Sunday, December 15, 2019

Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?


by Lisa Black 
          As Billie Holiday sang, I love New Orleans. And I don’t say that because like sushi, feng shui and working out, it would sound totally uncool if I didn’t. I also don’t pretend that I understand the city and its neighborhoods, its history, it’s culture—I don’t. I’ve only been there three times and spent most of those trips in the French Quarter. I ate beignets and bought a voodoo doll for $2. So if you’re expecting a thoughtful analysis or an insider’s knowledge or even a decent recipe for gumbo--yeah, you’re not going to get that from me.
            But I love the place. Going there is like taking a trip to Europe without the eight hour flight. There’s narrow streets paved with bricks and ornate ironwork balconies. There are gorgeous, gorgeous hotel lobbies with mosaic floors and marble arches.
            Requisite historical background: Control of the area bounced from Native Americans to the French to the Spanish and back to the French until bought by President Jefferson in the Louisiana Purchase. The French legacy is why it’s the only state to have parishes instead of counties.
            The first time I visited NOLA was to gut houses after Katrina. We couldn’t help rebuild them, as they’d discovered that letting amateurs do construction didn’t work out well, but instead
The Hotel Monteleone
cleaned every single item out of abandoned apartments and cleared brush from yards in the 9th Ward, a mile from where the levee broke. It was exhausting and rewarding. We went to the center of the Quarter for a few hours one afternoon, and I knew I wanted to come back.
            So my husband and I returned late the next year, staying at a small, unique hotel in the Quarter. I thought our room was haunted because the TV turned itself on at the same time two days in a row, but that turned out to be me—I’d been trying to find the Captions option and accidentally turned on the sleep timer.
            Food there tends to be carb heavy, and with only a passing acquaintance with fruits and vegetables…unless they were in a daiquiri. As an added bonus I can now claim the dubious distinction of having visited the three cities in the country where you could walk down the street with an open beer at 10 am and no one finds it odd—Las Vegas, Key West, and New Orleans.
The LaLaurie Mansion
            My third trip took place in just this past summer. I attended Heather Graham’s Writers for New Orleans. She started the conference to bring business back to NOLA after Katrina, but it was so fun that she’s still doing it. There are three days of panels and talks and networking at the incredibly beautiful Hotel Monteleone, still family owned since 1886. As if that weren’t enough, this year there was a carnival party, with games like throwing ping pong balls into fish bowls and target shooting with a plastic gun. To eat we had candy, sliders, hot pretzels, cotton candy, and popcorn. The next night we had a theatrical performance by Heather’s troupe and then live music by some of her children and other musicians. Most fun conference evuh!!!!
            I also went on a most entertaining ghost tour with great and creepy stories…however, when we took our guide’s suggestion to ‘look this up later!’, well, no corroboration could be found. Nicholas Cage did not sell the LaLaurie mansion because he’d been terrified by ghosts of the slaves the owner had tortured, but to pay his tax bill. The investigators waiting outside the convent for vampires to sneak out of the sealed windows of the top floor who were found the next morning, drained of blood? Yeah, never happened. But even if only believed for five minutes while under the spell of a great narrator and a few mixed drinks? Still well worth $20.
            So tell me—have you ever been there? Seen any ghosts? Heard any great bands? Stuffed yourself full of sugar at the Café du Monde? Tell me your NOLA stories! Maybe we can meet up on Jackson Square.
           

Friday, December 13, 2019

Novel Recipes

...Submitted by Karna Small Bodman

     The title here actually has two meanings: in this article I'll be referring to novel - unique - recipes as well as novels- books - that have recipes woven into their stories.  Now that we are heading into the Holiday Season, I wanted to highlight some books I discovered where the author did indeed have their hero or heroine prepare some interesting dish and then list the ingredients and directions.  
     
     When I was signing at a recent Book Fair in Naples, Florida, I ran into  Elizabeth Hoagland, author of the inspiring non-fiction book, Let's Be Friends. It turns out she included a number of recipes in her beautiful story -- let's start with an Appetizer that appears at the end of Chapter 2. 


--Pre-heat oven to 375

--In large skillet, brown 2 lbs. sausage (e.g. “Bob Evans"), drain grease, remove sausage

--To same pan, add 2 packages cream cheese, stir till melted, add sausage back in

--In bottom of ungreased 9 x 13 glass baking dish, unroll 1 can Crescent rolls into 2 long triangles, press down.

--Spoon sausage and cream cheese mix onto the roll

--Sprinkle with 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese

--Unroll a 2nd can of Crescent rolls – press on top

--Bake 20-25 min. untill top dough is nicely browned; cool for 10-15 min.

--Cut into squares and serve with this:

Sauce:

--Mix equal parts Dijon Mustard, Apricot Preserves and honey

…Guaranteed to please ALL your friends (she says that men especially love these) 


Moving on to main courses, one of our Rogues, Lisa Black, gave me a recipe she didn't insert into

one of her terrific thrillers, but explained she made this while taking a break from writing her very first published book, Trace Evidence. This is her simple turkey stuffing:

--Mix together: 1 lb. cubed bread, 3/4 c chopped onion, 3/4 c chopped celery, 1/2 tbsp. ground sage, 1/2 tbsp. crushed thyme, 1/2 tbsp. crushed rosemary, 1 c turkey or chicken broth, 1/4c butter melted and voila -- a perfect mixture to stuff a 15 lb. turkey. Bake about 5 hours.

