this way: “Brown’s story mixes thrills with mystery and a spicy sex scene or two . . . it is one of Brown’s best books in years.”

One more great female author, Linda Howard, has been penning clever romantic thrillers for decades. Her story, Mr. Perfect, pairs a woman with an attractive under-cover cop. They work together when lives of her friends are threatened. A summary of this novel indicates that it “combines rapid fire, often humorous dialogue with scenes where the two are about to steam up the windows and burn up the sheets.”

While we have been focusing here on novels combining thrillers with romance, looking back we see examples of wonderful, intriguing movies that would also be dubbed “Romantic Thrillers.” A master of this type of film, of course, was Alfred Hitchcock with the memorable Vertigo and Notorious. Finally, the all-time favorite classic produced back in 1941 featuring the relationship between Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca, is still being shown today.

Now, what do YOU think? Should writers include a romantic involvement in mysteries and thrillers? If so, what are some of your favorite stories with this combination of elements?

Friday, February 14, 2020


Meg Gardiner
by Lisa Black

           Bestselling author Meg Gardiner's fifteen thrillers have been translated into twenty languages. She graduated from Stanford Law, became a wife and mother to three, and won an Edgar. Oh yes, and is a three time Jeopardy! champ. Today, we ply her with Rogue questions!! 

Rogues: Which is harder as you approach writing a new novel: writing the first or last sentence?

Meg: Definitely the first sentence. It’s the doorway to the novel. The first sentence has to hint at the world that lies beyond, and entice readers across the threshold into the story. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a few little words.

Rogues: What's your favorite word?

Meg: Inspiration. Because it’s a rare and wonderful thing, and when I capture it, I’m thrilled.

Rogues: Where do you like to write?

Meg: The spare bedroom that I’ve claimed as an office. The windows overlook a spread of oak trees where red-shouldered hawks swoop and perch. I’ve also taught myself to write on airplanes. Strapping myself into a seat that’s hurtling across the sky at nearly 600 mph provides a wonderful work environment... because I can’t escape it. At least, not without causing a scene at 35,000 feet. I have to sit still and actually write.

Rogues: What do you do when you need to take a break from writing?

Meg: I hike, go to concerts (I live in Austin!) and send memes to my kids. Oh, who am I kidding? I read.

Rogues: If you could have lived in a different time period, what would it be?

Meg: WWII. I wish I could have worked at Bletchley Park.

Rogues: What's your favorite drink?

Meg: Coffee. AND LOTS OF IT.

Rogues: When you were ten years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Meg: A writer. From Day One.

Rogues: Do you have a literary hero? A teacher, mentor, family member, author who has inspired you to write your novels? 

Meg: My parents. They told me I could do whatever I set my mind to, and be whatever I wanted to be. They believed in me.

Rogues: Describe your very first car.

Meg: A ’66 Mustang my parents bought used, and let me drive to high school. Sky blue with a straight six engine. My baby.

Rogues: Do you write what you know or what you want to know?

Meg: What I want to know.

Rogues: This has been fun!

Meg: Thanks for inviting me to visit the blog. I hope you’ll look for my new novel, THE DARK CORNERS OF THE NIGHT.

Find out more about Meg's books at:

What is your favorite Meg Gardiner novel?

Wednesday, February 12, 2020


by K.J. Howe

Valentine’s day holds a special place in our hearts. A holiday set aside to celebrate love in all of its forms—romantic, filial, parental, for pets, teachers, and anyone else you might want to include. It’s also an excuse to wear red, buy presents, and eat tons of chocolate. What more could one ask for? But inquiring minds want to dig a bit deeper. Just who was this Saint Valentine and where did this tradition originate?

