Sunday, October 20, 2019

SOME OF THE BEST SPIES WEAR FUR

by Chris Goff

Years ago, Smithsonian Magazine published an article by Tom Vanderbilt entitled "The CIA's Most Highly-Trained Spies Weren't Even Human." It's worth sharing.

During World War II, a psychologist named B.F. Skinner received defense funding to research a pigeon-based homing device for missiles. While Operation Pigeon was never deployed,  the project inspired two of his graduate students. After leaving Skinner's program, the husband and wife opened up the I.Q. Zoo, a tourist attraction and animal training facility in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The facility quickly became the go-to training ground for zoos, theme parks and Hollywood performance animals. 

In 1965, after bringing in Bob Bailey, another Skinner aficionado and the first director of training for the Navy’s pioneering dolphin program, a new branch of the business was born. It was the height of the Cold War, and suddenly various government agencies, such as the CIA, the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground, and Limited Warfare Laboratories were seeking their help to train animals as spies. Using animals in intelligence has a long history, and if you asked Bob Bailey, he would tell you, “We never found an animal we could not train.” 

Now, despite the cadre of Artificial Intelligence weapons available for Intel gathering, I can think of nothing better than a raven, dolphin or cat doubling as a super sleuth. Interested in reading more? Here's the link to the article in Smithsonian Magazine, or you can peruse an even more recent report by the BBC

Just curious, have you ever felt like someone was watching you, but no one was there?

Friday, October 18, 2019

October's Rogue Recommendation Clue #2

October Rogue Recommendation
Here's clue # 2 for October's 
#RogueRecommendation from THE REAL BOOK SPY: 

This internationally bestselling author worked in Maine, and also in the mailroom of a big dept. store. 


Retweet, share on Facebook, or make a guess in the comments below (or all the above) to be entered into the drawing to win this fantastic thriller! Good luck!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOU'RE IN SPAM HELL?


by Gayle Lynds

This morning I looked away from my email and told my husband, “I’m in spam hell.”  A tiny exaggeration, but perhaps you know what I mean.  Enough already!
                       
For several years I’ve had a terrific spam catcher that removed all of the worst attempts to infect my online life.  I was protected.  But then a couple of weeks ago I started getting phone calls from friends and colleagues asking whether I’d received emails they’d sent. 

Oh, dear.  No, I hadn’t!

Worried, I visited my spam filter.  Turns out, it’d gotten too enthusiastic and was trapping not only spam but also emails from perfectly respectable folks and organizations. 
                                       
So now every morning I force myself to open my spam catcher’s 24-hour intake.  It’s crammed with details like when the email arrived, the sender’s supposed identity, and why the email’s been quarantined.  As I read the information, my eyes swim with nonsense words and weird come-ons and long numbers with lots of hyphens. 

Part of the struggle is that although most of it’s junk, my brain can’t seem to resist trying to make sense of it.

As a result, I read all of it slowly to catch legitimate emails so I can “whitelist” the senders and route their notes into my inbox.  When I first started this routine, I was impatient and irritated.  Lately, amazingly, I’m finding it interesting.

For instance, a decade ago spam was mostly about Viagra, Cialis, pornography, and invitations to hook up.  Now it’s more clearly about money and data – mine and yours, which the spammer is trying to trick us into revealing through phishing, spoofing, outright thievery, and assorted other crimes.  (I’m going to give you some suggestions about how to handle these problems in a moment.)

Buyer beware!  Here are some of the “gems” I’ve discovered in my spam filter.

● “Ohh, are you an ancient god?...” 
    Seriously?  Yes, the above is the subject line of my first spam of the day.  My peevish response: “No, you nincompoop, I’m a modern goddess!”  You’ll notice the sender has my attention.  What would happen if I actually opened the email and responded to whatever further temptations lay within?
    Analysis: phishing.  A "phishing" email lures you into divulging your login credentials — your username and password — through convincing emails and links to web pages. These phishing emails and fake websites can resemble legitimate credit authorities like Citibank, eBay, or PayPal.  Spam emails frighten, entice, or aggravate you into clicking on a link that delivers you to the phony web page so that you’ll enter your ID and password.  If an email seems suspicious to you, do NOT trust it.  Delete it!   —LifeWire.com

● “Men Drugs Shop”
    I’m confused ... Does this mean men are being drugged, or are men offering to drug me?  But the title has made me pause.  And perhaps do more.... 
    Be sure to look at the domain of the URL address in any questionable email. Is it sending you to a legitimate domain owned by a legitimate institution? A lot of times the URL is not to the official site domain. When in doubt, phone the institution to verify the email’s authenticity.  Don’t click  on it. Being skeptical could save you a lot of money, time, and hassle.LifeWire.com

● “REPLY AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!”
    This is a family-friendly blog.  I cannot reply to this obvious come-on with what I’m really thinking.
    A common ruse is an urgent need to "confirm your identity." The message will even offer you a story of how your account has been attacked by hackers to trick you into divulging your confidential information.  LifeWire.com