Speaking of thriller writers, the international bestselling author (and member of the organization that Rogue Gayle Lynds created, International Thriller Writers) Jayson Matthews has a recipe at the end of each chapter of his award winning novels featuring Russian and American spies (the author having served as an agent in our own CIA for some three decades.) Those books are: Red Sparrow, Palace of Treason, and Kremlin's Candidate.  You can find his recipes (with a Russian flavor) here.

If you're in the mood for a light-hearted story, especially with Christmas approaching, try one of the many Hallmark novels -- several have been made into movies for their TV channels and some also feature recipes at the end of the book.  One example is Out of the Picture. The charming story about an art authenticator who takes time out of her adventure to make Holy Yum Maple Dijon Chicken.

--Pre-heat oven to 400. Spray baking dish with "Pam" spray
--Mix together: 1/4 c maples syrup, 1/4 c Dijon Mustard, 1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar, 1 minced clove garlic, pinch salt and pepper.
--Pour mixture over 8 chicken thighs in the baking pan
--Bake uncovered about 40 min. remove chicken to plates, add 1 tbsp.       cornstarch, 2 tbsp. water and a sprig of rosemary to the pan - stir till thickened (1 min.) - pour over chicken. It will look like this:


Now it's time for dessert, so I thought I would offer a simple favorite in our household -- traditional brownies that are actually low-fat, but taste delicious.  Here's the trick: Buy two packages of any brownie mix (I prefer the ones with bits of chocolate). Every brand calls for the same ingredients: eggs, oil and water.  For the two boxes, yes, use 2 small eggs and 1/3 cup water, but instead of the 2/3 cup oil, use a 6 oz. carton of non-fat vanilla yogurt.  Mix and spoon into a 9 x 13 pan (that's been sprayed with Pam) -- bake at 350 degrees for about 40 min (check to be sure they are NOT overcooked).  Let cool, then cut them with a PLASTIC knife (the kind you get with take-out) -- not a silver knife.  For some reason, brownies stick to silver, but not to plastic.  Add some festive sprinkles  Put brownies into zip lock bags and keep them in the freezer. Serve them frozen - they're really great!

                             
Maybe I'll include that simple idea in my next novel.  Now, how about you? Have you read any good books that include recipes?  Or....do you have a favorite holiday recipe you'd like to share? Leave a comment -thanks for stopping by Rogue Women Writers and a very Merry Christmas to you all!

                                                                                                   . . . Karna Small Bodman-

Sunday, December 8, 2019

SNOW--LOVE IT OR HATE IT?


How do you feel about the white stuff? Is it the grand majesty of nature or a cruel joke perpetrated by prevailing winds and an uncaring sun?
 


CHRIS GOFF

            Love it! I am definitely a four season rogue. My favorite are the first snows of the year, when the world closes in and the snow falls softly with the promise of powder-ski days to come.
            This is a picture of two young mule deer in the side yard following a snow storm in Evergreen.

GAYLE LYNDS

            After living decades in Southern California, you can imagine my trepidation moving to the wilds of Maine where there are actual seasons, including (gulp) winter.  Cold!  Snow!  Ice! 
           I was not disappointed -- our first winter, the snow rose six feet high.  Our house was at the end of a quarter-mile long driveway.  The snow narrowed the driveway so much the propane truck got stuck and had to back out.  No propane!  We phoned our plow guy.  He was in Florida, soaking up cancer-causing rays, and happy to tell us about the pristine beaches and gloriously sunny days there.  When we forgave him, he told us about his on-call Maine friend, who brought his heavy pickup with huge plow blade that widened our driveway.  Electricity, heat, and wifi returned.  Warm sigh of relief.  
            But my happiest adventure that first winter was discovering snow shoeing.  John taught me, and after many falls (snow is soft), I was in love with it.  There's nothing quite like slipping into the cathedral beauty of a snowy woods.  Shimmering whiteness cloaks bushes and trees, and the silence is serene.  If you stand beneath a hemlock branch mounded with snow, you might get lucky and a gentle exhalation of wind will swhirl snowflakes past your face.  Now you know why every winter we wait eagerly for the first sizable snowfall.  My cheeks are tingling, and I'm smiling just thinking about it.

KARNA BODMAN SMALL

            Having grown up in a suburb of Chicago, I lived through falling snow which was “pretty” only the first day.  Then we had to contend with ice and slush that clogged the streets and finally “dirty snow” that piled up until someone shoveled it…which was quite a chore.  Also, I was cold ALL the time! Now, I love spending winters in Florida where I can swim laps every single day!  In fact, I haven’t been anywhere near snow for the last 20 years – how absolutely delightful.

LISA BLACK
An Ohio winter

            Though I’ve lived in Florida for 20 years, I still love snow, the magic of walking out into a monochrome universe. The silence of those gently falling flakes makes me feel utterly alone without being the least bit lonely. There are few moments as peaceful. 
            What I don’t like about it? Slush. Not silent, not peaceful, not clean and liquid, so that instead of crunching ever so quietly under your shoes it floods up and slips inside to freeze your toes and make your socks a sodden mess for the rest of the day. There’s nothing good to be said about slush. 
            But snow, I like. 

