Sunday, April 5, 2020

WHAT ROGUES ARE READING NOW

by Karna Small Bodman

          With most everyone hunkering down at home (when possible) during this challenging time, at least we can read a good book. And with that thought in mind, I asked fellow Rogues what they are reading right now – what books are on the night-stand? I thought you might like some recommendations. Here is the list:

From K.J. Howe:

THE WIFE STALKER by Liv Constantine

Given I tend to write more action/adventure thrillers, I’m so impressed when I read a very well executed psychological thriller—that the author was able to pull off a nail-biting tale without any firearms or roundhouse kicks. Just the other day, an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) of the highly anticipated THE WIFE STALKER landed in my mailbox. I opened the novel and started reading. Well, let’s just say that was the end of my workday! I basically devoured the book in one sitting.

As someone who likes to predict what the kicker will be, I kept searching for clues as to the major twist, but I was definitely outmatched by a talented sister team who wowed me with their shocking ending. I bow to their brilliance, their intricate planning, the breadcrumb trail of clues, and the devious plotting that led to me flashing back to many turning points after that lightbulb moment when the truth was revealed. It truly takes a master to manage to make an ending both inevitable and surprising, and they nailed it. Kudos to my fellow Rogue on another unforgettable read. This novel is available for pre-order and will be out in early May.

From Lisa Black:

CITY OF ENDLESS NIGHT by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

When I first read one of their Agent Prendergast books I was captivated, until I realized that if I met the main character I would feel wholly inadequate, and I'm egotistical enough that that gives me pause On top of that he is often snippy to the point of rudeness, and there's only so much of that I'm willing to tolerate despite his softer moments...unfortunately police detective Vince Agosta doesn't have that option when there's a diabolical serial killer loose in New York. All in all, I think Prendergast is the kind of character I would have fallen madly in love with at, say, fourteen. As an adult, though, I'd have reservations.

Of course, all of that is a very minor beef when the plot is so fascinating that I can't put the book down and then neglect all my other duties just to pick it up again!

From Lynne Constantine:

HE STARTED IT by Samantha Downing

I’m reading an advanced copy of Samantha Downing’s HE STARTED IT, a riveting and deviously fun thriller that I’m devouring. I’m also reading THE SCIENCE OF SCREENWRITING: The neuroscience behind storytelling strategies as I dip a toe into the screenwriting waters.

From Gayle Lynds:

MYSTERY TRACKS IN THE SNOW by Hap Gilliand
The snow this winter in Maine has been abundant and beautiful, which means John and I snowshoe almost every day. Animal trails crisscross our backyard and forest, mostly made by white-tail deer. Sometimes we see them, but often not. We’ve always been curious about what other animals were making tracks, too, until one day last month we were deep in the woods and spotted perfect imprints in the snow – Big paws. Sharp claws.

Wow! Time to do something about our ignorance. We guessed what the animal was, but we wanted to be sure. So, I went looking for research books. My number-one, go-to favorite has become MYSTERY TRACKS IN THE SNOW by Hap Gilliland. I love his drawings of animals, and his stories of encounters. As for the animal making the big tracks here that started all this – it was a coyote – and we have at least two. With book in hand, we’ve also identified a lot of other wild animals, including fox, squirrels, raccoons, and porcupines. Highly recommended! That cover art is on my desktop.

From Valerie Rees:

THE BODY by Bill Bryson

THE BODY explores every aspect of the body’s anatomy and function and does it in a way that makes it humorous and the science easy to understand. (Add photo The Body) There are fascinating stories and astounding facts throughout the book, and he writes too of our body's remarkable ability to heal itself. I’ve always loved Bryson’s writing style––his keen insights laced with his customary wit. THE BODY is another winner. 

From Jamie Freveletti:

THE MEMORY POLICE  by Hoko Ogawa

I just started this book, but the idea of "Memory Police" who can wipe your memories and a novelist fighting to preserve the stories that are ours and make us who we are is so compelling that I had to read it! Here's the official description: On an unnamed island off an unnamed coast, objects are disappearing: first hats, then ribbons, birds, roses—until things become much more serious. Most of the island's inhabitants are oblivious to these changes, while those few imbued with the power to recall the lost objects live in fear of the draconian Memory Police, who are committed to ensuring that what has disappeared remains forgotten. 

When a young woman who is struggling to maintain her career as a novelist discovers that her editor is in danger from the Memory Police, she concocts a plan to hide him beneath her floorboards. As fear and loss close in around them, they cling to her writing as the last way of preserving the past.

From Chris Goff:

A SPY FOR ALL SEASONS by Duane R. Clarridge

I’ll mention two I’m waiting with baited breath to read: First, A SPY FOR ALL SEASONS by Duane R. Clarridge He was a former Deputy Director of the CIA who provides a behind-the-scenes look at the American intelligence community, the Reagan administration’s secret war against the Sandinistas, the covert operations he conceived, and the battle against world terrorism.