● “Investment Company”
    At first glance, this looked legitimate, but then I saw the return address:  support@moldingwomenforgood.com.  Molding Women for Good?????  And you’re sending this to me, who knows how to assassinate bad guys in at least 100 different ways?  YOU ARE A BAD GUY.  Duh.
    Avoiding Phishing Scams.  Check the legitimacy of a link to a supposedly secure site by making certain its URL address begins with https:// (note the "s" after http). Phishing fakes will often just have http:// (no “s”). LifeWire.com

● “Donation of $2,500,000.00"
    I always drool a bit at the notion of getting a financial windfall.  I’m human (weak?) that way, but when it comes to handing out my social security number, giving someone co-signing power on a banking account, or sending $10,000 in earnest money to the “lawyer” representing some person or place that promises to give me more money than the budget of an entire American village, I sense I’m about to be had.
    In every variation, the scammer is promising obscenely large payments. This money transfer con game is too good to be true, yet people still fall for it.  The scammers will use your emotions and willingness to help others, against you. They will promise you a large cut of their business or family fortune. In exchange they ask you to cover endless “legal” and other “fees” that they claim must be paid to the people who can release the fictional fortune.  The more you pay, the more they will scam out of you. You will never see any of the promised money because there isn’t any. This scam isn't even new; its variant dates back to 1920s when it was known as "The Spanish Prisoner" con.  To save yourself, delete the email.  Now!  —LifeWire.com

In an effort to squeeze this lemon of a situation into writerly gold, here’s information aimed at making your online life safer and more pleasant, with thanks to ITBusinessEdge.com....

If  you receive an email that you think may be a scam:
     Forward it to the FTC at spam@uce.gov
    Forward it to the abuse desk of the sender's ISP.
    Also, if the email appears to be impersonating a bank or other company or organization, forward the message to the actual organization.

If you think you may have responded to an email that may be a scam:
     File a report with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint.
    Report it to your state Attorney General, using contact information at naag.org.
    Then visit the FTC's identity theft website at ftc.gov/idtheft. While you can't completely control whether you will become a victim of identity theft, you can take some steps to minimize your risk.

What about you, dear Rogue Reader ... Have you had any noteworthy spams lately?  Been caught by one?  Please tell! 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

October's Rogue Recommendation Clue #1


October's Rogue Recommendation by THE REAL BOOK SPY is fantastic!

Here's your first clue:

This internationally bestselling author used to work as a journalist and a bartender before he started writing novels. 

Leave a comment to have your name entered in the drawing for this month's free book! Good luck!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Great First Lines



A great first line can be the difference between choosing to read a book or put it back on the shelf. The Rogues share their favorite first lines from beloved books. See if you can match the line with the book cover. Then tell us your favorite first line. 

Gayle LYNDS
"It is cold at 6:40 in the morning of a March day in Paris, and seems even colder when a man is about to be executed by firing squad." 

Karna BODMAN
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

Robin BURCELL
"It was a hell of a night to throw away a baby." 

KJ HOWE
“James Bond, with two double Bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami airport and thought about life and death.”

Lynne CONSTANTINE
“I was ten years old when I first saw Penmarric and twenty years old when I first saw Janna Roslyn, but my reaction to both was identical.”

Chris GOFF
“The Germans were almost completely deceived—only Hitler guessed right, and he hesitated to back his hunch—AJP Taylor, English History 1914-1945.”

Jamie FREVELETTI
"In the year of our lord, 1355, three days after the Feast of the Epiphany, God put in my mind that I must write a book." 

Lisa BLACK
“Mr. Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the morning, save for those not infrequent occasions when he was out all night, was seated at the breakfast table.” 

Valerie CONSTANTINE
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Have your own favorite first line from a novel you've read? Please share it with us in the comments below.

Friday, October 11, 2019

TORI TELFER GOES ROGUE

Submitted by Karna Small Bodman

We are delighted to welcome author and screenwriter Tori Telfer as our guest blogger. Tori graduated Magna Cum Laude from Northwestern University, received numerous writing awards and penned pieces for The Atlantic (online), Rolling Stone (online), Smithsonian (online) along with Vulture, Salon Vice, Longreads, Racked, Jezebel, The Hairpin and the Awl. She also wrote, produced and directed screenplays.


Tori Telfer
Here is Tori's story about how she created a new marketing project for her books centered on tales about "certain kinds of females." 

What Hosting a podcast Taught Me About Writing Books 

In 2018, I found myself caught in a lull between my first book, LADY KILLERS, a nonfiction book of historical female serial killers, which came out in the fall of 2017,  and the rest of my life. I was pretty sure I was going to write more books, but I wasn’t quite ready to pitch my next one, and in the meantime, what was I supposed to do with my newly acquired readers? I felt an immense (though self-imposed) pressure to be producing something other than the freelance writing and editing that, unromantically, paid my rent.



