Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Writer's Block, Blunders, and NaNoWriMo

November means NaNoWriMo!
It’s November, which means a lot of writers are doing NaNoWriMo, which is short for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in a month (which for me is only half a novel). I participate every year in an unofficial capacity, usually because I’m on a deadline, and I am looking for any way possible to boost my word output. 

As usual this time of year, the days go by faster than I could possibly hope. Before I know it, my deadline that was 3 months away is suddenly upon me. I tell myself that this time, I will do things differently. I will stay off Facebook and Twitter. I won’t check email before I’ve made my word count. I’ll ignore the headlines. I will write.

And it works for a day or two.

But then I’m back to the same old, same old. 

I can stare at that computer day after day and get very little done. Writer’s Block? Or is it something else? I refuse to believe in Writer’s Block. I think that if Nancy Drew were to investigate, she’d also refuse to believe. She’d find a very practical reason for this lack of progress.

Freedom App on computer
So what is the reason for this frittering away of valuable writing time (besides the obvious social media visits)? I’d hazard a guess that there’s something wrong in the story. Whether it’s plot, or character, or both, I don’t know. What I do know is that I cannot possibly write further (or farther) until I discover exactly what that something might be. Unfortunately, until then, I’ll often do anything else but write. 

I’d like to say I know what the absolute answer is but I don’t. No doubt, doing a proper synopsis might be key. I tend to write organically (some call this a “pantser,” a writer term for writing by the seat of your pants). I’m not sure organic works. Perhaps if I spent that month plotting a good synopsis, I might be able to avoid the wasted days of trying to figure out what is wrong or where I'm going. 

I know I need to stay off Facebook and Twitter. (Note: I will be scarce until after the New Year due to above-mentioned fast-approaching deadline.) Thankfully, there’s an app for that. The Freedom app installs right on your computer and helps to manage those particular time-sucks. (You can schedule time to block social media. I paid for the forever version. Totally worth it.) But it’s not the only game in town. There’s a new app that writer Holly West turned me on to. Focus Keeper. (Available on both Apple, here, and Google, here.) This nifty little app installs on your phone. It's like a metronome that ticks away in 25 minute blocks with a 5-minute break between the four blocks. It works. As long as you turn it on. 

Focus Keeper App on iPhone
Apps aside, there’s still that matter of figuring out why the story isn’t working. Interestingly, I heard more than one writer mention in the last couple of weeks that when they write themselves into a corner, they usually find that they’ve played their hand too soon.They go back, deconstruct their story to find out where, then fix it. Elizabeth George was one of those writers who mentioned this 
particular writerly phenomenon, that, until this last week, I didn’t even know was a thing. I do now, so will be taking a new look at my story to see if this is where I went astray. 

I’d like to know what other writers do if their story is off track. Do they get stuck or forge on? Go back and write a synopsis? See if they’ve played their hand too soon? Add a thread? Remove a thread?

Chime in, Rogue Writers and Readers who are writers. I’d love to know! (And Happy and Fruitful NaNoWriMo!)

Tuesday, November 12, 2019


Someone who always gets his man, this author loves the dessert Baked Alaska.

The Real Book Spy is set to release his November Rogue Recommendation on November 15th.

As in previous months, The Real Book Spy and Rogue Women Writers will be giving away a copy of the author's book.

There are three ways enter into the drawing!
1. Comment. If you're brave enough you might hazard a guess!
2. Share the clue with friends and fellow thriller buffs.
3. Tweet out the clue.

As a bonus, here is a Betty Crocker recipe for Baked Alaska, courtesy of Print Recipes:

Holiday Baked Alaska

Top a brownie base with three flavors of ice cream and a heavenly meringue for an easy holiday dessert that will truly wow the crowd.


Ice Cream Dome
2 cups (1 pint) peppermint ice cream, softened
6 cups (1.5 quarts) mint chocolate chip ice cream, softened
6 cups (1.5 quarts) vanilla ice cream, softened

Brownie Base

1 cup butter
8 oz bittersweet chocolate
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

8 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar


1.  Line a 3-quart bowl with plastic wrap. Fill base of bowl with peppermint ice cream; layer with mint chocolate chip ice cream, then finish with a layer of vanilla ice cream. Cover surface with plastic wrap and freeze until ice cream is very hard, at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours in advance.

2. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 9-inch cake pan with cooking spray, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and spray parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray.

3. Place butter and chocolate in a medium glass bowl over a saucepan of hot water (or a double boiler) and stir the butter and chocolate until melted. This can also be done in a microwave by placing butter and chocolate in microwave-safe medium glass bowl and microwaving on High for 1 to 2 minutes or until melted, stirring once. Set aside to cool.

4. In a separate large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla until well combined. In another medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt until combined. Add the cooled chocolate mixture to the eggs and whisk to combine. Add the flour to the chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Pour into cake pan. Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

5. When the brownie is completely cool, about 1 hour. Turn brownie out onto a large flat, ovenproof plate. Unmold the ice cream dome on top of the brownie layer. Place back in the freezer.

6. With electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar for 2 minutes on medium-high speed. Increase the speed to high and add the sugar in a slow stream until stiff, glossy peaks form.

7. Remove ice cream dome from freezer. Remove plastic wrap. Cover the ice cream dome with the meringue, covering it completely, using the back of spoon to make swirly peaks. Freeze for at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

8. Heat the oven to 500°F. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes or until the peaks start to turn a golden brown color. For easier slicing, let cake stand for 30 minutes. Slice and serve.

Expert Tips

Use a 4-quart bowl to shape ice cream. Bowl should have a 9-inch circumference to match the diameter of the brownie base. Brownie will rise to the top of the pan during baking, but does not overflow. Crack eggs in a separate bowl to make sure egg is okay, and you do not get any shell into the rest of your mixture.  For speed, melt the chocolate and butter for the brownie – 2 minutes on high. 1 minute, stir, then additional minute. ❈ Bake brownie for 50 minutes; bake until set.  Egg whites should be at room temperature to allow for faster development of soft white foam, then start adding sugar for stiff peaks of the meringue. Make sure plate that baked Alaska is placed on is oven proof; about 12–inches in diameter.  While preparing meringue, keep brownie and ice cream in freezer for easier application of meringue.  To create “swirly peaks” of meringue on the dessert, use the back of spoon. ❈ When baking the meringue, watch constantly, as meringue will brown quickly – pending your oven’s thermostat – we found ours to be perfect at 2 minutes.  Once removed from the oven, let the dessert temper 15 minutes before trying to slice.  Use a knife that is sharp, and that has been placed in hot water, makes the dessert easier to slice.  Use your favorite ice cream flavors – such as chocolate ice cream, coffee ice cream, etc. 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

A real-life Boardwalk Empire

Nucky Johnson, in hat, next to Al Capone (3rd from right)

            In the fall of 2010 my husband and I began watching the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. My husband never passes up a show about gangsters, and I love a good period piece based on real history. The plot dealt with the action surrounding the Atlantic City treasurer, one Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (played by Steve Buscemi), who has his velvet-gloved iron hand inside every pot in town.
Frank Russo
            Only a week earlier, the Cleveland Plain Dealer published a twelve-page-long special report of federal charges brought against Frank Russo, the county auditor. Bribery, tax fraud, and every other form of corruption had been part of his makeup for decades. He provided political support to two Common Pleas judges in return for favorable rulings. He guaranteed a construction contract to a company which gifted him a $6,000 gambling junket to Las Vegas. He took bribes to engineer hiring at the sheriff’s office, to provide contracts to build a juvenile justice center and a halfway house for ex-cons, to tweak appraisals of commercial property, and to get free home improvements.
            Russo’s partner of sorts, since the early 80s, was county commissioner Jimmy Dimora. Dimora had spearheaded the city’s purchase of an EPA ‘brownfield’ lot to rehabilitate as a juvenile justice center—except that the land had only been worth $400K when Russo’s office auctioned it to a subsidiary company, who then sold it back to the city for $2.75 million. He made an equally bad deal to rehab a downtown complex for city offices; the taxpayers coughed up $40 million, but the rehab never occurred.
Jimmy Dimora
            The huge dollar amounts are too abstract for my focus; it’s the small details that catch the eye—like how a members of a suburb’s school district staff and their school board used Dimora and Russo’s contractors in return for credit cards and home improvements. Several received a TV set. One was gifted a tractor. Another drove off with the school’s mobile classroom to use as a hunting cabin, which I doubt the deer found very educational. Perhaps cash is more easily justified in one’s own mind…it’s not personal. It’s the cost of doing business. It’s the way things are done. I did a good job, I deserve a little perk. But how does one reconcile a tractor?  
             The fact is cash is often not the most common currency used in these deals. That would be jobs. To get two teaching positions for his daughters a construction manager built a retaining wall around Dimora’s pool, a decidedly less glamorous (or fungible) trade. An official of the plumber’s union winterized Dimora’s icemaker and ran a gas line to heat his pool in order to secure a promotion for his wife and summer jobs for his kids. A financial management company wanted to get on the county’s list to provide financial services to public employees. His cost? A thousand dollars in fake palm trees for each of their back yards. Their dinner parties must have been the stuff of legends.
            The list goes on and on. And on.
            The real-life Nucky Johnson (changed to Thompson in the show) handed out jobs from janitor to mayor and took them away if annoyed, as when a police officer gave his chauffer a ticket. His empire finally fell when the FBI found a copy of an illegal contract he’d failed to destroy; it paid Nucky three-fifths of the profits from a city railroad contract.
Halfway through the pilot episode of Boardwalk Empire, I turned to my husband and said, “Nothing has changed.”
Do you see history repeating itself in your town?