Also, I’m super excited to read PAPER SON A Lydia Chin/Bill Smith Novel by S. J. Rozan. I love this series, and it’s been a few years since she’s had a book out.

Finally, from me, Karna Small Bodman: 
DEEP STATE by Chris Hauty

I just finished reading a riveting thriller recommended here on our Rogue site several weeks ago, DEEP STATE by Chris Hauty. Talk about timely – this is a story set in turbulent, partisan times in Washington, DC about a plot put together by ruthless members of a president’s own administration, thus the title.

It begins with the murder of the White House Chief of staff. A brave and tenacious young intern discovers a single clue to explain his death while becoming a target herself when she tries to find the culprits and warn the president of the continuing threat. The author is careful to be “non-partisan” in terms of the politics of the various characters (a difficult fete these days) which means this book will appeal to a broad spectrum of thriller readers.

Question: What are you reading these days? Do you have recommendations for us and our readers? Please let us know. Meanwhile to all: Please take care….and stay safe!!

Friday, April 3, 2020

ROGUE WOMEN MARCH ROUNDUP!

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

Have you ever wondered what lengths writer's go for research? Rogue guest blogger, J.D. Allen, shares some interesting things she learned on a ride along with a local Sheriff's Deputy

Rogue Liv Constantine shares six practices for a longer and happier life. Some of them may surprise you.

Do you keep books, magazine, or newspapers in your bathroom? Rogue Chris Goff shares interesting things you can learn from bathroom reading.

What are your favorite childhood sugar cereals? Rogue Gayle Lynds reveals hers and talks about how writers use breakfast choices for characterization.

Everyone has a favorite "go to"—a book you reread, a movie you watch over and over. We decided to reprise one of the Rogue Readers' favorite posts, Robin Burcell's "The Top Five Most Stupid TV Commercials."

Rogue KJ Howe shares why marketing is important to writers and publishers, and the latest data is proving the old adage "you can't judge a book by it's cover" is false. Readers decide what to read based on the title and the cover.

March's Rogue Recommendation is Don Bentley, and his post was a big reveal about his background and what makes his books feel so real. Suffice it to say, "Thank you for your service, Don."

Jamie Freveletti wrote about the science of procrastination and how our negative thoughts about our ability to create may be holding us back.

You've heard the old adage "throw in the towel." Karna Small Bodman explores some of the obstacle's faced by some of the world's most famous people and found that it doesn't pay to be a quitter.

Dean Koontz paid the Rogues a visit at the end of the month and told us about his latest novel. The subject soon turned to dogs, his love of Golden Retrievers and why dogs are so important.

Not everyone marches to the same drum. Tempos change. Rogue Lisa Black compares music to the act of writing and discovers some surprising parallels.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

APRIL FOOL'S DAY: Love it or Hate it



When things don't seem very funny (such as our current situation), my main fall back has been humor. Like cops and doctors fall back on black humor, I've passed along my share of toilet paper jokes in the past few weeks. But, as the days drag on and it becomes harder to laugh, I turned my attention to April Fool's Day. 

It's been around for centuries.

But why? 

Traditionally, April 1st has been a day for practical jokes. Some people play elaborate pranks. Others make an attempt, yelling "April Fools!" at the end of the joke—either to clue in the clueless or grab for recognition of their cleverness. 

Some historians speculate it may date back to 1582 when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. In the Julian calendar, the new year begins with the spring equinox. People who were slow to get the news, continued to celebrate the New Year and soon found themselves the butt of jokes. Called "April Fools," the pranks included having paper fish put on their backs and being called "poisson d'avril" (April fish). 

Other historians have linked April Fool's Day to festivals such as Hilaria, celebrated in ancient Rome at the end of March by cult followers. It involved people dressing up in disguises and mocking fellow citizens, and believed to be inspired by Egyptian legend.

Or maybe it has to do with the changing and unpredictable weather around the end of March.

And it continued to evolve.

In Scotland, the tradition became a two-day event, starting with the "hunting of the gowk." People were sent on phony errands (gowk being a word for the cuckoo bird), followed by having fake tails or kick me signs pinned on their backside.

Even newspapers, radio and tv stations have joined in the fun. In 1957, the BBC reported that Swiss farmers where experiencing record spaghetti crops and showed people harvesting noodles from trees. In 1996, Taco Bell, duped people when it claimed to have purchased the Liberty Bell, intending to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. 

Growing up one of my favorite shows was Candid Camera. We've all had those moments. I think of the time I was in the McDonald's line and the truck in front of me had such a long cab I couldn't pull up to the speaker. The kid inside asked, "Can I take your order?" I said, "I'm not at the speaker." He said, "What?" I said, "I'm not at the speaker." He said, "That's okay, I can hear you." So, I rattled off my order, and he said, "What?"