Slowly at first, and then with a sort of maniacal energy, I decided to launch a podcast. True crime podcasts were—are—having a moment, but most of them were focused on crimes committed by men. I didn’t know anything about mics or audio engineering, but what I did have was a long list of weird, fascinating female criminals whose stories hadn’t really been told yet. I launched my podcast, CRIMINAL BROADS in the summer of 2018, and now, over a year later, I can say that it’s been both a grueling frustration and a career-boosting success. It’s led to other podcasting opportunities, to advertising dollars (slowly but surely), and it’s even boosted sales of my book in retrospect. It’s also been so much unpaid work that I don’t even want to think about it! But these days, as I’m finally about to turn in my second book, I’m thinking back on my work as a podcaster and noticing how it’s helped me as a writer, too.



The value of attention

A professional podcaster once told me that people absorb more information through their eyes than through their ears—in other words, a book’s sentences may be long, winding, and full of one-sided em-dashes, but when you write the script for a podcast, you’ve gotta be, well, short. Crisp. Clean.

Since my work focuses on real historical events, it is incredibly tempting for me to fill my pages with detail after detail after detail. See, first she went to Location A, where she talked to Officer B about getting Paperwork C, but that was all a lie, as we find out when she went to Location D with Paperwork C and told Officer E that Officer B had sent her... But the world of podcasting has taught me the cold, useful truth that no one cares about the exhaustive detail as much as I do. There are only so many names, dates, and cold hard facts that a listener can take before turning a podcast off, and while a reader can take a few more of them, they too will eventually reach a point where they fling your book across the room, screaming, “I didn’t sign up for history class!” Podcasting has helped me remember that—and it’s a lesson I apply as often as my naturally long-winded self can. (Whew.)

The value of expertise

The world of podcasting is thrillingly open. Anyone, anywhere, can start a podcast. That being said, listeners can get burned out on podcast overload. They want to feel like they can trust you. Why should they listen to you when they can listen to…well, anyone else?

I’ve found that hosting a podcast after writing a book has given me an increasing sense of authority in my work, and to be honest, it’s made me look like more of an expert in the true crime marketplace. I’m far from a professional criminologist or psychologist, but at the very least, I can confidently say that I’ve done in-depth research on at least sixty-five female criminals from the 1200s until today. Without the podcast, that number would be much smaller. Now, I can say things to listeners like, “Look, if you want to hear more about this subject, I wrote a book about it”—or to readers, “If you want to hear more, I wrote a podcast about it.” Turns out podcasts are a helpful way to establish yourself as a slightly louder voice in a very crowded field.

The value of DIY publicity

If you’re feeling burned out and exhausted, you might not want to hear this, but…well…the more projects you have going, the more those projects can cross-pollinate each other. I launched Criminal Broads as a hail Mary attempt to get the readers of my first book to stick around long enough to buy my second book. But what actually happened is that people found my podcast first (what did they Google to find it? “16th century poisoner girl really bad not friendly”??)—and then, if they liked the podcast, they often went back and bought my first book. From now on, every project I do is an opportunity to advertise both future projects and those I’ve already completed. The podcast has worth in and of itself, but in terms of selling books, it’s proven a valuable amuse-bouche of sorts, so that the next time I find myself in between-book limbo, I can say, “Did you like that? Unfortunately I will not be able to produce another one for the next three years, but in the meantime? Have a podcast.”

Tori told me that she is working on a new book, CONFIDANT WOMEN. She's not certain of the pub date, though she confessed she's been working overtime since "it's due in a month!" I can't wait to read it.  Thanks, Tori, for being our guest blogger.

Now a question for our readers here -- do you watch podcasts? What are some of your favorites? Leave a comment - we'd love to hear from you.

. . . Karna Small Bodman



Sunday, October 6, 2019

Ever wonder where the money goes?