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

In The Limelight: Thriller Writer Boyd Morrison Goes Rogue

Final Option with Boyd Morrison
I've been fortunate enough to know Boyd Morrison since the first-ever ThrillerFest back in 2005. While Boyd currently co-authors with Clive Cussler in the Oregon seriesFinal Option is their latest collaborationhe's also a successful and talented writer in his own right. It's always fun getting into the heads of other writers to find out how they work and how they think. I don't know about you, but I always learn something that helps me in my own writing. Here are 9 things you might not know about Boyd Morrison. I hope you enjoy! 
1. Which is harder: writing the first or last sentence?
The first sentence is always the harder of the two for me. At the beginning of a novel, there is an infinite number of directions that the story can go. But at the end of the novel, the previous 100,000 words have been leading up to this one moment. Sometimes, I know the last sentence months before I get there, but I think they are both equally important. My view is that the first sentence (and chapter) sells this novel, and the last sentence (and chapter) sells the next novel.
2. What's your favorite word?
I’d say “Yes” is my favorite word. Usually something good happens when someone says “yes.” In the publishing business, we get a lot of rejection, and “yes” is the perfect antidote.
3. Where do you like to write?
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of my writing on a laptop in my living room. There’s a comfy chair where I can see the Cascades above a lake near our house, even on the ever-present cloudy days we have in Seattle, and I have a nice little table next to me for my drink and snacks. I only wish I had three hands so I could type and simultaneously pet my dog, who likes to sit next to me while I work.
4. What do you do when you need to take a break from writing?
I either take my dog to the park to chase the ball or swim, or I watch TV. When it’s raining, TV always seems like the better option.
5. If you could have lived in a different time period, what would that be?
The Ark: A Tyler Locke Novel
I’ve never longed to live in the past. I like my creature comforts too much, and I know that even rich folk two hundred years ago lived without running water. Or TV. So I’d probably opt to go into the future to the point when we had daily flights to the moon.
6. What's your favorite drink?
I’m not a coffee drinker, so my go-to beverage for caffeine is Diet Coke. I try to limit myself, but it’s my favorite indulgence when I’m on a deadline.
7. When you were ten years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Definitely an astronaut. I thought we’d have those daily flights to the moon by the time I was an adult. Alas, I’m still waiting. I did work at Johnson Space Center for a couple of years and was lucky enough to fly on the Vomit Comet, where I experienced zero gravity, so I have gotten just a taste of it. 
8. Do you have a literary hero? A teacher, mentor, family member, author who has inspired you to write stories?
Clive Cussler was the writer who got me hooked on thrillers in the first place, and I couldn’t wait for each of his books to hit the stores. So it’s absolutely amazing that I now work with him and talk to him on a regular basis. He’s taught me so much about great storytelling that I feel like I’m getting a private master class every time I sit in his office to plot our next book.
9. Do you write what you know or what you want to know?
Boyd Morrison
I write what I want to know. Doing research is one of my favorite parts of the job, and I love learning about history, technology, and exotic locations, all of which feature in the books I write. It’s astounding how little I have to invent for my stories, to the point that I have put Afterwords into my own books to explain what is real and what is fictional. I want to create an adventure not only for my readers, but for me as well.
Boyd Morrison is an engineer, actor, Jeopardy! champion, and #1 NY Times bestselling author. He has flown on the Vomit Comet at NASA, earned sixteen patents at RCA, and tested Xbox games at Microsoft. His debut novel THE ARK was an international bestseller and has been translated into more than 20 languages. He has co-written five novels with Clive Cussler in the Oregon Files series, the latest of which is FINAL OPTION.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