 
LIV CONSTANTINE

            The word snow fills me with dread. Probably because from the time I was little I remember my mother being terrified of driving in it. No matter how dreary the weather, her refrain was always “at least it’s not snowing.” Living in New England, snow is something I’ve gotten used to and while I can’t argue that it’s beautiful to look at, I always first look at snow as an obstacle to plans and travel. 

KJ HOWE
 

            Snow or not??? Hmmm, I’m convinced that at birth I was switched with a Caribbean baby, and I’ve been trying to find my way home ever since. My ideal vacation is a beach getaway—whether it is in the South Pacific, the Caribbean, or another island paradise, the turquoise waters and white sand are what makes this escaping Canadian happy. I’m delighted to leave the other white stuff for everyone else!

 
JAMIE FREVELETTI

            What I like about it: Cross country skiing along the lake in Chicago-most use the Waveland Golf Course there. The air is cold, sun is out and the lake covered in ice and shimmering. Perfect!


ROBIN BURCELL

            I love snow. No doubt because I live in the Central Valley of California at sea level. No snow here, though occasionally we'll get a hail storm that will blanket the streets, lawn and garden. It is (if you'll excuse the weak pun) the "polar opposite" of a snow storm that muffles the sounds in peaceful silence. The hail storms pound on the roof, pavement and cars, but in the end, you have the illusion of snow, and can pretend for the few short minutes before the hail melts into oblivion, that you live in a wondrous snowy place. 

Friday, December 6, 2019

Rogue Women November Roundup!

Use the links below to binge read our November posts

Here's what we Rogues talked about, researched, and revealed in November...

Rogue Karna Small Bodman tells us all about the Rogues at "Bouchercon" - the World Mystery Writers conference - where bestselling author Meg Gardiner hosted the Rogue Women Writers panel.

Bestselling thriller writer Boyd Morrison steps into the Limelight to reveal how he writes. Here are 9 things you might not know about him.

In "A Real-Life Boardwalk Empire," Rogue Lisa Black describes how political corruption in her native Cleveland is simply Atlantic City history revisited.


Rogue Robin Burcell discusses what she's learned about writer's block and lists tips to get past it and boost productivity.

The Real Book Spy reveals this month's Rogue Recommendation: Marc Cameron's Tom Clancy Code of Honor

And, here's what Marc Cameron has to say about writing the new Clancy book, and what it was like when author extraordinaire, Mark Greaney, recommended him to take over the Jack Ryan series

Meet "A Younger Jessica Fletcher for the First Time" in Jon Land's tour-de-force, A Time for Murder.

Our Rogue duo, Liv Constantine, share their amazing experience in the UAE participating in the Sharjah International Book Fair.  It's "A Trip of a Lifetime!"

Another of our favorite authors, Ellen Crosby, steps into the Rogue Limelight to talk about her mesmerizing mysteries series set in the Virginia wine country. You'll learn intriguing bits of history about the Founding Fathers, and get involved in fascinating searches for documents and bootleg Madeira.

In Thanksgiving Tales from Wartime, Rogue Gayle Lynds recounts wonderful true stories from the last 19 years of soldiers & other personnel serving in our various wars. All of us Rogues give a heartfelt thank you to those who serve!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

13 THINGS MENTALLY STRONG PEOPLE DO

by K.J. Howe

I love audiobooks, especially business and self-help books. Long drives offer enjoyable lectures where I can fully immerse myself in a new topic. No road rage, no traffic frustration--just the joy of listening to an intelligent and thoughtful person sharing gems of wisdom in their area of expertise.

Recently, one book stood out, and I'd like to share a few highlights with you in the hopes that these tips might help you with any struggles you're having. The book is called 13 THINGS MENTALLY STRONG PEOPLE DO by Amy Morin. Now Amy dives into each point in great depth, and it's definitely worth taking the time to read her analysis of each point, but what I'd like to do is to share a few personal thoughts about each point.


1. They don't waste time feeling sorry for themselves. 

Life is hard. We all have lousy days--whether it's health issues, financial problems, family drama or...but every time I lapse into "feeling sorry for myself" mode, I try to reach out to someone--perhaps a friend or maybe even the cashier at the grocery store--and ask them how their day is going. Really listening, making them understand that I truly care. Connecting with another person who might also be struggling can help lift both your moods. We're social beings who need that bond. Make someone's day by surprising them with a small kindness. You'll never regret it.

2. They don't give away their power.

Whether it's family or friends taking out their frustrations on you or a boss dishing out some harsh criticism, remember that no one can diminish you if you don't let them. Don't we have to be our own most fervent cheerleader in life?

3. They don't shy away from change.

Adaptation is a survival mechanism. Growing up, I moved all over the world. Always being the new kid helped condition me to perpetual change. There are times when we all want our security blankets of the status quo, but if you view change as something good, a chance to experience a different life, it can really help you face both positive and negative events. Change is inevitable, so why fight it?