by Lisa Black

            Politicians have always asked for money during their campaigns, to be used to help them win the election. But why do they ask for it when they’re not technically ‘campaigning’? Their term isn’t up for another three years, but still they send out their ‘opinion surveys’ and ring our phones?
            I recently found out.
People in my neck of the woods (Florida) may remember Trey Radel and his short-lived career as one of our congressmen. The young man had worked as an actor before becoming both reporter and anchor for television stations in several states, then settled in Fort Myers and married one of our local anchors. In 2012 he won a vacated seat in the United States House of Representatives. A year later he was arrested after buying cocaine from an undercover officer. Four years after that he published Democrazy, detailing this journey and including many tidbits about how our political system actually works. Radel has now gone back to working in media as a radio host, and I read the book as research for my upcoming release, Let Justice Descend.
            I mention all this because a few pages in one chapter outline a system very rarely referred to by either of the two large political parties, one which may not be news to you but was to this clueless citizen. Here it is:
Each party has a committee devoted to getting their candidates elected. If you’re a candidate  in a naturally homogeneous or gerrymandered district where the local makeup guarantees you a win based on party division alone, then you don’t really need money to spend on advertising and other campaign costs. You can instead donate part of it to the National Republican Congressional Committee or the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. They send it to candidates in more evenly divided districts who face a much closer call. Nothing wrong with that, that’s what a political party is for. These party committees sometimes recruit candidates, often spend millions of dollars in advertising, and work every angle in order to get or maintain control of Congress.
The heads of these committees are members of Congress, who do this work in addition to their work as a legislator. They raise millions of dollars. Prominent committee heads of subcommittees raise hundreds of thousands. Rank-and-file members raise thousands, which they need to increase to the other two ranges if they ever want to get anywhere.
Me across from the Jefferson memorial this summer
            The party’s committee keep a tally and post it at meetings with the name of each rep or senator and how much they’ve given. Legally, a rep or senator’s campaign cannot overlap or influence their business as a federal legislator—and timewise, that is observed (that’s why politicians have to have the stamina of a supermarathon runner, because they work all day at their real jobs and then all evening and weekends on the schmoozing, calling, cajoling and networking necessary to raise money). But in reality it doesn’t take a cynic to see that the more money they ‘donate,’ the more likely they will receive help with the bill they sponsored or get their wish in the all-important committee assignments—move from the Science and Space committee to the tax-writing Ways and Means, for instance. A touch of balance is instilled when those on the more powerful and glamorous committees are also expected to ‘donate’ proportionally more from their take.
            We could take the cheerful view that this is a good thing, a gatekeeping measure if you will. If someone doesn’t have the competence and personal collateral to raise a bunch of money, then they will likely suffer the same lack of success at passing laws. A less cheerful view is to reflect on the eternal Golden Rule: he who has the gold, makes the rules.
            At least now we understand why our phone rings year-round.
            What do you think? Is this news to you?  

Friday, October 4, 2019

Rogue Women September Roundup!

Use the links below to binge read our posts from September

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

Lisa Black debunks the five biggest myths about CSIs and what they do—and it may not be what you think!

It's an age-old past-time. Who hasn't been bitten by the treasure-hunting bug at one time? Rogue Chris Goff steps in for Robin Burcell and reveals one very real treasure that's still waiting to be foundif you can decipher the poem.

Authors are used to hearing "Where do you get your ideas?" when the real question is, "Where do writers get their inspiration?" Rogue Chris Goff shares one method, with hilarious results.

Rogue Liv Constantine gives social media tips on what to do and not to do in the 7 Deadly Sins to Avoid on Twitter.

Lisa Unger goes rogue and talks to Lynne Constantine about writing, psychology, and trying to balance work and family in Penpal interview with Lisa Unger and Lynne Constantine.

You'll definitely want to read Thriller Master David Morrell's brilliant essay on ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, where he talks about how "real" Hollywood can make things seem. 


Karen Dionne's The Marsh King's Daughter was a major international success. Now, Karen Dionne Goes Rogue and shares news of her new book and insider info on publishing with Gayle Lynds.

The Real Book Spy's September Rogue Recommendation is....drum roll...Vince Flynn's Lethal Agent, written by Kyle Mills. TRBS and Kyle share their views on the series and writing.

K.J. Howe talks about how Mother Nature can be the most dangerous adversary of all. Delve into the world of earthquakes and hurricanes as a way of ratcheting up the tension with your fiction.

Thriller writer and BBC reporter Humphrey Hawksley, imparts a tale of traveling to the Bering Strait where Russia and America actually share a border in search of the perfect story.

Karna Small Bodman's piece featuring stories and movies about dogs reviews the history of how dogs became our companions, rescuers, and stars in bestselling books and feature films.


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Artists, Money, and Finance: It's complicated


By Jamie Freveletti

There's been a lot of talk this last month or so about writers and money. Specifically, about writers and how they lose money or spend it unwisely. And this month while reading a couple of essays about finance I thought the authors did their readers a service by being so honest. Their insights will help countless others avoid making the same mistakes.

One of the mistakes mentioned is how a writer is given advances and other perks for their writing and then, when the future is looking bright and the author begins to relax and enjoy their new career, fortunes change. You can find stories like these in the sports and music world as well.

Author William McPherson penned an essay about finances a few years ago. This writer, a Pulitzer prize winner, journalist and former editor at one of the big five houses, wrote an essay called Falling about his descent into poverty. He bought AOL at the low and Apple too. Then in midlife he handed a financial adviser his account to manage (who purchased more stock on margin-another form of a loan) and hit it to travel Eastern Europe to watch and record the fall of communism. The line in his story that hit me was this:

He writes: "My income consists of a social security check and a miserable pension from The Washington Post, where I worked intermittently for a total twenty five years, interrupted by a stint at a publishing house just before my profit sharing would have taken effect."
From: McPherson, William, Falling, from Getpocket.com, originally published in The Hedgehog Review, Fall, 2014 (emphasis added).