As the mother of six, I've seen a lot of tricks. Most of us have fallen victim to saran wrapped toilet seats, loosened caps on the salt shaker. My personal favorite, the April 1 that I stumbled my way to the kitchen to get coffee. I readied the pot, walked to the sink to get water for the coffee pot and was drenched by the sprayer on the sink. My youngest daughter had wrapped a rubber band around the sprayer. She got her father, one sister and me. And all of us, in order, changed our clothes and rewrapped the rubberband around the handle. When the kid finally got up, what did she do? She stumbled down to the kitchen, flipped on the faucet and got soaked. "April Fools!"

Here's what a few of the Rogues had to share.

Lisa: I believe there’s two kinds of people in the world: those who like practical jokes and those who don’t. I have to admit, I’m in the latter camp. Don’t like them, have never played them on others, would not be amused if one were played on me. I think “Candid Camera”-type TV and radio shows are just mean. I probably get this from my parents, who laughed a great deal, just not at that type of thing.

The only time I remember a friend playing a joke on me was in grade school, when, since I didn’t care for peanut butter and jelly, only open-face peanut butter breads which were difficult to pack, I would eat a hard-boiled egg for lunch every day. (Believe it or not my cholesterol levels have not yet killed me!) My father would make me single-serving packets of salt by folding the edges of a piece of aluminum foil, and my girlfriend made a fake one containing sugar. It only took one bite to figure that out!

Gayle: Until Chris asked about pranks, I thought I was pretty funny. I still smile at silly old poems: “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat.” That bit of advice was scrawled on a wall in the boys’ latrine one long-ago summer. (Well, okay, I thought it was very funny at the time.)
 
I also chuckle at dumb jokes: “What d’you have when you’ve got one green ball in one hand, and another green ball in the other hand?” Answer: “The Jolly Green Giant, right where you want him!” Pause here and imagine the hilarity erupting from college girls in jammies who’d never heard that one before.

So my problem is, I truly don’t understand what’s funny about a prank. Really! I’m eager to read – and laugh – at what the other Rogues have to say!

Karna: I haven’t tried to pull any April Fools pranks myself, however there is a funny story told by Swedish relatives (My mother was Swedish and I have a lot of cousins in Sweden). Way back on April 1, 1962 there was one Swedish TV station, SVT. At that time, they only broadcast in black and white. So that day the station put their technical expert on their news show to announce that due to new technology, viewers could convert their set to receive color by putting a nylon stocking over the screen, and reportedly, many Swedes were taken in – with people running all over the house searching for nylon stockings. Actual color broadcasting in color started in Sweden on April 1, 1970.

Do you have a favorite April Fool's Day prank or story?   

Sunday, March 29, 2020

FIVE THINGS MUSIC HAS TAUGHT ME ABOUT LIFE—AND WRITING

by Lisa Black

Whether you begin as a child or an adult, we learn more from playing with a group than just how to tell a treble clef from a bass.

1. We are not all playing the same notes, and we shouldn’t be. That would be a very boring song and a very boring story—and a very boring life if we didn’t have side melodies and off-beats and undercurrents and characters who each have their own goals and their own fears.

2. Tempos change. There is a time to move fast and there is a time to move slow. Some passages have notes in the strict formation of a light Baroque piece with precise and equal spacing, and other times the notes come so short and so fast that they seem to trip over each other. The pace of your life and your writing do the same when you or your character have to decide whether to think something through or act on instinct.

Mozart
3. If you can’t play it as written, just do what you can. Mozart likes his speed. Sometimes he has series of eighth or 16th notes going so fast that I in my very amateur abilities cannot keep up. At those times I might play just the downbeat, the first note of every four. This allows me to contribute something while not detracting from the performance, and keep my place so I don’t get entirely left behind. Don’t worry about writing the Great American Novel. Just tell your story.

4. Everything a writer needs to know about building tension can be heard in Ravel’s La Valse. On the top it’s a beautiful melody of a lovely and graceful dance—but underneath that light tune is something else entirely. Something horrific is lurking, growing louder and more fatal the closer it comes. Think of the doors that won’t stay open in The Haunting of Hill House or the cat brushing Louis’ ankle in Pet Sematary, maybe even the flashing green light in The Great Gatsby. Something bad is going to happen. Give it a listen and you’ll see what I mean.


5. Don’t criticize the bassoon player until you have marched a mile playing a double reed instrument. Each instrument is different and every life, every story has its own challenges.

I played a clarinet for about twenty years. A clarinet has keys; each key or combination of keys is a different note—you hit the right keys and you’ve got the right note. But the difficult part of playing a wind instrument is what’s called the embouchure (ahm-boo-shur), the muscles of your mouth, cheeks, lips and tongue, getting that all coordinated and then maintaining that strength for an hour or two or three of playing. 


Then, recently, I took up the violin. I didn’t have to worry about losing breath any more but…a violin has no keys, just four strings with nothing to indicate where your fingers are supposed to go. You simply have to learn where to put them. (And just to make things more complicated you can often play the same note in two different places on two different strings). Those strings were an alien and not-too-friendly landscape. But I persisted, and eventually got more comfortable with uncertainty. I still squeak on occasion and can’t self-tune to save my life, but the college orchestra I play with hasn’t kicked me out yet.