4. They don't waste energy on things they can't control.

Oh, boy. Isn't it hard to let go of something that's important to you even when you know there's nothing you can humanly do to make an impact or change? But finding that peace-of-mind can save you many sleepless nights. Let go of the things you can't change--and focus on the things where you do exert more control.

5. They don't worry about pleasing anyone.

This is a tough one for so many people, me included. We're all taught to make others happy, but if we don't ask ourselves what makes us content, then we are missing out on so much in life. What makes you feel fulfilled? Are you willing to follow your heart even under the threat of disapproval from your loved ones?

6. They don't fear taking calculated risks.

Adventure and travel are passions of mine. I love forcing myself out of my comfort zone to explore things that scare me a little. We should all try something new every month...it doesn't have to be a big thing--a new food, a different sport, going out to dinner alone--the world is waiting for you to discover it.

7. They don't dwell on the past.

Rumination. One word that dominates my thoughts. Who else relives embarrassing moments or mistakes over and over? Can't we forgive ourselves and move on? Aren't our flaws the things that make us all special and unique?

8. They don't make the same mistakes over and over again.

Learning is a constant part of life. Can we stumble, dust ourselves off, and realize that we can do better? Take time to write in a journal and reread passages to remind yourself of lessons learned.

9. They don't resent other people's success.

There are so many opportunities available, and we all have our own journey to pursue. Encourage friends to follow their dreams, be their cheerleader and they can become yours. There is enough success for everyone--and success takes so many different forms. Whenever I meet someone impressive, I always consider the hours and hours they must have spent honing their skills. Overnight success is a rare thing, and we have no idea what others have sacrificed to reach their dreams. Ask the next successful person you meet about their journey. And congratulate them.

10. They don't give up after the first failure.

Failure is the best teacher if we step out of the way of our egos. I love meeting people who are doggedly chasing a goal or dream, smiling and laughing when they talk about their stumbles. They understand that the only way we truly learn is to fail and fail and fail--until we finally succeed.

11. They don't fear alone time.

Sometimes life is so busy that we forget to stop and re-assess. Are we in a rut? Have we lost perspective of our values? I love spending time alone, especially in nature, to consider what matters to me.

12. They don't feel the world owes them anything.

Be grateful, not entitled.

13. They don't expect immediate results.

Patience. If it were a commodity on the shelves, patience would sell out in ten minutes. We all have to think of the long game...and you're proving that you have what it takes by making it to point number 13!

I hope you'll take the time to read this book, as it tackles so many important points that we could all benefit from reminding ourselves about. Sending good thoughts your way.


Sunday, December 1, 2019

In the Rogue Limelight - Alex Kava

Submitted by Karna Small Bodman

Do you love dogs are much as we do? I'm delighted to welcome a terrific writer who not only loves dogs, but features them in many of her terrific novels. Her name is Alex Kava, a New York Times, USA Today and Amazon bestselling author whose books have been published in 34 countries and sold six million copies (!) As our guest blogger, she is here to tell us how she develops her characters and writes her great stories. 

Author Alex Kava 

Write What You Love.

I envy the Rogue Women Writers, because I don’t have a background in what I write. So I’m not writing what I know. In fact, I never intended to write thrillers or a series.

When my first novel, “A Perfect Evil,” became an international bestseller, my publisher wanted another book with FBI profiler Maggie O’Dell. I’d started an entirely different novel for the second in a three-book contract, but my publisher insisted I put it aside and write a sequel. Then they wanted a third, and suddenly, I found myself writing a series.
Only recently have I revealed that I didn’t particularly like Maggie in the beginning. She doesn’t even enter the novel until chapter seven. How could I possibly write a series with a protagonist I didn’t really know or like? 

Despite all that, I discovered one thing I did love—doing research.
At book signings, experts started introducing themselves to me, volunteering their expertise. One of those experts, a deputy prosecutor, became a close friend. When I confessed my predicament, she offered some advice that saved me and, ultimately, saved Maggie O’Dell.
She suggested I give Maggie something I liked. Then she added that Maggie needed a sense of humor, sharing that it was the one thing that got her and fellow law enforcement officials through some of their darkest times.

So Maggie acquired a dog and a love of college football. Her sense of humor is a bit dry. But it worked! Slowly I came to like her. And I enjoyed throwing her into situations to see what she would do—like putting her in the path of killers and most recently, the path of a tornado in “Desperate Creed.”

The best research was (and still is) listening to the experts tell their stories. Over the years those experts and my research have helped me bring to life a variety of topics: Ebola (“Exposed”), Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy (“At the Stroke of Madness”), domestic terrorism (“Black Friday”), the bird flu virus (“Reckless Creed”) and human trafficking (“Lost Creed”). 

In 2015 I started a new series. Ryder Creed is a former Marine K9 handler who rescues abandoned dogs and trains them for scent detention. I’ve loved dogs since I was old enough to crawl and have surrounded myself with dogs ever since. So when I started this new series I wasn’t just writing about something I love (dogs!), but finally, something that I know.
This time, I’d created a protagonist who I understood immediately. With Ryder Creed I’ve found a kindred soul—both of us happy to live quite simply in the company of dogs. I also created my favorite character to date—Grace, a scrappy Jack Russell terrier is one of Creed’s best scent detection dogs.

