Wednesday, January 22, 2020

So, You Want To Be A Writer: The 5 Things I Wish Knew

I can’t recall a time I didn’t want to become a writer. And, with the New Year’s recent celebration, I’ll hazard a guess that some aspiring writers are hoping to take a leap of faith and pursue that
dream of becoming a novelist. So, without further ado, here are five things I wish I’d known years and years ago that might have helped me become published much sooner.

5. Join a professional writer’s organization. 

It’s important to surround yourself with like-minded, supportive friends who can help share the joys and frustrations of trying to write. It doesn’t matter which genre you write in. There’s bound to be one organization with monthly meetings within driving distance (even plenty of online groups for those who live in the middle of nowhere). I’d worry less about the genre of the organization (be it science fiction, mystery, or even romance) and worry more about how professional it is. That’s where you’ll receive articles with tips and tricks, or announcements about a writer’s contest that might help break you into the business, or classes being put on in your area. It’s also where you’ll start networking. A good professional writers’ association will be worth the yearly membership, usually around $100-$150 a year.  (See links below for my fave groups.)

4. Go to a writer’s conference. 

Scrape the money together, use a couple of vacation days, and attend. Ideas pop into your head as you listen to editors, agents, or published writers talking in real time. You’ll network galore, and you gain from being excited and energized when you learn that yes, no matter how many books that multi-published author has written, he/she still thinks that process is hard and that his/her latest draft is the worst. Ever. But what they have going for them is the knowledge that no matter how crappy that book is when they finish the first draft, they can fix it. (And that is the point that writing becomes magical.) I promise you that you will not regret the decision to attend one of the great conferences. But, before you plunk down serious dollars to go, make sure it’s professional. (I've included links to a few that I highly recommend at the bottom of the page.) 

3.  Share your dream with someone who will support you.

I might have continued down the I’m-going-to-write-a-book-one-day path forever—if not for two things. First, I actually had an idea for a whole story, came up with a full-fledged plot, and started writing it down. Second, and most importantly, my husband noticed and asked what I was doing. When told him, he glanced at the legal pad, saw I had nearly filled the entire thing, and commented that I’d written a lot. I mentioned that that was only a small part of it, then pulled out about eight more legal pads, all full. He asked if that was all the same story. When I replied yes, he said, “You need to get a computer.”

I love that anecdote, because my husband was the first person in my entire life who didn’t pat me on the head and say, “How nice,” or some inane bit of nonsense. It was him being supportive right out of the gate. And while that novel never sold, and I had several false starts of other stories after, I did eventually make that first sale. Because of him. It helped that he took up the slack in household chores and kid raising, so I could pursue this dream after I came home from work. We made a pact. Pretend like I was at a second job. He did. The rest is history. So, find that supportive person, or, if your house is lacking your own personal cheerleader, make up one. You are, after all, a writer.

2. Force yourself to finish writing a whole book. It’s good exercise—then, either send it out, or shove it under your bed, or both. Just let it go.

I’ve lost track of the number of stories I’ve started over the years. My typical modus operandi was: write, get stuck, abandon, repeat. It wasn’t until I actually forced myself to write an entire novel that I started training my brain to think beyond the initial idea. (It’s a lot like learning to run a marathon. You don’t just get out there and run ten miles if you’ve never made it around the block at least once.) That being said, once you do finish a book, at some point, pick an end date for finishing revisions, then let it go. I worked/polished my first finished manuscript for a couple of years. I finally realized that I could easily work it to death for several more years. Letting go of that story was the single, hardest thing I’d ever done. It had so much potential! I'd received some positive accolades from editors/agents. At some point, though, it hit me that every year I continued working on it, I was stunting my growth as a writer. Clearly, it was the right decision. I sold the next book—one I probably wouldn’t have written had I not made that leap of faith and shoved the other one beneath my bed. So, give yourself an end goal, not just for finishing the book, but also for revisions to follow. Then move on to the next project.

1. Stop talking about it and Just Do It.

Back when I was dreaming of becoming a writer, I’d run into coworkers or friends who also wanted to write. We’d talk excitedly, then make a pact to write something together. Sometimes we’d even get as far as writing a few pages—which were always abandoned soon thereafter. It took me years to come to the conclusion that if I wanted to write a book, I was going to have to sit down and write it myself. My first “office” was a computer monitor set up on the end of a dresser, and a keyboard set up on a TV tray in front of it. I worked full-time and had 3 kids (two being twins). But I wrote in bits and pieces, 10-15 minutes at a time. I wrote in the parking lot while kids were in Sunday school, in the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office or my own doctor’s office. I only watched TV when I was doing something else, dishes or cooking dinner. The point is, I wrote. And that is the single best piece of advice I can give. Write.  

I'd like to know: What's your best piece of advice for the aspiring writer?