Do you play an instrument? What life lessons had it provided?

Friday, March 27, 2020

DEAN KOONTZ GOES ROGUE!


Dean Koontz
          When I ask friends who their favourite author is, many of them immediately respond Dean Koontz. Dean transcends genres with his innovative storytelling, delving deep into the heart of character, tugging at our emotions, and taking us on the ride of our lives. There are authors who are talented storytellers, others who are geniuses in the craft of writing--and Dean is a master of both.

Born in Everett, Pennsylvania, Koontz now lives in California and his last fourteen hardcovers have hit #1 on the NYT Bestseller list. I had the pleasure of reading an early copy of DEVOTED, his latest blockbuster. Prepare yourself to fall in love with a canine character like no other: Kipp, a Golden Retriever with very special skills. I was thrilled when Dean agreed to do an interview with the Rogue Women Writers to share insights into his writing and this new novel. Enjoy!


Rogues: Your prose is smooth and transparent, allowing readers to lose themselves in the story, yet there are descriptive passages that are so lyrical and poetic that readers want to stop and enjoy the imagery. When you edit your books, what are the key things you look for to make your writing shine?

Dean: Thanks for those kind and generous words, but now everyone’s going to think you’re my sister! Well, for one thing, characters help determine language. The voice of each character inspires the stylistic choices of the language in scenes from his or her point of view, so that a chapter from the p.o.v. of a brilliant autistic boy like Woody will sound different from a scene in the voice of a sociopath like the antagonist, Lee Shacket, or in a scene from the p.o.v. of the dog, Kipp. At the same time, the book has to have a coherent sound overall, and the reader must not feel jarred when transitioning from one point of view to another. The English language is beautiful and uniquely flexible, and I’m always searching for new ways to create vivid pictures in the reader’s mind. There’s a school of writing that advises avoiding metaphors, similes, alliteration, lines composed in poetic meter, etc. No, no, no! That’s like a master woodworker trying to do his best craftmanship without drills and saws and chisels.

Rogues: One of the most remarkable aspects of DEVOTED was your compelling and believable scenes from the viewpoint of a golden retriever. How did you bring this voice to life?

Dean: Characters are more important to me than story, because vivid characters create the story as it goes, taking me places I could never have imagined in advance. Unusual points of view are an exciting challenge. The first time I wrote a novel with a Down syndrome boy as one of the protagonists, I researched the subject extensively, but then it was time for the imagination, guided by the heart as much as the mind, to get inside such a character and fully realize him. When numerous parents of Down syndrome children began to write to me, saying I had portrayed their son exactly, I was, frankly, thrilled. With the dog Kipp, I could rely on 25 years with three goldens of my own, which had brought me much understanding of dogs. But then I asked myself what was the most important thing about Kipp, the quality he had that no other character had, and I knew it was his pure innocence as well as the humility and devotion to others that innocence fosters. Unlike human beings, dogs do not lie, they are not capable of deceit. Once I wrapped my head around how this would affect the character’s every action, writing those scenes was a delight. I thought they were such fun that every time I finished one, I gave myself a cookie as a reward.

Rogues: You have a substantial number of points of view in DEVOTED. Do you start out with a certain number in mind or do you include those you need as you write the novel?

Dean: I don’t outline. I sort of kanoodle the story page by page. I start with a character or a few, and a premise. As the story unfolds, it demands a new viewpoint from time to time. I recall when I delivered STRANGERS, my first hardcover bestseller, the publisher insisted that there were too many characters, too many points of view, and wanted me to cut it by 40%. After the editor spent six weeks trying to show me where the cuts could be made, he finally called to say, “If any of these characters is cut, the entire story falls apart. In the future, if you’re going to write 250,000-word novels, you should write them so that some of the characters could be unplugged without damaging the story.” I wasn’t sure if he was serious or joking, so I agreed with false solemnity.

Rogues: Your work seems to smash through all genre boundaries, as your books include suspense, romance, supernatural, horror, and many other story elements. Is this an intentional choice or do you just go where the story takes you?

Dean: I read in all genres, including literary fiction, which is just another genre to me. When I sit down to write, I’m eager to employ the unique strengths that each genre offers. When I began doing cross-genre work, about 40 years ago, publishers and agents recoiled. Publishers love labeling writers in order to more easily market them, but labels restrict creativity and in fact limit a writer’s audience. When I delivered LIGHTNING, my publisher insisted it would destroy by budding career as a bestseller and that we should put it on the shelf for 7 years and publish it only after I had become more successful. Months of exhausting struggle ensued before she’d agree to publish it in a timely fashion. My agent at that time informed me that though I might have won that battle, I had lost the war, because this strange mix of genres would indeed be the end of me. I should have changed agents then, but it took me a few more years to admit the necessity.

Rogues: People with disabilities seem to be underrepresented in fiction, which is why I decided to create a series character who has type 1 diabetes. Was making Woody autistic part of a larger theme or message?