It appears as though he realized later how this timing regarding profit sharing was a financial blow. While I'm not sure, it also sounds as though he came from a middle class family. A worrisome comment came through again in this sentence:

He writes: "There was always enough money. I'd assumed there always would be (I think this is called denial)."
McPherson, Falling.

I read that line and thought, "Uh oh."

As the daughter of a jazz- singer- single- mom the line in our house was "Where's your next gig?" The understanding was that as nice as the current gig was, it could all go away tomorrow. I brought this view into my writing career. But while the question is accurate and safe, it makes for a certain amount of insecurity and fear of taking risks. It's hard to know just when your career is assured so that you can live a little. Balancing risk is an art, that's for sure. And balancing a career in art is even tougher, because the usual signposts and assurances aren't there.

Mr. McPherson had a major heart attack, which taxed his already stretched income, and he says he spent some of his years with "magical thinking." Luckily for him his family helped and some subsidized housing. He passed away a few years after writing the essay, but his insights live on to inform others.

There are some good financial tip books out there as well. The Dumb Things Smart People Do With Their Money, by Jill Schlesinger is eye opening. She pulls no punches, and her explanation of the percentage of your income that you should strive to live on for a year, (while saving the rest), sounds so low as to be impossible, but she will definitely get you thinking. There's also Your Money or Your Life, by Vicki Robin, which I've heard is good.

















It always helps to learn. And I think a dialogue about how to manage money in these uncertain times and fields is worthwhile. I'm thankful to the writers who wrote these essays and books and their willingness to help us learn from their insight and experiences.

Perhaps I can reach out to more authors and writers on this subject and  highlight their ideas in a future post. Also, if you have any financial books or articles that you've found interesting, please let me know in the comments. I'd love to hear about them!

All the best,

Jamie

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Loving Dogs - Why . .. When . . . How?

Submitted by Karna Small Bodman 

It occurs to me that the word "loving" in the title here could be an adjective or a noun...an adjective decribing dogs that love us, a noun (a gerund really) describing how we love dogs.  It's been going on for centuries - how many? A commonly held belief is that canines descended from wolves and were domesticated around 10,000 BC, but it's more recently that we began to breed them with specific objectives in mind. The Scots first bred the collie to herd sheep, and years later we all learned to love the best known collie, Lassie -- hero of book, movies and TV shows.

Retrievers, spaniels as well as poodles were all selectively bred to be great guard dogs, although word has it that the Cavalier King Charles spaniel, named for King Charles II, which was so loved by royalty and desired as companions of the titled class so many years ago, was bred to attract fleas that otherwise could have landed on humans. 

King Charles II family and their spaniel

Then we have the "working dogs" who aid our military and police. German Shepherds are often trained  in search and rescue operations.  Who can forget the terrific book by W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog's Purpose which became the #1 New York Times bestseller and was turned into a major motion picture being shown today. It features a number of dogs, serving different purposes and living different lives through reincarnation. . . one of those lives was as a German Shepherd who performs an incredible rescue operation.


Even "bad dogs" have been turned into loveable characters in books and movies. Case in point: Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog, by John Grogan,  first published in 2005 and also made into a feature film.  Many of us remember the story of the young couple who  bring home a wiggly yellow Labrador Retriever puppy who ends up as a 97 pound terror --  crashing through screen doors, stealing clothes and failing obedience school (he was expelled). And yet, we came to love that little devil, just as he showed boundless love for his "masters."


A movie showing in theaters in the last few weeks features another uplifting story of family love, hope and loyalty and, as the publisher describes it: a story that only a dog could tell. Indeed in The Art of Racing in the Rain actor Kevin Costner serves as the dog's voice describing danger, tragedy, redemption and the relationship between two souls.  


The growing popularity of dogs as wonderful pets and companions, has, unfortunately, led to the development of  "puppy mills" run by many unscrupulous characters who breed so many dogs that those who are not purchased or adopted end up "euthenized," living in cages or, if they're lucky, finding a temporary home with the Humane Society or a local Rescue Center. A book that tells the story about what rescued dogs can teach us was written by Peter Zheutlin as a follow-up to his New York Tines bestseller, Rescue Road. If you have a notion that you might consider rescuing a dog, check this out:


 Of course, there are tons of uplifting tales about dogs. In fact, Amazon has over 10,000 "dog stories" offered on its website.  On a personal note,  we have two labradoodles - a breed developed in Australia in the 1980's by a man who wanted to create a service dog for a blind woman whose husband was allergic to Labrador Retrievers, the standard service dog.  So he bred a lab with a poodle -- which is hypo-allergenic,  and voila, the Labradoodle.  When we were trying to decide on names for our pups, a friend suggested I use one of my book titles, so we named one "Gambit" and the other after the heroine in that story, "Cammy."