Interestingly, we can’t be sure which Saint Valentine the day is named after or what the real origin of this holiday was:

The name Valentine was very popular in late antiquity (its root found in the Latin “valens” meaning worthy, strong or powerful) and no less than 14 recognized saints share that name from the period, seven of whom who died on February 14th. Scholars have narrowed the field down to three Saint Valentines who are the most likely candidates behind the holiday. The confusion has existed for over 1500 years because when the feast of Saint Valentine was first established by Pope Gelasius I in 496, he included Saint Valentine among those “whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are only know to God.”

As time passed, tradition merged at least two of the three Saint Valentines into a single mythological figure who forms the basis of modern traditions. By the time the Middle Ages rolled around, Saint Valentine was a Christian persecuted for his faith and interrogated by the Emperor Claudius II in person. When Claudius tried to convince Valentine to accept paganism to save his life, Valentine responded by trying to convert Claudius to Christianity to save his soul. We all know how that attempt worked out, but even after his execution had been ordered, Valentine performed a miracle by curing Julia—daughter of his jailor Asterius—of her blindness. In turn, Asterius and his forty-six-member household converted to Christianity.

The legend developed and later the story included Saint Valentine writing a final note to Julia the night before his execution which he signed “Your Valentine,” the origin of how Valentine’s cards are signed today. Further expansion of his story included the tale that this historic cupid performed secret Christian weddings for Roman soldiers who had been forbidden to marry. At the weddings, he would cut out heart shapes from parchment paper and give them to the newlyweds to remind them of their vows and commitments.

Like several other parts of modern folklore, the first recorded association of St. Valentine’s Day comes to us from Geoffrey Chaucer, who in 1382 wrote:
"For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make."
Chaucer insinuated that he was only expressing a well-established tradition, but it remains our earliest association of the date with romantic notions. The idea of birds choosing their mates on February 14th was quickly emulated by several other authors, and by the year 1400, the date was enshrined in the “Charter of the Court of Love” as a day that was celebrated with a feast, amorous song and poetry competitions, jousting, and dancing. The attending ladies would hear and rule on disputes from various lovers. Whether these celebrations actually took place is debatable, but they sure made for entertaining reading.

From the 1400’s onwards, Valentine’s Day gained momentum, appearing in private letters and even earning a reference in Shakespeare’s Hamlet:
To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes,
And dupp'd the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.
— William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5
Valentine’s Day has become a powerful meme, accepted across many cultures and religious denominations. St. Valentine remains on the official church calendar for the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox, and several other denominations. And while the real explosion in the modern world started in English-speaking countries (lead by the UK), it has become a ubiquitous celebration. Singaporeans, Chinese, and South Koreans now spend the most money on Valentine’s gifts!

It has also become an economic force, with approximately $19.6 billion dollars spent on an average year just in the United States—and about $1.8 billion of that is spent on candy alone, and $650 million is spent on gifts for pets. In fact, cat owners spend about 20% more on Valentine’s gifts for their kittens than dog owners spend on their animals. Fascinating…

Valentine’s Day epitomizes the amazing power of a positive idea. From a fairly obscure Christian feast day, the idea has spread across the globe, touching many cultures and billions of lives. A clear demonstration of the power of love. Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!

Who will be your Valentine this year?

Sunday, February 9, 2020


Marie Benedict
by Karna Small Bodman

          We are delighted to welcome New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction, Marie Benedict, to be our guest blogger. I heard Marie talk about her terrific books when she spoke to the Naples, FL Friends of the Library series last week (which attracts over 700 attendees!!) and was happy to chat with her there about how I have enjoyed reading her stories about remarkable (and "under appreciated") women. One of my favorite books of hers was THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM about Hedy Lamarr. Two other winners were CARNEGIE'S MAID and THE OTHER EINSTEIN about the first Mrs. Albert Einstein. Marie has a brand new release LADY CLEMENTINE.Now the author gives us the background and inspiration for this very interesting novel:

From Marie Benedict:
          When you picture the leadership of Great Britain during the hardships and challenges of World War II, do you think of Winston Churchill in those iconic photographs? Do you imagine the ubiquitous cigar, the Homburg hat, the famous speeches, and the “V” for victory sign? Do you usually envision him alone, or perhaps, in the rare photograph, with Roosevelt or Stalin? Would it surprise you to know that the lens on those famous images of Winston during the war — and long before it as well — should be broadened to include his wife, Clementine?