(Looking to join a good professional writers organization or attend a top-notch conference? I highly recommend these national organizations: Mystery Writers of America—MWA, Sisters in Crime—SinC, and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers—SFWA. And these upcoming 2019 conferences: Left Coast Crime, this year in San Diego, ThrillerFest in New York, and Bouchercon, this year in Sacramento.)

Sunday, January 19, 2020

TIME MARCHES ON…but I’m not necessarily in step.

by Lisa Black

I really try to change with the times, to keep up with current events and today’s world even as I find myself describing olden things to my younger coworkers, like how phones used to have cords and visible bra straps were not fashionable and there were only three main television channels. (That bears repeating. Three.) I understand that times change and society evolves and for the most part that is a good thing. I, for one, am really happy to repeal the moratorium on visible bra straps.
But I have my limits. There are certain things I will not accept, period, won’t, uh-uh…and a great many have to do with language.
So let me stand up and declare, for better or for worse and knowing it may earn me the censure of an unforgiving crowd, my stance on the following:
The past tense of shine is not shined. It’s shone. Apparently this is an intransitive/ transitive verb thing, so in fact they are both correct. Shined is used only with direct objects, so it’s ‘the moon shone’ but ‘I shined the shoes.’ Knowing that, when in the future confronted with a direct object... I think I’ll just reword the sentence.
There is nothing wrong with starting a sentence with and.
It’s pled, not pleaded, and has nothing to do with intransitive whatevers.
This has not changed recently, but for cryin’ out loud it’s “I couldn’t care less” not “I could care less.” Because if you could care less, then your caring quotient has not yet reached absolute zero, which is what you’re trying to convey. With the latter phrase what you’re really saying is “I still care a little tiny bit.”
Alright is not a real word.
Further, meanwhile, is a perfectly good word, though my copyeditors don’t seem to care for it. Turns out the meaning is diverging from farther, which is used as an indication of distance while further is increasingly used to imply addition, as in ‘she needs no further introduction.’ They used to be roughly equivalent. Just as phones used to come with cords.
This will come to no surprise to practically anyone, but my intransigence extends to topics beyond word usage. Pluto is a planet, dammit—it’s only 100 less km in diameter than Mercury, for cryin’ out loud! For the lack of a few miles, we toss it to the curb? I think not! And sorry, NYers and Vermonters, but Lake Champlain is not a Great Lake.
So as we head into the next decade, I will continue to stubbornly and arbitrarily choose which changes to accept and which to reject. How about you? Any word usages you refuse to use?

Friday, January 17, 2020


During my time running The Real Book Spy, few debuts have had more hype leading up to their release than Chris Hauty’s DEEP STATE.

To call this book timely would be a massive understatement. It’s about a powerful group of Washington elites who actively try to take down the president and his administration—which has proven to be incredibly divisive and bad for America. Keep in mind, this conspiracy-laden thriller came out at the very time the House of Representatives was holding a trial to impeach the current POTUS, with the words “deep state” regularly being used on cable news programs and in print around the country.

Hauty’s book is fantastic, for many reasons, but three things in particular make DEEP STATE a standout title this year.

First of all, Hauty wrote this one pretty much straight down the middle. Here, you’ll find good and bad guys on both sides of the political spectrum, but with no input from Hauty himself. In a world where everyone seems to be offering their own hot take on all things politics, Hauty kept his own opinions about Washington out of his thriller, making it an enjoyable read for everyone, conservatives and liberals.

Secondly, a longtime screenwriter, Hauty uses his decades of experience writing movies to his advantage here, creating a character-rich world that pops visually, and is paired perfectly with a plot that moves at the speed of runaway freight train. Hayley Chill, his protagonist, is literally a rogue woman on the run to try and stop a plot to kill the president—making her a no-brainer for my first pick of 2020. A veteran and former boxing champ, Haley can hold her own physically, and is also whip-smart with great instincts. She’s one of my favorite new characters in the genre, and I think Rogue fans will feel the same way once they meet her.

Lastly, Hauty delivers one of the best twists of the year, ending his first thriller in a way that’ll leave readers desperately trying to pick their jaws up off the floor before someone steps on it.

Happy reading!

Screenwriting v. Noveling

I made that word up. Novel writing just doesn’t have the same impact, at least not to the extent that the creation of fiction deserves. So, I go with “noveling.” As a new author and recent escapee from the writer torture chamber that is Hollywood, I’ve been asked at bookstore events and in podcast interviews to comment on my transition from screen to books mediums. What made me decide to leave screenwriting? Was it difficult learning how to write fiction after more than three decades of exclusively making screenplays? Are you now a novelist or a screenwriter? No, I am not the first screenwriter to make the transition. Gobs of novelists make a living in Hollywood today. I think, perhaps, what makes my situation a tad unique is the unbridled joy with which I have found a home in the publishing world. In answer to that last question, then, that I consider myself a novelist first and a screenwriter of my own novels a distant second.