To my pleasant surprise, I’m still doing research. And still loving it!
For each book in the series I push myself to find new and different things for the dogs to detect from explosives and drugs to the lost and the dead. But also, viruses like C. diff and the bird flu. Dogs can detect certain types of cancer earlier and better than any lab tests we currently have. Recently, the Omaha police department acquired one of ten dogs trained by the AFT National K-9 Academy to detect firearms and shell casings. I can’t wait to meet Peace.


Next year will be twenty years since “A Perfect Evil” was published. I can’t believe I’ll be celebrating my twentieth anniversary as a published author. “Hidden Creed” is Book #6 in the Ryder Creed series and is my 20th novel! It will be released next summer.
Oh, and I should probably mention, Maggie O’Dell is in all of the Ryder Creed novels. Turns out, I’m not done with the ole’ girl, yet.

--ALEX KAVA

What wonderful inspirations. I can't wait to read the new Maggie O'Dell story.  Thanks, Alex, for being with us here at Rogue Women Writers. Now what about your readers? Do you have any great stories about your dogs (or other pets) to share with us? Do let us know in a comment.

….Karna Small Bodman 


Friday, November 29, 2019

Ellen Crosby - In the Rogue Limelight

Submitted by Karna Small Bodman

We are delighted to welcome Ellen Crosby to the Rogue Limelight.  She is a good friend and author of a terrific series of mysteries set in the Virginia wine country that include intriguing bits of history about the Founding Fathers paired with the search for documents and caches of bootleg Madeira.  

Author Ellen Crosby
Where does she get her ideas and the inspiration for novels about wine and historic figures when she began her career in a totally different place? Here's HER story.


I never intended to write the Virginia wine country mysteries—in fact, initially I only agreed to write one book. The Angels’ Share is the tenth book in the series and I just signed a contract to write two more.

         I know. What happened?

         In the 1990s my family and I lived in London where my husband was a journalist with the Voice of America. His previous assignment had been Moscow in the waning days of the Soviet Union, where I, too, worked as a
journalist for ABC News Radio. Moscow Nights, my first mystery was about to be published in England and was based on our time in Russia. My British literary agent wanted to know what my next book would be.

         Though I wanted to write another standalone set overseas, I happened to tell her about a trip we’d just taken in the States with a friend who wanted to show us the Virginia vineyards. My husband is French and we had lived in France for five years where we visited some of that country’s world-class wineries. Our friend thought we needed to know about the burgeoning wine industry in the Old Dominion.

         “That’s your next book,” my agent said. “You need to set a book at a Virginia vineyard.”

         I said no. “I want to write a book with a foreign setting.”     “Ellen,” she said, “you live in England. Virginia is a foreign setting.”

         Hard to argue with that.

         When I told her I didn’t know anything about the business of grape growing and winemaking, she had an answer for that, too. “You’re a journalist,” she said. “You’ll figure it out.”

         Soon afterward we moved home to Virginia and I lucked out, discovering a vineyard in the charming village of Middleburg about twenty-five miles from where I lived. 



It was owned by a woman who loved Murder, She Wrote and was willing to teach me what I needed to know. I also acquired a wonderful American literary agent who told me, “You do know this needs to be the first book in a series, don’t you?”

         Well, I did now.

         My books take place in a picturesque, idyllic region of Virginia known as horse and hunt country where rolling hills, checkerboard fields, country lanes, and pretty little towns are set against the backdrop of the dowager-humped Blue Ridge Mountains. The streets of Middleburg are named for the signers of the Declaration of Independence because they were friends of the man who founded the town in 1787. A local Civil War hero known as the Gray Ghost used to hide out with his soldiers behind miles of stacked stonewalls that crisscross the land, tuck into hidey-holes under homes, or roost up trees.


        Although my series is based on a vineyard in Atoka, a town I invented next door to Middleburg, I have woven Virginia’s rich and fascinating history into each of the books. 


In The Angels’ Share, Lucie Montgomery, my protagonist, searches for a 200-year old cache of bootleg Madeira her family supposedly owned as she tries to solve the murder of a newspaper magnate who may have discovered the whereabouts of potentially scandalous documents hidden by the Founding Fathers. (The story about the documents, or the mystery of Bruton Vault, is true).

         I’m now writing book #11 with a plot that involves Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (a Middleburg habitué) and Old Master paintings. Whoever would have thought there would be so many interesting ways to commit murder over a bottle of wine?
                                                                    --ELLEN CROSBY

The plot of Ellen's new mystery, The Angels' Share, is described by  Publisher's Weekly as one where "threads come together in an exciting and satisfying conclusion.  Crosby knows how to keep the reader guessing." It was just released a few weeks ago and I can't wait to read it, (while I anxiously wait for the next Middleburg adventure)  You can check out ALL of Ellen's terrific mysteries here  Now thank you so much, Ellen, for being our guest blogger today and telling us about your fascinating writing career.   

 ….Karna Small Bodman       

         
 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

THANKSGIVING TALES FROM WARTIME


by Gayle Lynds
82nd Airborne, Forward Operating Base, Afghanistan, Thanksgiving 2007

Years ago during the Vietnam War, I wanted to thank my friends fighting overseas by sending care packages of Thanksgiving cookies and pumpkin bread that I baked.  It’d be a taste of home, I thought, and surely they’d be missing home. 