Winston Churchill
If the photographs of Winston were altered to accurately reflect the role that Clementine Churchill played throughout their lives — not only in World War I and World War II, but all the critical years in between — we would see her sharing the broad mantle of leadership alongside her husband, because their society would not allow her to assume her own political power. We would witness her campaigning alongside Winston for Parliament over many decades and serving as a senior government official’s wife like no other, as the spouse of the Home Secretary, Lord Admiral, and of course, the Prime Minister — all the while vetting and editing his speeches, discussing policies and strategies, influencing governmental leaders towards their shared goals, and helping him deal with the difficult landscape of colleagues and staff.

Clementine Churchill
And these tasks are only the ones she performed with Winston. Behind the scenes, she are undertook many projects of her own design — such as ensuring the safety of air raid shelters for the British people during the Blitz, advocating for roles for women in the war effort, and raising millions of dollars in aid for the wounded people of Russia — not to mention the vast array of responsibilities she assumed on Winston’s behalf, such as caring for their family and home and tending to his demanding schedule, and for his safety, such as accompanying him on his tours of Blitz sites so he wouldn’t act rashly, as was his wont, and get in harm’s way.

So why do we always envision Winston alone during the critical periods in modern history? Because he certainly wasn’t. Can we attribute it to limited historical preconceptions about the nature of women’s abilities? If so, even though we cannot travel back in time and alter the photographic record to ensure that it accurately reflects Clementine’s role, we need to begin affirmatively write women back into the historical narrative where they’ve been all along, hidden in plain sight.

Now what women in history do you feel were never given the credit for their accomplishments?                                                                                   

Friday, February 7, 2020


Can you believe it's February already? Here's what we Rogues talked about, researched, and revealed in January as we opened 2020....

Gayle Lynds reveals 5 secrets to be successful AND happy in the new decade here

Physical exercise is good for our bodies, but it's also a mega-boost for our minds. K.J. Howe talks sports and the 7 Benefits of Finding Your Game.

Nine things we didn't know about Lee Goldberg, New York Times bestselling author of LOST HILLS. Get the scoop as one of our favorite authors basks In the Rogue Limelight.

For writers looking for great ways to begin a novel, create chapter endings and put together intriguing and "satisfying" endings -- Karna Small Bodman has tips for you here.

Have questions about publishing? Literary Agent Barbara Poelle might just answer them in her new book FUNNY YOU SHOULD ASK, an extension of her wildly popular Writers' Digest column of the same name. 

Technically correct isn't always correct--at least in Lisa Black's book--which she talks about here

Rogue Flash: Brit female authors have blown the "old boys" club cover, while here in the U.S., women like the Rogues are doing the same. Read all about it in Gayle Lynds in the London Guardian.

Chris Hauty, January 2020's Rogue Recommendation, is a debut author old enough to be a member of AARP. A screenwriter and a poet, this is a new political thriller you won't want to miss.

Rogue Robin Burcell gives the 5 tips she wished she knew as a beginning novelist, but they're good for anyone who writes. Be sure to check the comments for other tips!

Ever wonder where authors get their ideas. You're going to want to follow in her footsteps as our own Lisa Black Goes (More) Rogue: In the Limelight.

10 Tips from top thriller writers - some great advice from those at the top of their game.

Andrew Grant goes Rogue and shares tales of the his tour while In the Rogue Limelight.