Dean: My wife, Gerda, and I have worked with Canine Companions for Independence for well over 30 years. CCI provides free assistance dogs to people with severe disabilities, socializing dogs for autistic children, and other service dogs. As I met scores of people with disabilities and was impressed with their spirit and determination, I began to realize that they never appeared in novels unless the story was all about the disability. I started developing characters with disabilities not for any noble purpose, but because I realized that here was rich material that no one was using!

Rogues: Your personal story of becoming an author demonstrates that hard work and perseverance make all the difference. It’s lovely that your wife believed in you and supported your dreams. What advice would you give new authors who are trying to break into the industry at such a challenging time?

Dean: Without Gerda’s support and faith in my work, I’d never have had this career. As in anything, there are legions of people ready to tell you that you can’t succeed, it can’t be done the way you want to do it, that you’re doomed if you don’t follow the common wisdom of the day. Lots of people, family and friends, thought I was a bum during those five years when Gerda worked and I stayed home to write. Even after I was on the bestseller list, some of them clung to the belief that I was riff-raff. I’ll admit to the riff, but not the raff. If you have one person you care for who also cares enough for you to be honest about your work and support you emotionally—that better be enough for you. Because there will be times when that one is the only one.

Rogues: What have you read this year that you would recommend to Rogue Readers?

Dean: Every ten years I reread A Tale of Two Cities, which I just finished again. It knocks me flat every time, and I always finish it in tears. I have a little book that’s a collection of bad reviews of classics written when those books were first published. It’s amazing to realize that toward the end of his career, an effort was made to dismiss Dickens as a hack, and if not for Chesterton’s passionate defense of the man’s life work, the haters might have succeeded in diminishing his reputation. Every time someone tells me that the values Dickens championed are long out of date and somehow regressive, I know them for the soulless swine they are!


Rogues: Is Elsa taking over for Bella as the communicator for the Mysterium?

Dean: The Mysterium, in DEVOTED, is a secret society of special dogs that live among us. My Elsa was the inspiration for them because I swear she’s psychic. I love the photo of the two of us on the back of the book. A boy and his dog. An old, old boy and his dog, but a boy at heart.

What is your favourite Dean Koontz novel and why? What is it about Dean's writing that appeals to you?

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

PROCRASTINATION AND WRITING: Maybe It's Not Us, It's Our Brains

by Jamie Freveletti 

What came first: the procrastination or the emotion?
Our pet tortoise "Will"


Sometimes my writing progress goes as slowly as my tortoise, Will. Or perhaps even slower, because when Will sees me coming with the lettuce he moves fairly fast. Last month I wrote a post about the science behind making a New Year's Resolution stick. Those tips were great, but I still found myself procrastinating over a chapter in my latest work-in-progress. Something was bugging me about the structure and reveals. I kept writing scenes, and each was good enough for a first draft, but the story felt as though it didn't unwind in the right sequence. Before I knew it, I began procrastinating on writing the next scene.

My usual way to work through a scene problem is to either watch a favorite film or read a favorite novel. I have some films that have incredible action sequences that I return to over and over: The Bourne Ultimatum's scene in the Victoria train station is one. As Jason Bourne talks the journalist through the station the script and images just flow. This scene always reminds me about how to intercut images. Another is Loretta Chase's Silk is for Seduction, which provides a master class on creating conflict between characters that's believable and fascinating.

But this latest delay seemed different to me. Almost as if I was afraid to make a mistake in the manuscript. Admittedly, I'm attempting a multimedia project that's outside my usual work, but negative internal talk is not like me. I've long ago learned to turn off the "you're not good enough for this" thought while I'm writing.

Or have I? Was my procrastination a symptom rather than a cause?

For an answer I started looking into the science of procrastination, and, sure enough. there's some solid research in the area. In fact, some of use have brains that are wired to procrastinate. Or at least that's the conclusion in this recent study on the subject. Turns out that our amygdala and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex work together and in some people the connection is weaker than others. Apparently emotion is what makes us procrastinate. Namely, negative emotion. The "this is too hard" or "I don't know what's wrong or how to fix it" emotion. So when you're sitting at that computer screen and thinking that you're not good enough, that negative emotion ties to our brain and makes us avoid the situation.

And the fix? The article lists a group of them--all from productivity expert Moyra Scott. Many are tried and true: like breaking down a task into smaller bits (others have called this the "swiss cheese method) and using a timer.

For me, though, just realizing that my procrastination was a way to avoid an emotion was enough to break it. I told myself:  Enough worrying and just keep going. Sure enough, when I had four more chapters done I realized that adding a subplot and moving the scenes around would solve some issues. I dropped in the hints, moved a scene, cut a revealing conversation--(well I never cut, I just moved the block to the end of the document to insert at a later time) and kept going. And it worked-for now. If the procrastination looms again I'll now know where it's coming from and hopefully banish it again.In the meantime, I'll keep writing.

And if you have any tips about how you banish procrastination please put them in the comments below. I'd love to hear about what has worked for you!