A Stellar Writers Conference

Submitted by Karna Small Bodman

Several of us Rogues just attended one of the best writers' conferences in the country. Sponsored by Mystery Writers of America, some 1,000 authors (published and aspiring) along with agents, editors, reviewers, librarians, booksellers and fans of the mystery crime genre have been meeting in Dallas, Texas for the past four days.  Named in honor of famed writer and editor, Anthony Boucher, it is called "Bouchercon" and features interviews, speeches, panels and parties. Since this year it was held in Dallas, the cowboy" theme appeared everywhere.

The Rogues in attendance, Robin Burcell, Jamie Freveletti Chris Goff, K.J. Howe (and me) were so pleased to be invited to have our own panel with terrific bestselling author Meg Gardiner as our moderator. It was billed as a discussion of how the thriller genre in general had been dominated  by male authors (the operative words are HAD BEEN) -- but now how many women are having success as authors of thrillers.  

Our Rogue Panel at Boucheron 

Of course Meg Gardiner is a prime example, garnering rave reviews such as this description from Stephen King: "Meg Gardiner is the next suspense superstar."  She is currently the author of 14 thrillers. And here's an interesting tidbit, Meg is also a three-time Jeopardy champion! Her new thriller, The Dark Corners of the Night will be released in February. 

Among the headliners at the conference we had Peter Lovesey, dubbed MWA Grand Master and "Titan of the English detective novel" who is the author of more than thirty highly praised mystery novels. His various series have been made into well received TV shows.
Peter Lovesey
A most familiar author, James Patterson, was feted as a "Distinguished Contributor."  His new book might make a great Christmas gift for your mystery loving friends.  It is The 19th Christmas
which has already hit the bestseller lists, as have many of this author's endeavors.  He also often works with co-authors. This new story was written with Maxine Paetro and features the actions and crime solving techniques of the Women's Murder Club during the holiday season in San Francisco. 

As for Maxine, she has been writing her own novels since the 70's.  It turns out she got to know James Patterson when both worked in the advertising industry, and she has been working with him on these mysteries and thrillers for the past fifteen years.

An author who is a good friend of the Rogues and has been one of our guest bloggers was named "American Guest of Honor" at the conference...she is bestselling author Hank Philippa Ryan. I got to know her several years ago at another conference when we discovered that we both worked as TV News Reporters for the same network but in different cities.  Her new novel, The Murder List is described as "An exhilarating thrill ride. Just when you think you have it figured out, Ryan deftly pulls the wool over your eyes and delivers a denouement as shocking as it is satisfying." 

Hank Philippi Ryan 

 One more honoree to tell you about was Felix Francis, named the "International Guest of Honor,"  who has carried on the legacy and terrific story lines of his father, Dick Francis.  Felix is now a New York Times bestselling author in his own right.  I recall reading many of his father's wonderful tales focusing on horse racing.  Now Felix has a new thriller that will be released on November 19.  The title is Guilty Not Guilty, and the setting is once again in England at the Warwick races.   

As you can see, this Bouchercon conference has drawn so many talented writers, it's been an exciting one to attend.  And for all of you authors or fans of  mysteries or thrillers, you might consider coming to the next one which will be October 15-18, 2020 in Sacramento, California. 

Now, in addition to the talented and prolific authors listed above, who are some of your favorite mystery and thriller authors? And IF you attended Bouchercon, what were some of your impressions and "take-aways?" Do leave a comment and let us know -- we Rogues always like to share ideas for the next great read. And thanks for visiting us here on Rogue Women Writers.

….Karna Small Bodman   

Friday, November 1, 2019

Rogue Women October Roundup!

Use the links below to binge read our October posts

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

Jamie Freveletti wrote about the financial aspects of the writing world, with links to helpful essays and books. 

The Rogues shared their favorite first lines from other books.