Wednesday, February 5, 2020


by Gayle Lynds

My husband, John, still dreams of jogging.  Oh, for healthy knees!  Then there’s my friend who’s upset because the book she’s been reading went AWOL last week.  Where is the darn thing?  And all of us lose keys, forget people’s names, or miss appointments.  It’s the human condition.
John's Steinway - isn't she a beauty?
          Still, wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to go back sometimes and regain a piece of the past?  With that in mind, here's my problem:  I can no longer play the piano, and I miss it terribly.  There was a time I played Chopin and Mozart, Gershwin and boogie-woogie, as well as copious blues and rock ‘n’ roll.  I memorized easily, and I composed. 
          There’s an old photo of me reaching over my playpen to touch the keys of my family’s decrepit piano.  For me, the only instrument was always the piano.  Finally, when I was eight years old, my parents saved enough to buy an “upright grand.”  Dad put it in a back room, and it was all mine.  It had a glorious big sound and could hold a tune.  Wow, some parents!  Nirvana!
          Mom said she knew I was angry when I’d bang out Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp Minor as if the armies of Hannibal were invading across the Missouri River.  (We lived in Iowa.)  She knew I was in love when I gave a particularly sappy rendition of Debussy’s Claire de Lune or Love Me Tender – Elvis Presley, remember?
          Then life happened in the form of deaths, poverty, and responsibilities.  Hormones figured in there, too.  All right, I admit it:  Boys were delicious to look at – but I was too timid to return their smiles.
          So I dove deep into reading where I could inhale the exotic scent of frangipani and gape at a behemoth Soviet tank.  The crazy excitement of genius fascinated me, and I puzzled at the emotional desert of sociopathy.  Books taught me everything from grammar to how to kiss, and I reveled in living vicariously many lives, each more interesting, more adventurous, and more brave than my own.
          After a while, my love of books overwhelmed my love of music.  By college, I’d stopped playing piano but was too busy, too unaware, to notice.
          Today I sit on my husband’s piano bench, soaking in the beauty of his baby grand.  I love to hear him play.  Now he’s away for a few hours, so I get out some of my old music and choose Star Dust, words by Mitchell Parish, music by Hoagy Carmichael.  I open it to the first page and study the music — my music, my old sheet music.  Yes, I still have a lot of it.  I haven’t been able to make myself throw it away. 
          But then my heart sinks.  I stare at the notes and realize I don’t know what they mean.  I’m not sure even where Middle C is on the stanza — or on the keyboard.  I remember being able to look at music and feel it between my ears and in the center of my ribcage.  I’m stunned at what I’ve lost.  Like my mother’s kiss, I’ve lost the anger, joy, fear, shyness, incompetence, triumph, grief ... that once rolled easily from my fingers....
"Gloriously satisfying!" – L.A. Times
           A few years ago I wrote a psychological suspense thriller called MOSAIC about a character named Julia Austrian, a blind concert pianist.  With her Steinway, Julia travels internationally, soloing on the planet’s great stages.  She loves everything about her life – the music, the bouquets, the reviews, the camaraderie.  When interviewed, she always says that being blind is an advantage to a pianist.  In the music, she lives.
          But the truth is, she aches to see again, just as I now ache to play music.  Until she was eighteen years old, she’d had normal eyesight.  Imagine this coincidence – I was eighteen when I stopped playing. 
          The novel is also about a presidential election and a large powerful family, of which Julia is a member.  None of them knows her secret – Julia has psychological blindness, Conversion Disorder.  Simplified, it’s bad PTSD.  But with the right trauma therapy, she may be able to see again. 
          Working on the novel forced me to face my old sheet music – and a deepening sense of loss because if I couldn’t hear the music just by looking at the notes, how could I possibly create a world-class pianist like Julia Austrian? 
          I must remember, go back in time, the writer in me tells myself.... The little rear room where I played.  The sacrifice of my parents.  My joy today in writing novels.  It's the same joy I once had in making music....
          So I stare at my blank computer screen, summon the memories, and write:  “She was all of the music's compelling emotions, all of its grand poetry, all of its myths.  Whether the concert was good or bad no longer mattered.” 
          Ah, yes, Liszt is her choice.  “Snowscape” — the √Čtudes, no. 12.  “She could imagine the snowflakes drifting down everywhere, shrouding the world in white, entombing humans and wild creatures and nature’s monuments to God, while the wind sighed and moaned.” 
          Julia plays on my page, and both of us can feel it.  Through her, I find the rhythm.  At the end of the book, she regains her sight, and I regain an important piece of my history.  She uncovers a corrupt espionage situation, and I recover a love I thought I’d lost.  She fights her way through a novel of suspense to a happy ending, and I have mine.  Through the book, I regain an important piece of my past.