All the best,
Jamie Freveletti

Sunday, March 22, 2020

YOU NEVER FAIL UNTIL YOU QUIT

by Karna Small Bodman

I’ve always liked that quote in the title. I’ve seen it play out in my own writing life as well as in many others. Before I wrote my first thriller, Checkmate, I wrote two light-hearted novels and collected close to 50 rejections from various agents and editors. Disheartened but determined not to “quit,” I began to research, outline and finally write Checkmate. I met an editor at a writer’s conference who said she liked my story, and after working with her on edits for close to a year (!), she gave me a contract, thus beginning a new chapter in my life -- writing a series of political thrillers.

If you’ve ever suffered disappointments and thought about quitting, let me tell you about some other folks who had disappointments too, but began their own new chapters and new careers. See if you can figure out who they were:

--She was demoted from her job as a news anchor because they said, “she wasn’t fit for television.”

(Oprah Winfrey)

Walt Disney
--He wasn’t able to speak until he was almost four years old, and his teachers said he would “never amount to much.”

(Albert Einstein)

--He was fired from a newspaper for “lacking imagination” and “having no original ideas.” 

(Walt Disney)

--When he was 30 years old, he was left devastated and depressed after being unceremoniously removed from the company he started.

(Steve Jobs)


Dr. Seuss


--A teacher told him he was “too stupid to learn anything” and that he should go into a field where he “might succeed by virtue of his pleasant personality.”

(Thomas Edison)

--His first book was rejected by 27 publishers.

(Dr. Seuss)

--His fiancé died, he failed in business, had a nervous breakdown and was defeated in eight elections.

(Abraham Lincoln)

Steve Berry
I also want to include an author, friend and former President of our International Thriller Writers organization, Steve Berry who has done so much to encourage aspiring writers by telling them about his own difficult experiences.Steve tells the story about how he “has been a writer for 20 years, published for 12.” He goes on to confess that when he wrote his first thrillers, he collected some 85 rejections from various agents and editors until, finally, one offered to publish his historical thriller figuring the “time might be right for such a novel.” And, indeed it was. Now Steve’s books have consistently hit The New York Times Bestseller List. His new thriller is The Warsaw Protocol.

There are many more great stories of people who have “picked themselves up” after one or more failures. Their efforts are always inspiring, no matter their field of endeavor. 

Do you have examples of people who “started again” that you could share with us? Leave a comment as we’d all like to know. And remember the original quote, “You Never Fail Until You Quit.”

Friday, March 20, 2020

THE REAL BOOK SPY'S MARCH 2020 ROGUE RECOMMENDATION IS...

by The Real Book Spy

Who is Matt Drake? That, I suppose, depends on who you ask . . . but for my money, he’s the next big star of the thriller genre—and so is the author behind him, former Army Apache helicopter pilot turned novelist, Don Bentley.

In my time covering thrillers, I’ve seen several really talented writers make their highly anticipated debuts. From Matthew Betley and K.J. Howe—one of the fabulous Rogue Women Writers—to Jack Carr and, more recently, Chris Hauty, there has been an infusion of exciting new talent over the last five years, replenishing the thriller genre with a plethora of kickass new heroes.

In my opinion, Bentley is the next big name, and someone to watch very closely moving forward.

Whereas Jack Carr reminded me of Vince Flynn from day one, Don Bentley immediately struck me as the second coming of Brad Taylor, one of the finest action thriller writers on the planet, with a dash of Mark Greaney thrown in there for good measure. He’s got it all—a smooth, easy prose, lights-out storytelling ability, and enough been-there-done that authenticity to have readers running for cover when the action starts. To say I’m high on this book would be a dramatic understatement, and I’ve been waiting a long time to tell readers how good it is.

Truth is, I have a bit of history with Don and his book. I read it before he’d signed with Penguin, long before they’d designed the slick-looking cover that’ll soon be plastered all over bookstores. So, in a lot of ways, I’m one of his first fans (the downside is that I’ve been waiting a lot longer for the second book than everyone else), but I’m also one of his biggest. I cannot wait for readers to meet Matt Drake and fall in love with Bentley’s story like I did, and trust me, if hard-hitting action is what you crave, you’re going to flip for WITHOUT SANCTION. Promise!

Without Sanction Rogue Writers Research Blog


Don Bentley
A friend of mine said that in a good book, the author is actually using the novel’s pages to answer a question for himself. This was definitely true for me as I researched and wrote my debut novel, Without Sanction. While deployed to Afghanistan as an Army Air Cavalry Troop Commander, I was part of an operation that went tragically wrong. For years afterward, I wrestled with many questions about that day, but two in particular haunted me: Could I have done something differently? and Would I ever have the chance to atone for that awful day? In Without Sanction, my protagonist, Defense Intelligence Agency case officer Matt Drake, must answer both of these questions after an operation gone wrong leaves his best friend crippled and his asset dead.