Rogue guest blogger, Tori Telfer, tells us how she created a new "marketing" technique to publicize her books.  

What do you do if you're in spam hell? Gayle Lynds lists her top worst spam lines, and gives tips to keep you safe online.  

Ever felt like someone was watching you, but there was no one around? After reading Chris Goff's "Some of the Best Spies Wear Fur," you just might look twice at your cat.

Kimberly Belle goes Rogue and talks about her writing along with some wonderful writing tips we can all use!

Katherine Neville goes Rogue and tells us how she has lived in exotic locations and did a ton of research to create her international bestselling novels. 

Why do political parties keep calling when the election is over? Lisa Black describes why. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


by K.J. Howe

Writing can be a lonely calling. And there are roller coaster ups and downs in the publishing business. But it's all worth it when you get together with your tribe, as we are this week at Bouchercon 50!  And to make this event even more special, I get to meet some very special young people this week . . .

Kunle and I in Sharjah

Last year at the Sharjah International Book Festival, I had the pleasure of meeting Kunle Kasumu from Channels TV in Nigeria, a reporter with an expertise in books.  He kindly invited me for an interview, and I was impressed by his sense of humour, deep knowledge of the thriller genre, and insightful questions. I also learned about the program he had created to give Nigerian students with a penchant for writing access to the wider world of literature.

Kunle and Channels TV run a national essay contest for Nigerian students who are interested in expressing themselves through the written word. The winners embark on an educational trip to a different country each year, culminating in them attending a major writing conference to meet their literary idols and experience a different country.  Last year, the destination was the United Arab Emirates at the Sharjah Book Festival, which hosts over two million attendees from all over the world.

Carol Puckett, the Chair of Bouchercon Dallas, saw my pictures of Kunle and the students on Facebook--and Carol being the wonderfully kind person she is--wanted to give other students the chance to come to Texas. Kunle, Carol, and I worked together to make Dallas, Texas their destination for 2019 with a final deep dive into the world of literature to take place at Bouchercon. The three students have been enjoying the United States for two weeks (including the rare chance to experience a live Texas tornado) and are excited to exchange ideas with the writers and attendees at Bouchercon this week.

Carol with the students in Dallas

If anything is bringing you down right now, never forget that writing can bring people together in the most human and uplifting of ways.  And if you see Kunle and his team of future bestsellers at the event, please introduce yourself and say hello. You will be glad that you did.

The Rogue Women will also be storming Dallas this year with a panel at Bouchercon on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. sharing all of their insights, wit, and wisdom about the crazy world that is rogue thriller writing. And Meg Gardiner is our panel master!!!! You don't want to miss that.

Outside of the conference (but close by), you might want to take in the panel at Half Price books on Saturday at 2 p.m. where myself, Mark Greaney, Jack Carr, Nick Petrie, A..J. Tata, Brad Taylor, and Marc Cameron will be discussing the latests and greatest in the world of action thrillers and signing books for enthusiast fans. Our new Nigerian friends will be there, and I'm counting the minutes until I meet them all!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Katherine Neville Goes Rogue -- on Research

I am delighted to welcome a good friend and incredible author, Katherine Neville, to our site today.  Katherine is an internationally acclaimed bestselling author of several incredible novels that have been described by Publishers Weekly  as "astonishing fantasy-adventures." And they are indeed. All of her stories are set in the most intriguing and exotic locales, from the tops of mountains to the dunes on the Sahara -- places she has visited and lived in over the past many years and which have inspired her to do extensive research for a series of great stories. In fact, she believes research is the key to so much of life - as she explains below. 

Katherine photographs her settings

"Life is Research" - Katherine Neville

My most frequently-asked question, from students, interviewers, and fellow writers alike, is, "How do you do your research?"

Anyone who has ever read even a smidgen of my writing knows that I've really "done my homework." (Well, it isn't exactly homework. That makes it sound so tedious.) It's a fascination that I share with my readers from ages 9 to 90: Curiosity. When I'm curious, I become obsessive until I discover the answer. The answer doesn't always have to appear in the book. But the knowledge, the feeling, is still there beneath the surface, like the "7/8 of the iceberg" that Hemingway was always talking about.