Is there something you lost that you'd like to regain ... or perhaps already have?  Please tell!

Sunday, February 2, 2020


by Chris Goff

In 1961, in a downstairs room in Evergreen, Colorado, a dad perched on the side of a bunk bed reading Pinocchio to a six year-old little girl. Originally a collection of stories, printed in serial form as La Storia di un burattino in one of Italy's weekly children's magazines, the book, Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi, was first published in 1883. It's about the mischievous adventures of an animated marionette and his father, a poor woodcarver named Geppetto.

The dad I referenced was mine, and he read that book to me chapter by chapter, every night at bedtime. When we finished, we read Mother West Wind How Stories and Danny Meadow Mouse by Thomas Burgess, both published in 1915. And he loved to read me poems from Silver Pennies: A Collection of Modern Poems for Boys and Girls, published in 1925 by Blanche Jennings Thompson. He knew my absolute favorite by heart. It was "The Elf and the Dormouse" by Oliver Herford, about how umbrellas were invented.

The years moved on until we more often sat in opposite chairs in the living room reading to ourselves, but my dad was the one who taught me the value of a great story. He was the one who instilled in me my love of books and reading.

Years later, I watched my children's delight as my husband read them Rikki Tikki Tavi by Rudyard Kipling as I joined in the nightly bedtime story ritual.

It's no wonder I love the idea of World Read Aloud Day.

In 2007, literacy expert Pam Allyn visited Kibera, an area of extreme poverty in Nairobi, Kenya. Realizing the desire the children had to read, write and share their stories, she also saw how life's circumstances had placed barriers in their way triggering an underlying belief:
        "Literacy is not a gift given just to some lucky ones, it is a foundational human right that brings joy, economic independence, gender equity and a pathway out of poverty."
Inspired, she came back to the United States and mobilized a group of friends and leaders to join her in founding LitWorld. It's all about sharing stories, building community and cultivating a love of reading and writing. It's designed to encourage creative expression and build literacy skills.

Now celebrated in 173 countries and counting, World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults to celebrate the power of words.

This year, World Read Aloud Day is February 5th. So, let's take action! Let's show the world that everyone has the right to read. Let's all celebrate the day by grabbing a book, finding an audience and reading out loud. And when you're done, share your favorite read-aloud moments on social media with #WorldReadAloudDay, and be sure to tag @Scholastic, @LitWorldSays and three friends so they can join, too.

Who inspired you to read? Please, share a favorite memory of reading aloud.

Friday, January 31, 2020


The Rogues are delighted to welcome Andrew Grant as a guest on the blog. Andrew's latest book was released on January 7. The series features a courthouse janitor with a cause. Justice. When Paul McGrath made his debut, in INVISIBLE, Kirkus Reviews said, “Crisp pacing, complex plotting, and a sympathetic good guy all make for a most satisfying read...” Booklist said, "This is Grant’s ninth thriller, and it’s a very good one, suspense tempered throughout with moral dilemmas…. An intelligent, exciting novel.” And Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review and some lofty praise, "Grant capably combines a riveting plot and depth of character. His best outing to date, this standalone marks Grant as a rising genre star.”

TOO CLOSE TO HOME is the second in the Paul McGrath series. 

His cover: courthouse janitor. His cause: justice. But when he uncovers a shocking connection to a file of missing evidence, he finds the truth sometimes hits a little too close to home.