After my time in the Army, I was privileged to serve as an FBI Special Agent. As an agent, one of my jobs was to recruit and run what we called sources and what members of the intelligence community call assets. The relationship between handler and source, or asset, is a fascinating one, rife with opportunities for conflict. I knew that I wanted to incorporate this experience into my novels, so Matt is a case officer charged with running and recruiting assets for the DIA.

For the last eight years, I’ve worked developing and marketing technology to SOCOM, or Special Operations Command. As such, most of my coworkers hail from this very insular community. This has been invaluable to my writing. I have access to subject matter experts on diverse topics ranging from High Altitude High Opening (HAHO) parachute jumps to long distance stress shooting. As I say in my acknowledgements section, anything that rings true in my novel is a testament to them. Anything I got wrong is absolutely my fault!

Beyond just technical knowledge, my colleagues have helped me to understand what it means to be a part of their community. For instance, three of my close friends are veterans of the Army’s storied 75th Ranger Regiment. Rangers are famous for many things, including their strict adherence to the Ranger Creed. Non-Rangers might mistake the six stanzas comprising the Ranger Creed for just another organizational mission statement or HR-generated set of values. Nothing could be further from the truth. To a Ranger, these simple, yet powerful words mean many things. Depending on the circumstances, the Ranger Creed can be a rallying cry, a moral code, or even a prayer. After seeing first-hand how these words still govern my friends’ live years after they’ve left the military, I knew Matt Drake had to be a Ranger.  

Thank you to The Real Book Spy and Don Bentley. Another great pick!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

BOOK MESSAGES - Don't Send Out Yours in a Old Glass Bottle!

by K.J. Howe

Many publishers are delving into marketing data to help sell books, and it seems like the old maxim, “you can’t judge a book by its cover” is being proven false. The latest studies show exactly what makes readers rocket through the book buying cycle—discovery, conversion, availability—and it would seem the bookselling process has much in common with a beauty pageant. Long before readers even engage with the blurb on the back of the book, they make decisions about their interest based on the title and the cover. They either engage with the “book message,” or they don’t.

So what exactly does this “book message” refer to and how does it work? The critical feature that drives a genre reader to sample a new author (familiar readers returning to a branded author are a different story) is the topic or “message” of the book. This “message” is immediately conveyed via the title and cover art. Research data compiled by a well-respected book audience research firm called The Codex Group demonstrates that the power of the title significantly outweighs that of the art or images on the cover, although publishers should strive to have them work together to deliver the maximum breakthrough impact.

The president of the Codex Group, Peter Hildick-Smith, believes the explanation for this is straightforward:
“People who buy and read books are word lovers; nothing intrigues them more than a strong message delivered by uniquely crafted title, subtitle, or even a reading line,” he says.
Crafting the title for a novel can be painstaking work, akin to giving birth to a thirty-pound porcupine. Hours upon hours are devoted to brainstorming multiple titles which are then discussed, dissected, tested, and usually discarded. Many novels will have dozens of proposed titles before the publisher and the author settle on “the one.” A number of people are involved in this process, from the author and editor to various department heads and consultants. If the book is weighty enough, focus groups, studies, and surveys can also be used to deliver hard numbers instead of relying on our “gut,” which is truly a subjective process.


The elements of an effective title can be difficult to pin down. Readers seek a variety of signals from an effective title, and those signals need to be delivered in a single word or a short phrase at most. Readers want to know that the book delivers the standard tropes that have made the genre or sub-genre so beloved to them, while at the same time providing a unique, intriguing approach or twist that provides fresh entertainment and new ideas. Readers want what is often referred to in Hollywood as “the same, but different.”

Most importantly, the title must create questions in the readers’ minds. It has to pose a mystery or conundrum that will make the reader want to invest the time to discover more. It needs to invite them into a world they are comfortable in, so they can chase down secrets and be dazzled by the answers. Simple right?

Speaking of Hollywood, one of the most effective titles in recent times might be that of this year’s Academy Award Winner for Best Film: Parasite. Even the simple meaning of the word is loaded with imagery and intrigue:



1. an organism that lives in or on an organism of another species (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other's expense.

2. DEROGATORY a person who habitually relies on or exploits others and gives nothing in return.

That title delivers on every level, setting a dark mood for the film, letting the audience know that while comedic, it is certainly not a comedy. A single word causes the potential viewer to ask questions immediately. Who is the parasite? Who or what does the parasite prey on? What will be the outcome of the struggle between the parasite and its host? All the elements of great intrigue are delivered in a single word.

This particular title rises to higher levels, as while the movie delivers a comprehensive conclusion, questions remain and are open to debate and interpretation. Who actually was the parasite and who was the host? The family from the basement apartment or the wealthy people living in an architect’s former home? Or both? Or was it the man hiding from the loan-sharks who was the true parasite? That is what makes for a sublime title. Layers and layers of questions and meanings in one word.

The world of fiction is filled with examples of effective, and not so effective, titles. What are some of your favorite and least favorite book and movie titles?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

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

CLUE: "This debut author is all good in the air and has a masters degree in creating writing."


A quick recap for those of you scratching your heads. 

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

What's that mean? 