My father used to say that learning to care for a dog is "civilizing" - especially for a child.  Question: did you have a dog when you were growing up? What did it teach you? And are there any special stories about dogs you would recommend to our readers here? Do leave a comment, and thanks for visiting us here on Rogue Women Writers.

. . . Karna Small Bodman 

Friday, September 27, 2019

HUMPHREY HAWKSLEY GOES ROGUE

Submitted by Karna Small Bodman 

I am delighted to welcome BBC reporter and thriller writer, Humphrey Hawksley, as a guest blogger to our Rogue page. I got to know him at our International Thriller Writers conference in NY - "Thrillerfest" -- where he told me tales of traveling to remote and often dangerous locations in search of stories for the BBC and also for locations and characters in his great novels.  Check out this  adventure -- and keep in mind the question: Would you go there too? 


Author Humphrey Hawksley
Back in 2014, when Russia was enmeshing Ukraine in a new civil war, I opened an old Times Atlas that I keep in my study to find an interesting place to go, one that could tell the story of rising U.S.-Russian tension, but not where everyone else was traveling.

My eyes drifted over dog-eared pages of the Atlas until they settled far away on the Bering Strait where Russia and America actually shared a border, where former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin was mocked when she said Americans could see Russia from Alaska.

In the middle of the Bering Strait are two islands, barely two miles apart. One, Big Diomede, hosts a Russian military base. The other, Little Diomede, is a settlement of less than hundred Eskimo villagers, living in one of the most remote and hostile environments of the world. 






Without doubt, this had to be my destination.  

From the air, as the helicopter descended through fog, these rival islands appeared like sentinels keeping vigil over a vast, empty expanse. On the ground, stilted buildings clung to a steep hillside washed with a blue-gray hue contrasted by the helipad’s orange windsock, stretched horizontal in a fierce wind. 


I worked with a talented Indian video photographer www.poulomibasu.com and because of bad weather we stayed more than a week, every morning getting up and, just like Sarah Palin had described, seeing Russia from Alaska.

Astonishingly, this frontier between two superpowers was unmarked, no border posts, no buoys in the water, no national flags on either island; on Little Diomede, no state troopers, no police, no government presence and, when the helicopter flew off, no way of leaving.

Across the water on the ridges of Big Diomede we could see Russian military watch towers. 




This was far too special to leave to a single BBC report. It begged for a thriller because the only one I knew that touched on this border  was Lionel Davidson’s brilliant Kolymsky Heights published in 1994.  

What would happen, I asked myself, if the Russians crossed over and put up their flag. From that I created Rake Ozenna of the Alaska National Guard, a tough native of Little Diomede and his kick-ass fiancé, trauma surgeon Dr Carrie Walker, raising another question as to whether things would ever quiet down enough, both around and between them, to make the relationship work.




The book is Man on Ice -- first out in hardback, released next week in paperback here



The sequel, Man on Edge will be published on March 1, 2020:


I put the Russian ‘what if’ question to defense and intelligence contacts getting a variety of answers. The best came from an elderly member of the Little Diomede tribal council.  “The Russians? I don’t think so,” he said. “They sold us 1867 in the Alaska purchase, That’s why these two Diomedes islands are in different countries. We could be sold again, I guess, and someone will come here telling us we’re Chinese or Japanese.”

“What are you now, then?” I asked.

“I’m an Eskimo from the islands of the Diomedes,” he answered proudly. “We all know who we are.”

…..And we now know who Humphrey Hawksley is -- an intrepid foreign correspondent and author who transports his readers to remote locations and tells fascinating stories.  Leave a comment below about how your own travels compare to his....and visit our Facebook and Twitter pages (icons at the top left of this page).  

Thank you for visiting us here on Rogue Women Writers....Karna Small Bodman


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Mother Nature—the Ultimate Adversary


Countless adversaries ratchet up the tension in thrillers, TV shows, and films these days. Spies, serial killers, mafioso, drug cartels, terrorists, neighbors, spouses, super-secret organizations, governments; the list goes on and on. We use real-life villains to create authenticity in our fiction. But when it comes to being unstoppable, none of them can compete with Mother Nature. Unpredictable, with an endless bag of tricks, she delivers death and destruction with unrivaled force and ferocity. When you’re writing your next book, perhaps a Man vs. Mother Nature theme might create compelling drama in your story…as it is heart-wrenching to see what the devastating impact they have in real life. It’s also heartwarming to witness people coming together, just like the outpouring of love and support we’ve seen with Hurricane Dorian.

Earthquakes

When it comes to raw destructive power, it’s challenging to compete with the profound energy unleashed by an earthquake. While they usually occur in areas with specific geological plate tensions, earthquakes can also be triggered by volcanoes or meteor strikes. Quakes have killed at least 13 million people in recorded history. How? By releasing extraordinary amounts of energy.