An intelligence agent-turned-courthouse janitor, Paul McGrath notices everything and everyone—but no one notices him. It’s the perfect cover for the justice he seeks for both his father and the people who’ve been wronged by a corrupt system. Now he’s discovered a missing file on Alex Pardew—the man who defrauded and likely murdered McGrath’s father but avoided conviction, thanks in large part to the loss of this very file. And what lies behind its disappearance is even worse than McGrath had feared.

We caught up with Andrew recently, and he shared this tale from the road:

I was on the road recently promoting TOO CLOSE TO HOME and I met a reader who asked me to name five books that changed my life. Here’s what I said:

The Little Red Hen and The Grains of Wheat. One of the first books I read on my own, and one that summarises a guiding principle in my life: If you're not there when the hard work's being done, you better stay away when the rewards are handed out.

Watership Down,
Richard Adams. The book I've 
reread more times than any other. My original copy from 1978 is still on my shelves, faded almost to the point of illegibility. Once I overcame my disappoint-ment at the lack of the sunken ship the title seemed to promise I found it had everything I could possibly want from a story. A great cast of characters (OK - rabbits), a healthy disregard for authority, courage, danger, camaraderie, self-sacrifice, cunning, refusal to surrender regardless of the consequences (essential for anyone with Irish blood), and the heroes' ultimate triumph against overwhelming odds.

Ice Station Zebra, Alistair MacLean. The book that marked my 'growing up' as a reader, and which is more responsible than any other for me becoming a thriller-writer. One of my most-prized possessions is a first edition that Tasha bought me a couple of years ago, but I first read it in 1978 thanks to the grade-school teacher I had at the time. One day he caught me with a book under my desk - probably Watership Down! - and this set him off on a bizarre rant: "You think you're a good reader? Well let me tell you - you're not. Not unless you can go to any bookcase, pick up any book, and read it without thinking." Reading 
without thinking? A strange concept. But I wasn't concerned about that, back then, because his words sounded like a challenge. So that night I approached my father's bookshelves and took down the first book my hand fell upon. Nervously I looked at the title. "Sweet!" I thought, feeling relieved. There are Stations on the Ice? And they have Zebras? This is going to be fun! And it was… 

Animal Farm, George Orwell. Even at a young age I viewed the world through the contradictory lenses of hopeless naivety and miserable cynicism so this book - which so elegantly demonstrates how the best of intentions can lead to the worst of outcomes - made me feel like I wasn't totally out of touch with human nature after all.

Henry V, William Shakespeare. This was the first Shakespeare play I read, and I was instantly hooked by the Prologue's promise of famine, sword, and fire. I loved Henry's handling of the scheming bishops and his smiting of the impertinent Dauphin. But seriously, is there anything better in literature than the Southampton plot, when Henry handed the unsuspecting traitors their death warrants in place of their commissions? A twist any thriller-writer would be proud of. 

If you haven't read TOO CLOSE TO HOME, you are in for a treat!

Thank you, Andrew! Rogue Readers, any more questions? 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

10 Tips from Top Thriller Writers

I remember when Valerie and I  first decided to write together, the first thing I did was to go out and buy a book on how to write a novel. Since then, we've both joined writers’ groups, taken craft classes and attended conferences. We found ourselves hungry for those kernels of wisdom that would help us to unlock the secret to good writing. We've found the writing community to be not only encouraging and supportive but generous in sharing the helpful things they've learned along the way.