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

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

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

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

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

3. Tweet out the clue on Twitter. 

Game on!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

THE TOP FIVE MOST STUPID TV COMMERCIALS


           One of the Rogues all-time favorite, most popular, most controversial blogs went live a year ago Robin Burcell's take on today's TV commercials. It made us nod our heads, or disagree, but always laugh. The blog seems particularly relevant now that so many of us are focusing on news and searching for good entertainment. My choice of dreadful, most annoying commercials? Liberty Mutual's! Read on to enjoy Robin's original post.... – Gayle Lynds


Geico Spy Commercial
You’re probably wondering what commercials have to do with thriller novels. In our case, it has to do with branding. We, the Rogue Writers, are testing out our emerging brand, hoping you’ll be eager to see what we come out with next. Some of our readers might notice a few tiny differences in our blog header, one being the tagline beneath our name: “Kick-ass thriller writers. With Lives.” We dropped the international, because some of us are writing books that take place squarely in the U.S. We’re trying to let people know that the Rogue Women write kick-ass books, but that’s not all we do (hence, the "With Lives.") Obviously, the goal is that if you see Rogue Women, you’ll identify us with good books. It’ll take some time to see if this branding thing works. 

Like books, I’ve always believed that the best commercials are memorable and tell a good story. They draw you in, or make you laugh, or make you cry (in a good way). Think Budweiser Clydesdales and dogs for loyalty and tears of joy. Jack-in-the-Box and Geico have the market on laughter. When the above brands come out with a new commercial, I often rewind the DVR to watch. They succeed, because they tell a story—usually in less than two minutes. (Do you recall the gum commercial where the high school kid left wrappers for his sweetheart? Same concept, but serial installments.) The bad commercials fail to tell a decent story. They lack thematic structure. Or if they have a theme, they fail on plot. 

Keeping that in mind, here’s my list for the first quarter of 2019. These are, without a doubt, commercials that I’d like to never see on my TV screen again:

5.  Burger King (with the plastic head). Okay, I haven’t technically seen one of these in 2019, but they’re so bad it still lingers in my memory banks—especially the one where the king is stalking someone sleeping in their bedroom. I get that Jack-in-the-Box has hit a home run with the plastic-head-thing, but the difference is that Jack is funny. The king is creepy. It makes me not want to eat at BK. Ever. 

4.  Liberty Mutual.  I suppose on the one hand, that because I remember their name, they’ve succeeded. But not in the way they’d hoped. Their jingle (Liberty, Liberty, Liberty…) reminds me that I need to record any show they’re on, so I can fast forward after making a mental note to never buy their product. Face it Liberty, these are not funny. Not even a little bit. 

3. Chevy.  (At least I think it’s Chevy. As far as branding, it’s that unmemorable.) This truck company tries to amaze you (and fails) by showing these “real people, not actors” who are taken into a big warehouse or a desert, or wherever, and get to see a pickup put through the ringer in a way they couldn’t possibly have imagined. Then the twist ending (on some), where they’ve dragged their relative in to witness their amazement. It does nothing to enhance the brand, and only proves that people will do anything to get on TV. (That being said, the Provincial Progressive Insurance spoof of this particular set of commercials is excellent. Branding, however, not so good. My husband had to correct me on insurance co.)

2.  All fabric softener, detergent, or room freshener commercials that brag about fresh scent.  Every one of them shows a person sniffing someone else’s clothes or barging into a neighbor’s house to smell their kitchen or teen’s messy bedroom. One unmemorable brand had an annoying campaign where we actually heard someone sniffing loudly (and which caused me to switch the channel, every single time before I heard the product name). Not only don’t I want people to invade my space like that, I don’t like my clothes to smell like the chemical version of a “spring day” or “clean, fresh scent.” Clothes shouldn’t smell period. (Truth: I buy unscented everything.) My version of a spring day is to walk outside and stand in the sun. If I want to smell a flower, I’ll walk up to one. 

And my top choice for worst commercial: 
Charmin as far as the eye can see.

1.  Charmin toilet paper.  The current ad campaign with the bears is so bad, I had to look up the brand, because I refuse to waste space in my memory banks. Unfortunately, the tagline is firmly burned into my brain: “We all go. Why not enjoy the go?” (Said no one ever.) To the ad agency who came up with this inane branding concept, I get that you need a way to make it memorable—and you have, just not in a good way. For the sensitive readers, just skip down to the end, and let me know your fave or most hated commercial. For those of you who agree that swearing is okay (per Rogue Gayle Lynds' (2/20) post), I have to say: WTF? There are so many ways to interpret this tagline, and all of them bad. Think triple X rating. Honestly, stick with the bears if you must. We all know what they do in the woods. That was clever. But reality is that the majority of us (and the bears) aren’t “enjoy(ing) the go,” and those who do, I don’t want to know about it. Please, please, please retire this stupid campaign!

So, Rogue Readers, who wins your vote for worst commercial ever? And would you buy one of their products? Or steer clear? I’d love to know!