So I baked and wrapped the cookies and bread in festive paper.  Then I found sturdy cardboard boxes and popped lots of popcorn — no salt or butter, because I was using it to cushion the treats as I packed the boxes.  All of that fluffy white popcorn looked pretty festive, too.  And I mailed my care packages with fingers crossed — would the cookies and bread arrive uncrumbled, unmashed, fresh enough to be edible?

In a few weeks, thank you notes arrived in my mailbox, so sweet of my friends, reporting that there’d been a few mishaps, but everything was delicious.  And then there was the note from Ken, a soldier on the frontlines.  I never forgot it, because it told me how important it’d been to him.  He said he’d enjoyed every morsel, eating it all slowly to make it last.  Even that dry popcorn.  “Best popcorn I ever had,” he assured me, “and I mean that.” 

Gratitude is a great teacher.  Here at home, as the holidays arrive, I discovered some wonderful true stories from the last 19 years of soldiers and other personnel in our various wars brought to life in a recent New York Times article — click the newspaper's link to read the whole thing.

Here are four of my favorites, tales evocative of time and place and of the humanity that we share and the sacrifices of those who serve.
86th Combat Support Hospital’s emergency entrance, Baghdad, 2007

2007, Iraq  “I was working in the emergency room famously known as Baghdad E.R. It was a slow day, so by late afternoon most of the hospital staff found themselves free for a game of Wiffle ball. Around 5 p.m., we heard a high-pitched whistle. Two mortars hit before everyone made it under some sort of cover. Round after deafening round, we all crouched down together covering our ears wondering if the barrage would ever end. The E.R. saw five or six patients from the attack, but by some miracle none were serious.”  — Dacia M. Arnold, U.S. Army, 2004–14

2008, Iraq
“I got sent to a remote command post, where the Marines were excited because Thanksgiving dinner was being flown in special. The gunny opened the first box to find several cases of soda. Turning to the second container, he found more soda. The worst part was knowing that somewhere there was a group of Marines sitting down to a meal with double and triple portions of everything.”  —Chad Parment, U.S. Marine Corps, 1994–2014
Danny Markus, Afghan soldiers, & turkey, 2008

2008, Afghanistan
“Some of the Afghan soldiers who lived on our forward operating base got hold of a live turkey — by no means an easy task — and prepared it for our team. It may not have been the tastiest bird I’ve ever eaten, but it was the one I was definitely most thankful for.”  —Danny Markus, U.S. agricultural adviser, 2008–10

2009, Iraq
“My commander instructed me to take out the satellite phone I carried and give each soldier 10 minutes to call home.  The phone was only to be used in case of emergencies if the tactical communications were damaged or disabled. Some laughed. Some cried. All were extremely thankful.” —U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Paul Wyatt Jr., who served in Iraq in 2009 with the 130th Engineer Brigade.

Do you have a story to tell about Thanksgiving during war?  Please add a comment and share it! 

We Rogues wish you and your families and friends far and near a very Happy Thanksgiving, and send our heartiest thanks to those serving our country.  

 

Sunday, November 24, 2019

MARC CAMERON, NOVEMBER'S ROGUE RECOMMENDATION, GOES ROGUE...


by Chris Goff

The Rogues could not be more delighted than to hear 
from November's The Real Book Spy's ROGUE RECOMMENDATION. Marc Cameron, author of Tom Clancy Code of Honor shares what it was like to get "the call." You know, the one that every author waits for, when they're honored for a big award, land a new book contract—or in Marc's case—are recommended by Mark Greaney to take over the Tom Clancy Jack Ryan series.




My wife thought someone had died.

Admittedly, I have kind of a mean-mug, but my wife is accustomed my face, senses my moods, knows when something is terribly wrong. And that day in October of 2016 when I got that call from my agent, Robin Rue, something was…terribly wrong…and terribly right. Either way, it was terribly frightening.

We were on the beach in Florida, taking a break from research I was doing for my first Arliss Cutter novel, when Robin called to tell me Mark Greaney had decided to step away from the Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan franchise after seven books to pursue his own projects—and he had recommended me to take over the series.
Marc Cameron

Me. 

Mark Greaney.

Tom Clancy.

Standing there with my toes in the sand and shells of Manasota Key, I ticked off a long list of reasons why this was such a very bad idea. I was under contract for three more books with Kensington. I had a Jericho Quinn manuscript due in just a couple of months. Writing a Jack Ryan novel would have me trying to step into the shoes of not only Tom Clancy, but Mark Greaney, who had done such a terrific job with the legacy Clancy characters. Readers just wouldn’t’ have it. My agent listened patiently, and then kindly told me to suck it up. This was Clancy. I could not, not do it. Period.

I’d been a Tom Clancy fan since I read THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. I enjoyed the movies, but I reveled in the books, took them on assignment with me, and lived vicariously through Ryan and Clark and Chavez.