We were lucky enough to grab a few minutes with these bestselling authors who write books that readers devour. They share their best writing advice here:

“Never write what you know.  Instead, write what you love.  If what you know and what you love are the same thing, great.  But, if not, always chose the one you love.”
—Steve Berry

“I love reading crime fiction and I always have. I think the best advice I could ever give to a young novelist who is starting out, or an old one, is to write the kind of novel you want to read.”
Karin Slaughter

“The act of sitting down to write a novel is a deeply personal one. It’s an act of faith and of pure giving. Write from your center, about people who move and involve you. Be inside the story, feeling it, living it — because that’s where you want your readers to be when they open the cover. And when you come up for air, read books that transport and inspire you to recharge your writer batteries. Because all writers are readers first, that’s where we fall in love with story and find the urge to tell our own.”
Lisa Unger

“One of the best nuggets of advice we received early on was that sometimes you need to slow down a scene in order to build the tension. Our instincts were to speed up dramatic scenes, but we realized that in order to draw out a reader's experience and emotions, it is far better to slowly unfurl these moments. This was truly a lightbulb moment, and we remind ourselves of this particular element of writing every time we tackle scenes that we want to feel like nail-biters.”
Sarah Pekkanen & Greer Hendricks

“Study and learn story structure. Then put your butt in the chair every day and work to get better.”
—Robert Dugoni

“First, think about the English language -- if you're writing, you're a writer! Then, of course, you must decide in what direction you want to go with your writing. Of course, craft! It's great to learn, and we can always learn more. Criticism is great when it's constructive, but remember,  we're in a subjective field, and always think about your story or your point. I think that conferences are amazing, but always go with a filter. Some things will work for one person and not another, so seep in all that you can that will work for you, and gently let go of that which will not. And remember, if seven people read your story, one may not embrace your characters while another may love them, but find the plot convoluted, and others may love it as it is. Think about constructive criticism, and then remember--it's your story!”
Heather Graham

“Don’t fall in love with your first draft. You’ll be tempted to. All of us are. Instead, set it aside and look at it later with more objective eyes. Then, as tough as it might be, take the time to revise in the pursuit of excellence as a show of respect for your readers. It won’t be easy, but the truth is, if you like long hours in solitude, emotional turmoil, constant self-criticism and bouts of heart-wrenching disappointment, you’ll make a good writer. That’s what it’s going to take. And if you can actually tell an engaging story, well, you might just make a great one.”
Steven James

“My best advice to those in the early stages or aspiring to break through into the business are three things: patience, rewrite, and outline. Patience, in that the urge to rush your story both within the book and on the business side too, forces a story out ahead of itself and maybe into an agent's hands too soon. You generally get one crack at things. Rewrite, akin to patience, to hammer out over constant repetition those clunky phrasings, those scenes that don’t’ quite work those “sexy” clues or reveals which seem so seamless but many times don’t’ come out till the third or fourth draft. And outline. Have a roadmap for where your plot is going. For where you are going to end up. Learn to get your arms around your own story.  You can still change it organically, but it is always best, especially in my view, for the author to be in control.”
Andrew Gross

“Read everything and anything that interests you, especially in your genre. Understand the publishing business so you know how to position your work when pitching agents and/or editors. Become part of a writing community, especially within your genre - attend conferences, book events for other authors, and just reach out through social media.”—Wendy Walker

“When I hit a writing roadblock, I remind myself that conflict--the engine that keeps thrillers flying--is a result of decisions. And that decisions create action. So I ask myself: what does my character really want? How far will they go to get it? What will they decide to do to make it happen?  Then I think: who's trying to stop them? What will they do about that decision? And then the story takes off.
Hank Phillippi Ryan 

What is the best advice you've ever gotten on writing? 


Sunday, January 26, 2020


Every time The Real Book Spy brings us a Rogue Recommendation, one of the Rogue Readers who comments, shares or tweets the clue and posting is entered into a drawing to win a free copy of the author's book. The January Rogue Recommendation is Chris Hauty for DEEP STATE, and the winner of the book is

"Operations Specialist, mom, writer... Fine. I won't give up, but I will cuss the entire time... "

When we notified her, she said:

“Thank you! I can't believe I won! I am looking forward to paying forward Deep State to everyone I can! This community just gets better and better! I am a writer working in a new genre for me - a sort of thriller - just starting out again really, and I love engaging with the writing community on Twitter/social media. It's been so educational and everyone is so supportive and welcoming, which is refreshing on social media. I am also an avid reader of pretty much any thriller I can get my hands on and I love promoting 'my authors' on all the platforms I follow!”