And how do we measure earthquakes? The Richter scale is a logarithmic scale where an increase of .2 means a doubling of energy released and a full point increase marks an increase of 31.6 times the previous number. A 4.0 quake is the equivalent of 600 tons of TNT exploding and can be detected by instruments around the world.  A 5.0 earthquake involves energies comparable to 200 tons of TNT, a 6.0 results in 6,270 tons, 7.0 creates 199,000 tons, 8.0 is 6,270,000 tons, and 9.0 is 99,000,000 tons of TNT. For perspective, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima produced the equivalent energy of 15,000 tons of TNT. 

And it's not the shaking ground that causes most casualties. Rather, it’s failure of buildings and natural structures that cause the harm. Most buildings can sustain up to 6.0 quakes without substantial structural failure, but after that, gas pipes break and ignite, structures collapse, power lines are severed, dams fail, creating landslides and mudslides. If the quake happens under or near the ocean, tsunamis are often triggered.   

I was in a 6.4 earthquake in Huatulco, Mexico, and that experience will forever be in my memories of  traumatic moments. It felt like a loud train was barreling towards me, shaking everything in sight. And the aftershocks were unsettling as well, especially on the tarmac of the airport while leaving.



Hurricanes and Tropical Storms

A hurricane is a tropical cyclone that sustains winds of 74 miles per hour or more. 

Hurricanes and tropical storms are rated via categories, ranging from 1 to 5, with some experts saying a category 6 should also be included. 

The categories are described as follows:


Ca-te-go-ry
Sustained Winds
Types of Damage Due to Hurricane Winds
1
74-95 mph
64-82 kt
119-153 km/h
Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
2
96-110 mph
83-95 kt
154-177 km/h
Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
3

111-129 mph
96-112 kt
178-208 km/h
Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
4

130-156 mph
113-136 kt
209-251 km/h
Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
5

157 mph or higher
137 kt or higher
252 km/h or higher
Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

Hurricanes cause significant property damage, break down communications, halt air, land, and sea travel, hamper law and enforcement and rescue operations, contaminate water and food supplies, and hamstring medical services. Several severe hurricanes have each wreaked well over 100 billion dollars in damage. Imagine the tension of being trapped in a hurricane—we often watch news reports during storms, in shock and awe of the power of these antagonists. Inserting an event into a fictional setting would create enormous duress for your protagonist.


Just the Tip of the (Proverbial) Iceberg

There are many other natural events that can turn up the proverbial heat for your characters. For example, sandstorms, blizzards (a Canadian specialty), floods, windstorms, tsunamis, and even torrential rain can turn a standard search into a race against time. While we spend much time and effort crafting rich adversaries for our protagonists, we need to remember that natural forces are also lurking, waiting to forever alter the world we all live in. 

Have you ever experienced any of these natural disasters?


Friday, September 20, 2019

The Real Book Spy's SEPTEMBER'S ROGUE RECOMMENDATION is....


I've written extensively over the years about both Mitch Rapp and his creator, the legendary Vince Flynn, and the impact that they’ve had on me. 

It’s honestly no stretch to say that without Vince and Mitch, there would be no Real Book Spy. Flynn sparked my love for the genre, and though he passed away in the summer of 2013, his presence is still felt. Ask any political thriller novelist working today, and I guarantee you that they’ll point to Flynn as one of the greatest literary titans the genre has ever known—and many of them are longtime fans of his work.

Nobody loves Mitch Rapp more than me. In fact, my youngest son is named Mitchell Ryan, because let’s face it, I wanted to create a world where Mitch and Ryan were together and could grow up to be BFFs. (I also have a son named Ryan Junior. This might be a good time to mention what a loving and supportive wife I have. Thanks, babe!)

Again, nobody loves Rapp more than me. When he returns each year, even though I know it’s only for roughly 100,000 words and, give or take, 400 pages, I can’t help but feel like my best friend is back in town for a weekend—and I can’t wait to hang out with him.

When news broke in 2014 that Kyle Mills had been hired to continue Flynn’s series, I’ll admit it, I was totally skeptical. I wasn’t in love with the idea of another writer coloring inside Vince’s world. However, at the same time, I really wanted another go-around with Rapp. So, I dove into The Survivor, Mills’ first contribution to the franchise, eager to see what he could do with Mitch, Scott Coleman, Irene Kennedy, and everyone else. In the end, I was stunned.

Mills, more than any other writer hired to keep an iconic author’s franchise afloat after their passing, cares deeply about getting things right. Every detail. Every fact. Every nuance and mannerism of even the smallest setting or side characters. I was floored with just much his first book felt like, well, a true Mitch Rapp thriller. Because it was. It is.

Now, here we are in 2020. Lethal Agent is Mills’ fifth book set in the Rappverse, and there’s no question—this is his series now.