I met Mark Greaney for the first time at a Bouchercon convention in Long Beach, and was more than a little envious that he had the Clancy gig. I remember him pointing out to a group of other writers quizzing him at the hotel bar, that, contrary to the Hollywood depiction, Ding Chavez wasn’t a sniper in the books. I knew then that Greaney was the real deal.

In truth, the idea of writing a Tom Clancy at once terrified and appealed to me. Early in the process I told my editor, Tom Colgan, that if I hadn’t been terrified at the prospect, I would have been the wrong person for the job. Clancy readers tend to be incredibly smart—and incredibly interested in the details. I still imagine readers with TI graphing calculators checking my figures when I discuss something like missile speeds or satellite trajectory.

My first Clancy novel, POWER AND EMPIRE, gave my wife and me the perfect excuse to run away to our favorite island of Rarotonga in the South Pacific for a couple of months and put ourselves through a mini Tom Clancy university, reading and re-reading the entire Jack Ryan canon. We went back again to write the bones of both OATH OF OFFICE and CODE OF HONOR. It would feel wrong if I didn’t hear screeching myna birds or the periodic thud of a falling coconut while I write my early drafts.

Coworkers from my previous job as a deputy US marshal often kid with me about my cushy retirement gig when they see photos of me on a motorcycle trip, at a restaurant in some foreign land, or on the beach in the Cook Islands. Okay, I am blessed with an idyllic life, but know this: The luggage on that motorcycle, the pocket of my jacket at that restaurant, or the table next to the beach chair in the South Pacific, all hold a notebook or computer.

Writing an iconic character like Jack Ryan, hoping to do him justice, is a little like finally getting to ride the ginormous rollercoaster you’ve been driving by for years. It seems a great notion from the road, but can become overwhelming when you actually buy the ticket. Tension builds as you move up in line, but you finally settle in, buckle up, and think, you know, this might be fun.

And then the car starts to careen down the tracks.

Like the first two, writing Tom Clancy CODE OF HONOR was great fun—exhilarating, thrilling, adrenaline-inducing. But, I’d be dishonest if I didn’t admit that nausea, whiplash, and a lot of terrified screaming, were a large part of the experience.

Time passes though, and, for the most part, only the thrill remains. By this January when we head back to Rarotonga, I’ll be ready for another ride.


"Blistering reads...Cameron's books are riveting page-turners." — Mark Greaney #1 New York Times bestselling author

If you're not a fan of Marc Cameron's you will be soon. Thank you, Marc for stopping by and sharing your story with all of us!

  

Friday, November 22, 2019

Jon Land - In the Rogue Limelight

Submitted by Karna Small Bodman

One of my all time favorite TV shows was MURDER SHE WROTE starring the wonderful actress Angela Lansbury as author and investigator Jessica Fletcher. And the reruns are capitivating new (and younger) audiences who love a good mystery. 



For some time we have also been able to enjoy novels about Jessica and her cohorts.  Now there is a new collection of stories written by the New York Times bestselling author, Jon Land. I first met Jon at one of our "Thrillerfest" conferences a decade ago when we discovered we both worked with the same editor.  We Rogues welcome Jon as our guest blogger to tell us about his great new series.

Author Jon Land

MEETING A YOUNGER JESSICA FLETCHER
FOR THE FIRST TIME

            A Time for Murder marks the 50th title in the iconic Murder, She Wrote book series based on the fabulously successful television show. And that places the mystery series I inherited from a writer named Don Bane in rarified air, to say the least, and casts any writer lucky enough to be involved with a tremendous responsibility to the series’ fans and followers.

            I inherited the concept for my first effort, A Date with Murder, from an outline and some existing chapters. But I found Jessica Fletcher’s voice in that book early on. She’s listed as my co-author with good reason, because it’s her voice I hear in my mind when I’m writing (Well, Angela Lansbury’s voice, actually!).


It’s natural for a writer to want to put their own stamp on a series, no matter how iconic. So at some point during the writing of my next two efforts, Manuscript for Murder and Murder in Red, I asked myself what could I do that no one had ever done before? My thinking on that started with a conversation about how the television series might stage a return someday. CBS has already flirted with the notion, with Octavia Spencer in the lead role. The network, though, ultimately backed off, figuring there was only one Jessica Fletcher and her initials are “AL.”

But what about a younger Jessica Fletcher, I asked myself? A Jessica still married to very much alive husband Frank, raising her nephew Grady, and serving as a substitute English teacher at a Maine high school while trying to get published twenty-five years in the past. What if a murder happened at that high school and Jessica was drawn in, finding that she not only has a knack for solving crime, but also for writing mysteries?

And so A Time for Murder was born. I had an absolute blast reverse-engineering the back story presented and/or hinted at in the television show. For instance, the name of the high school where Jessica taught is
never mentioned anywhere on the show or in the previous books in the series. But she met her husband Frank while the two of them were volunteering on a play at the Appleton Playhouse, so I placed them in Appleton. And when the town’s beloved high school principal is murdered, who do you think the detective on the case turns out to be?