Tracy, we’re glad to send the book your way. We’ll look forward to a review!

 To call DEEP STATE timely would be a massive understatement. It’s about a powerful group of Washington elites who actively try to take down the president and his administration—which has proven to be incredibly divisive and bad for America.

Recently elected President Richard Monroe—populist, controversial, and divisive—is at the center of an increasingly polarized Washington, DC. Never has the partisan drama been so tense or the paranoia so rampant. In the midst of contentious political turf wars, the White House chief of staff is found dead in his house. A tenacious intern discovers a single, ominous clue that suggests he died from something other than natural causes, and that a wide-ranging conspiracy is running beneath the surface of everyday events: powerful government figures are scheming to undermine the rule of law—and democracy itself. Allies are exposed as enemies, once-dependable authorities fall under suspicion, and no one seems to be who they say they are. The unthinkable is happening. The Deep State is real. Who will die to keep its secrets and who will kill to uncover the truth?

Friday, January 24, 2020

LISA BLACK GOES (MORE) ROGUE: In the Rogue Limelight

by Chris Goff

Ever wonder where writers get their ideas? Sometimes brilliance strikes in the most unusual places--like our own Lisa Black, New York Times bestselling author. I had the chance to talk with her and get the lowdown on her latest novel.

Me in Tahiti
I was actually—and I swear I am not making this up—sailing in Tahiti when I got the idea for Let Justice Descend. I add the disclaimer because, though it was over two years ago, I still can’t believe I actually did it, took a small ship cruise with my sisters through the crystal clear waters with a bunch of other non-bazillionaires. Anyway, we were snug in our cabin one night, my sister reading in bed with a small light on, when I suddenly sat up and started scribbling on a piece of paper. It wasn’t long or particularly coherent, just that I wanted this to happen, then that, then that, but the killer would turn out not to be person A but person B. I had no idea how or why all that would occur…but I’d figure that out later.
            The flesh of the story, in which a senator is killed on her doorstep three days before a hotly contested election, grew from a single cell of intense annoyance when I received a fundraising call from a political party—I don’t even remember which one—a week after a national election. I told the caller “The election is over. Why are you still making calls?” He tried to deflect me with this: “Well, that’s not the question you should be asking. You should be asking—”
            Bullying + condescension does not equal compliance. “Don’t tell me what question I should be asking!” I barely refrained from adding ‘you arrogant little pup.’ Needless to say he didn’t get a penny, but he did leave me with a nagging question: why was he calling? Why had political fundraising grown to a 24/7/365, doesn’t-need-a-reason continual onslaught?
            But where the money goes is only one of the details in Let Justice Descend.
I now fear that I picked the wrong topic, as possibly I did in my last book, Suffer the Children. I had written about violent and at-risk teens and children at a treatment facility. I don’t have children myself, so the information I found fascinated me…plus, I thought, most people do have children and will be interested in a story about problem ones.
Hmm…not so much. Being a parent tended to bring the topic too close to home and at bookstores or libraries I’d summarize the plot to potential customers, only to have them grimace and select another book instead.
            Now I fear it may be the same with Let Justice Descend. I thought that—like my political-junkie husband—readers would be fascinated with a completely nonpartisan look at the not-commonly-publicized inner workings of the parties. But maybe many readers are—like me—suffering greatly from politics fatigue.
            But wait! Let Justice Descend isn’t really about politics and certainly not about current issues or personalities. It’s about deception and the forms it takes: bribery, corruption, dereliction of duty, and maybe killing people and saying you didn’t because it’s for a good reason. The victim had lied, the suspect lies, the witnesses lie…but then, Jack lies. And Maggie finds herself lying to protect him, and herself. Deception can take many forms, for many reasons—but they all have consequences.
            And that is what Let Justice Descend is about.

I've got my copy! Do you have yours?