Kyle, who I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know over the years, puts everything he’s got into every book that he writes, and it shows. He’s been bold. He’s been daring. He’s taken some chances. But he’s always stayed true to the characters Vince Flynn created, and for that, I am so thankful. If you’d have told me back in 2013 that someone else could step in for Flynn—and that not only would there be no drop-off whatsoever, but that they’d actually elevate the series higher—I would have laughed you out of the bookstore. But that’s what’s happened. Kyle Mills has done an amazing job, and he deserves a ton of credit for his work with Rapp and the gang.

Here, in Lethal Agent, not only does Mitch Rapp go a bit rogue—making it an obvious choice for my Rogue pick—but he does so to go after a rogue terrorist who is planning a devastating biological attack on American soil. Honestly, what more do you need to know than that? Just sit back and relax as Rapp does his thing, because you already know that when he shows up, bad guys tend to stop breathing in bunches. Especially in this one.
Happy reading!

Lethal Agent: The Classic Flynn Structure Meets Rapp’s New Threat
by Kyle Mills


Even after twenty odd years in this business I still get anxious every time I sit down to begin a book outline. The blank page glares up at me while I flip through a folder stuffed with undeveloped concepts scribbled on scraps of paper. Having lots of ideas is definitely a good thing but it also presents an obstacle that weighs on my mind until I figure it out: How can a handful of unrelated fragments be transformed into a coherent and appealing story?

Lethal Agent followed this familiar pattern but with a twist. I’d already decided I was going to return to a very recognizable Vince Flynn framework after using a freer hand with Red War. The book would include a threat from Islamic terrorists, sleazy politicians, and Mitch Rapp largely on his own doing whatever’s necessary to get the job done. But how would that old-school structure work when Mitch is confronted with a biological weapon—a challenge he’s never faced? The more I dug into viruses and pandemics, I realized that nature offered a terrifying way to test both Mitch’s skillset and Vince’s style of storytelling. Suddenly, Rapp’s next do-or-die mission began unfolding in my mind.

I’ve been thinking about biological attacks since the 2003 SARS outbreak. My wife and I were getting ready to embark on an around-the-world trip when we were bombarded by news stories about this terrifying and highly contagious disease. Our families wanted us to cancel the trip but we refused because, frankly, we were cheap and had already paid for it. I momentarily regretted our decision when we arrived at the Singapore airport and were forced to walk through sensors that tested passengers for fever. Fortunately, neither of us ended up in quarantine, but the experience stuck with me. Over time, I became increasingly intrigued by isolated illnesses that escalate into pandemics.

The truth is that nothing in history—advancing technology, war, politics—has matched the sheer impact of disease. Plague wiped out nearly a third of 14th century Europeans, with casualties reaching as high as eighty percent in parts of southern France and Spain. It’s hard to fully grasp how much this changed the known world. To this day, we can see the effects of plague on politics, religion, art, and literature. Humanity’s relationship with death and its outlook on life were fundamentally transformed.

The Spanish flu, which broke out around the end of World War I, killed about thirty million people worldwide. Extrapolated to the present day population, that disease would have taken the lives of 150 million.

Again, it’s hard for a citizen of the 21st century to imagine the scale of this pandemic. Surgical masks were worn in public. Stores were prohibited from having sales to prevent people from gathering in confined spaces. Some cities demanded that passengers’ health be certified before they boarded trains.

If a similar pandemic broke out in modern society the toll would be unimaginable. We live in an interconnected, heavily populated world. A disease that starts in Asia could be in the US, Europe, and Africa in a matter of hours. Medical services would be overwhelmed. Commerce would stall as authorities tried to slow the spread of the disease. The machines that make our society possible—from food production and delivery to power generation and sanitation—would break down as critical workers were incapacitated or died off. Bodies would go unburied and people would flee the cities. World economies would collapse.

But how likely is another pandemic similar to the ones of the past? Unfortunately, it’s almost inevitable. Humans continue to move into unfamiliar habitat, bringing us into contact with animals and germs we haven’t encountered before. The massive demand for meat puts us in close proximity to livestock including pigs and birds suffering from infections that can jump species.

Pondering this inevitability is where I finally found my story. People tend to think of bioweapons as being engineered in some complex way, but it doesn’t have to be so. Lethal Agent is based on the terrifyingly plausible scenario that a SARS-like virus breaks out in Yemen. With no medical infrastructure to speak of and a war that prevents organized intervention like we saw in 2003, the disease is left to incubate in remote villages.

Much has been written about crop dusters and other elaborate delivery strategies. But in reality none are necessary. Just smuggle a handful of sick people into a developed country and you have bioweapons that are intelligent, adaptable, and mobile. They could loiter in airports, go to nightclubs, or get jobs in food service. The structure of modern society would do the rest. Once again, we’re lucky Mitch Rapp is on the job.

Kyle Mills is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of nineteen books, including the latest in Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp series, Lethal Agent.

Growing up in Oregon, Washington, DC, and London as a the son of an FBI agent, Kyle absorbed an enormous amount about the intelligence community, giving his novels their unique authenticity. He and his wife live in Wyoming where they spend their off hours mountain biking and backcountry skiing.