I was curious to know what the famous French revolutionary, Jean Paul Marat, was about to eat for dinner, when he was stabbed to death in his bathtub by Charlotte Corday (included in the first novel The Eight);
I was curious about how one could fly a bush plane from the Aleutian islands of Alaska to Russian Kamchatka without being discovered on radar (thus came inspiration for The Fire);

I was curious to figure out how to forge a billion dollars in "bearer bonds"--prior to digital image processing--using only a Hasselblad and a printing press (A Calculated Risk);

 and curious to know how Hitler's astrologer, his priest (who edited Mein Kampf), and his "motivational speaking coach" all died mysterious deaths at around the same time (The Magic Circle). And so on.

Curiosity may have killed a few proverbial cats, but the results of my researches into little-known esoteric trivia have fascinated millions and millions of readers all over the world (for more than thirty years, in forty languages.)

There's just one little hitch. Knowing When to Stop!

True confession: I am an Information Junkie. I try to do all my research "on the ground," in little-known, far-flung locales.
Katherine in Tunisia
Or poring through rare books on obscure topics, of the sort I've collected since I was really young. I try never to do research online unless absolutely necessary. The moment I type in an online query, "it" always begins google-lassoing me, dragging me through a series of hyperlinks, and then "it" winds up asking me: "Would you like to order this book from Amazon?" For those of us who are dataholics, doing our research on the web would be like an alcoholic living between an all-night bar and an all-night liquor store.

My former neighbor, Martin Cruz Smith, and his wife, Em, once told me that the research phase was "Bill's" (that's his name) favorite part of writing each of his novels. When I asked Bill why, he said, "Because when you're doing the research, everything is still potential. You can go in any direction. The world is open. Once you start putting words on paper, the book starts to become concrete, the characters, the plot... you're committed."

That's it! Commitment! As soon as I (the 'Author-ity' of my own novel) have committed myself to the characters and their story, I am hidebound to take off my 'brilliant researcher' hat and follow the first rule of Fiction, which we all ought to know: "When in doubt, leave it out."

Case in point: A few years ago, I was one of three authors--with the wonderful Daniel Stashower and David Baldacci--who'd been invited to launch a new Sirius XM radio show "
Author Café." (The brainchild of Maggie Smith and Kim Alexander, co-producers of the late Sirius Book Channel.) We three authors chatted extemporaneously for a few hours about the art, the craft, and the vocation of being full-time, successfully published writers. When the topic of research came up, I stated, in my most "Author-itarian" voice:

              "It is a well-known and accepted rule of fiction that--regardless how interesting your research may be to you, personally--NOTHING should appear in the book unless it serves to develop the character or advance the plot!"

Check out the full interview here

In the recording studio, David and Daniel were smiling and nodding their agreement. But I could  see the ironically-raised eyebrows of my two fellow authors who knew me, and my eccentric work ethic, very well. So I had to admit:

              "Having said that, I confess that I am the Queen of self-indulgence, and I'll go to any lengths to try to shoehorn in some research that I've found fascinating--in the confident hope that my readers will find it so, too!" (Or some such total rubbish.)

I am a reader, you are a reader. We are all readers. We readers don't relish wading through a plot that looks like someone's academic tutorial, or wallowing in some writer's pontificating drivel. We want to be captivated by a wonderful story. We are writers ourselves, because we were longtime readers. And we want to read more of what we have been missing. In my case, I became a writer because I couldn't find enough of the swashbuckling, adventure/quest novels that I loved: Rafael Sabatini, Lord Byron, Alexandre Dumas, Robert Louis Stevenson, adventures in exotic lands and on the high seas.

So each morning, before I sit at my desk (surrounded by 700 "current" research books, and far too many research articles--and a few computers) I have to remind myself of this mission:

              1. Nothing should appear in the book except to develop character or advance plot;

              2. When in Doubt, Leave it Out;

              3. It's the Story! 

              Amen. (Well...except if it's something really interesting!)

 K Neville

Thanks, Katherine, for your great insights and advice. Now, for our readers here - Is there an exotic location you would like to travel to do your own "research" for a story? Leave a comment and thanks for visiting us here on Rogue Women Writers.