Amos Tupper, future sheriff of Cabot Cove fabulously played by Tom Bosley in the TV series. That gave me an excuse to explore the very origins of his relationship with Jessica, as well as incorporating one of the TV series’ most popular characters into the story, no easy task given that he was replaced long ago as sheriff by Mort Metzger.  
To say I was off and running with A Time for Murder would be an understatement. Indeed, I was off on a dead sprint following a murder in the present intrinsically connected to that of the high school principal in the past. Add to that the fact that Jessica has been invited to a retirement party for one of her old colleagues at Appleton High and I had the connective tissue that every book demands, in this case through flashback chapters triggered by Jessica’s memories.

I was essentially writing two separate, interconnected stories and having a blast with both of them. And in that respect A Time for Murder became what superhero film fans might call an “origins” story, as it sought to answer many of the questions never addressed by either the previous books or the TV series itself. And I can’t tell you how rewarding it was to bring something new to a series that enjoys 100% name/brand recognition, a series that has been around for more than thirty-five years.

I always tell people that one of the real keys to penning a great story is to enjoy writing it as much as the reader will enjoy reading it. And I have every confidence that fans of both the book and television series will love meeting Frank and young Grady, not to mention (spoiler alert!) younger versions of real estate agent Eve Simpson and Seth Hazlitt, along with the aforementioned Amos Tupper. Want more? How about Jessica seeing her beloved home at 698 Candlewood Lane for the first time and wondering whether she and Frank can afford it? We’ll see her in A Time for Murder displaying her incredible powers of observation for the first time in solving a murder twenty-five years in the past that culminates in a Columbo-like twist.

For me, reading a Murder, She Wrote mystery is like visiting twice a year with old friends you haven’t seen in too long. And in A Time for Murder, get ready to take a trip back in time to meet some new ones.

--JON LAND

Make a note that this new novel, A Time for Murder will be released on November 26 (just in time for Christmas gifts to our friends and fans of Murder She Wrote.)  Thanks so much, Jon, for being our guest writer today.  As for our readers here, tell us: what do you remember about this great TV series - and are there other TV series that you WISH would be transformed into novels?

….Karna Small Bodman


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Sharjah International Book Fair: The Trip of a Lifetime




Two weeks ago Lynne and I had the honor of attending the Sharjah International Book Festival, held in the United Arab Emirates and the third-largest book festival in the world. Over one million readers, young and old, visited during the course of the eleven-day event. Authors, poets, and publishers from around the world participated. It was an education for us in so many ways.

The sheer numbers were astounding, and the diversity electrifying. It took us two days to explore the entire venue, and the number of books on display was staggering. We sat on a panel of writers, one of whom was Kuwaiti. When the moderator asked what one of the most difficult things about being a writer was, she answered, “Staying alive.” It was a stark reminder to us of the bravery that many of our fellow authors show in the face of persecution by repressive regimes.


We had the opportunity to visit a GEMS school in Abu Dhabi and speak to over 200 students (who, of course, speak fluent English along with Arabic, Hindi and French!). They were bright and curious, polite to a fault, and asked thoughtful and spirited questions. There is no free primary and secondary education in the UAE. All students pay school fees and must buy their own textbooks and uniforms.



Sharjah, one of the seven Emirates of the UAE, was named the Book Capital of the World for 2019, by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), and the International Publishers Association (IPA). The Festival slogan was “Open Books, Open Minds.”

This Emirate has determined it wants to be a knowledge center and to take UAE and Arab literature to audiences around the world. They promote literacy for prisons and rehabilitation centers, have programs for refugees in Syria and other parts of the world, and most importantly have projects that get books to the migrant population of the UAE by translating books into their native languages such as Hindi, Tagalog or Urdu. Migrants make up 90% of the UAE’s population.

There are mobile libraries, libraries in parks and even in Bedouin tents. One government project––“Knowledge Without Borders”–– provided 42,000 local families with free home libraries of 50 fiction and non-fiction books. The government also provides tax-free status and office space to publishing companies.

Naturally, not all of our time was spent on books. We took in the sights, and they were breathtaking. Roaming the souks, we saw enough gold to refill Fort Knox and wondered why something so plentiful could so valuable. One of the 90-degree afternoons was spent reading on the beach and swimming in the Persian Gulf––the perfect de-stressor for a hectic schedule! 






In Abu Dhabi, we saw the incredibly beautiful Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, built over the course of three years at a cost of $545 million. It is one of the largest mosques in the world, with room for 40,000 worshipers.




Spending time in Dubai, we marveled at the mind-blowing architecture, with the most amazing structure of all being the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. We sat at its feet and watched a light and water show that kept a crowd of thousands (and us!) mesmerized.




We were welcomed at the U.S. Consulate for a wonderful reception where we were able to mingle with other authors and heads of state.




Of course, a visit to the Emirates wouldn’t be complete without an evening in the desert, so we buckled up in jeeps and held on as we rode the steep, curving sand dunes. Watching the sun go down over the golden red sand was a sight we’ll never forget. A dinner by candlelight under the stars capped off the night.





The people were wonderful, welcoming and couldn’t do enough for us. Wherever we went, we were struck by the magnificent mosques and the immaculate cleanliness of the country. If you ever have a desire to visit a mall that has every high-end product in the world, then the Dubai Mall is the place for you. It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen, with a giant aquarium smack in the middle of it. The downside was the traffic––just horrendous.




It was the experience of a lifetime, and we are both so grateful to have had this wonderful opportunity.