             .  . . Karna Small Bodman

Friday, October 25, 2019

Kimberly Belle Goes Rogue: Writing the Book of Your Heart

By: Liv Constantine

I have a sticky taped to the wall by my desk that reads The book you have to write vs. you have to write a book. A daily reminder of what I’ve come there to do, to write the story of my heart rather than churn out a book just because I have a looming deadline. Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between the two. The pressure of time restraints, of advance earn-outs, of past failures and successes…they all can mess with your mojo. But remember those early days before agents and contracts, when you were telling the story for no one but yourself? That is the feeling I look for when brainstorming my next story—one that I have to tell or otherwise I will explode.

Sometimes these books of my heart flow out of me quickly and with relatively ease, and sometimes they take more finessing. Three Days Missing was a fourteen-month slog from first word to last edits, and I don’t want to tell you how many times I rewrote The Ones We Trust but suffice it to say a lot. And now, ten months into my next book, Stranger in the Lake, and I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. I’ve finally drilled down to the heart of the story, figured out what the heck I’ve been trying to say.

Over the course of my career, I’ve spent a lot of time stressing about why some stories are more of a struggle than others. Is it because they’re less compelling? Did I take a wrong turn somewhere, choose the wrong POV? Or is it worse—is this the dreaded I-have-to-tell-a-story story? Should I just chuck it and start over?

But each time, I found the answer was no. There was something in these plots that just wouldn’t let me go. A character that had come alive in my head, or a twist that was too good to shelve. I kept writing, kept digging and finessing and layering until finally, finally—the story that all those months ago I had imagined it to be emerged. The story-I-have-to-tell story.

But I’m not going to lie; getting there sucked. Here are a few things I learned along the way.

Remember why you’re writing.

I mean this at both the macro and micro levels. Keep in mind why you began down this writerly path in the first place, and hold tight to that breathless, tingly feeling when you first came up with the book’s premise. What is it that compels you to write it? What are the elements, characters or hook or plot points, that won’t let you go? Write them on a sticky and look at them every day. These are the things that will keep you typing when it feels so much easier to shove your laptop in a drawer.

Embrace the suck.

Even the books that come relatively easy have had their difficult moments. A plot hole I didn’t foresee during the drafting phase, or a timeline issue that takes weeks to unwind. And now, six books in, I’ve become convinced that struggle is part of the process. Some stories are bigger and sprawlier than others. Some need more time to cook in your mind and on the page. Every book feels like its own particular journey, one that comes with a sizeable dose of frustration and performance anxiety, and maybe that’s okay. It means we’re taking on new challenges, learning new skills. If writing were easy, everybody would do it.

Find your tribe. Love them hard.

Success in this industry can sometimes feel as elusive as fairy wings and pixie dust. The publishing industry is hard, and it’s erratic, and it’s nuts, and it’s a place where the best book doesn’t always win. Market trends, unfair reviews, marketing and publicity that doesn’t catch on. So much of what happens once we send a book out into the world is out of our control. What makes a story soar or flop isn’t always predictable.

But one thing we can control is to surround ourselves with people like us, fellow authors and industry professionals who understand. Treat these people not like competition but as a refuge. Use them as sounding boards and brainstorm buddies and accountability partners. Ask them questions, get their advice, let them talk you off the ledge. Take comfort in knowing we are all in this same crazy, rocky boat together, rowing for the same shoreline, cheering each other on. This job is so much more fun and fulfilling with friends.

Stop doubting. Just write.

This one’s the hardest and the easiest at the same time. Let go of the doubt, the insecurities, the comparisons to other authors who are doing better/earning more/getting bigger deals, and just do what you know how to do: write. Trust the process, even when the process is muddling through more shitty drafts than you’d care to admit. Get off Twitter, where writers go to brag about 10,000-a-day word counts or seven-figure movie deals, and focus on the story. Your story, the story of your heart. Some days you will produce nothing but tears and frustration, but other days will end in words. Good words! Fixable words. As Margaret Atwood once said, if we waited for perfection, we would never write a word.

So write and then write some more until one day, that story you just have to tell? 
It’s here, and it’s awesome.

Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of five novels, including her latest domestic suspense, Dear Wife (June 2019). Her third novel, The Marriage Lie, was a semifinalist in the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery & Thriller, and a #1 e-book bestseller in the UK and Italy. She’s sold rights to her books in a dozen languages as well as film and television options. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam. Her latest book is DEAR WIFE.

Keep up with Kimberly on Facebook (, Twitter (@KimberlySBelle), Instagram (@KimberlySBelle) or via her website at