And the first two questions? Allow me to be blunt. A screenwriter (especially in film but mostly to the same extent in television) has ZERO say-so in what ends up on the screen. You are a cog in a vast machine required to create the finished “product.” It’s a cliché to say so, but entirely true that all the other hands in the mix hate you (the writer) and hold you in contempt. Once hired for your services, you are essentially a highly paid and extremely expendable slave. All decision-making flows in one direction: you accommodate them. And “them” includes a small army of insecure lunatics who reign over your fate for the life of the project. Sound fun? You are paid extremely well for your suffering, fellow scribe. Suck it up. That’s what I did. Bought a house. Raised a family. Sent the kids to college. And, in that time, movies changed. They stopped being about human beings. (Why? Fall of home video and rise of global market.) So I decided to stay light on the balls of my feet, just like always. I considered filling the page from margin-to-margin. Total lark. Had no idea what I was doing except for having developed some very particular writing muscles. Which muscles? So glad you asked!

Here’s a pro tip about Hollywood. Everyone hates to read. And I mean everyone. Please don’t send me your spec script. I hate it already. Tough place to be a writer, right? How do you get people to read your million-dollar baby? You compel these word-hating recalcitrant readers by writing like your life depends on it. By learning to cut all of the fat. By treating words and language like they’re foreplay. By toying with your reader, teasing him or her and being flirty. You learn to write in the most entertaining fashion you possibly can. Tarantino is the master of this showmanship. Shane Black is an early innovator, too. They’ve been imitated (in screenwriting) to death. So you develop your own game. Punch up, not down. Give ‘em something they’ve never seen before. Surprise them. That’s how you endure thirty-five years in the screenwriting game. Or, at least, that’s how I survived.

And so I endeavored to bring those same writing chops to my noveling. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. But I am down with everything there is to know about capturing a reader’s eyeballs and clenching them in my greedy, little hands. The rest is just writing margin-to-margin, right? (Not really, but you get my point, don’t you?) Which brings me to the very most salient point of this six-hundred-and-sixty-three word screed. All of you noveling badasses out there must take this one lesson to heart: please, please, please, you must write the screenplay or pilot adaptation of your lovely novel. Don’t let anyone tell you haven’t the “skill.” Say no until they agree to give you at least that first shot. Because, fellow scribes and fans of scribes, any writer can write anything.

Thank you to The Real Book Spy and Chris Hauty. Another great pick!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

ROGUE FLASH – Gayle Lynds in the London "Guardian"

Scottish American author Helen MacInnes

Exciting news!  British female authors are making in-roads in the male-dominated field of spy fiction. They’re publishing first-rate novels across the pond that are winning awards and making best-seller lists.  In fact, as Guardian writer Alison Flood announces in Nobody in Tesco buys spy books by women, the Brit “boys' club is having its cover blown.”

How bad has it been?  “Wikipedia lists 127 notable writers of spy fiction, dead and living, and only seven of them are women,” Flood explains.  “Helen MacInnes, the Scottish-born American author of 21 spy novels that have sold more than 25m copies in the US alone, will make it on to some lists, if she’s lucky. So will U.S. writer Gayle Lynds;
both receive the soubriquet of  
the ‘queen of spy fiction’.”
American author Gayle Lynds
“Back in 1995, though, Lynds sent her debut spy thriller Masquerade to a New York publishing house. Its president, she told the Wall Street Journal, at first agreed to buy it, but changed her mind the following day.

‘Her reason? “No woman could have written this novel’.”  She went to another publisher, and it became a bestseller.”...

Hooray for the Brits!
And hooray for the Yanks, too, because more and more women over here are cracking their code books and contributing 
impressive novels 
to the important 
field of espionage 

These top spy writers include Rogues:
Robin Burcell
Chris Goff
KJ Howe
Karna Small Bodman
Jamie Freveletti

and former Rogues
Francine Mathews
Sonja Stone

Click on their names.  Legunt verum: You'll enjoy their books!

Do you have favorite female spy novelists?  If it's not classified, please tell....

Wednesday, January 15, 2020


Submitted by Jamie Freveletti

Finished your manuscript and wondering how to take it forward to the next step? I'm happy to announce that my outstanding agent, Barbara Poelle, has written a book that will answer all of your questions about the publishing industry and beyond. The author of the wildly successful Writer's Digest article of the same name, FUNNY YOU SHOULD ASK is an insider's view to the industry. This book contains information every author should have, and that includes published authors, because we, too, are subject to the submission process-just to a publishing house instead of to an agent. 

We're so glad to have her here at Rogue Women Writers! Barbara started her career in 2007, but before that was a stand up comic Los Angeles. She's funny, fresh, and knows her business.  So we hit her with some of questions, both about agenting, writing and life.  

Rogues: What was harder: writing this book or doing stand up comedy in LA?

Ha! Well first of all, I think every person should have to do two things in life: wait tables and do 3 minutes of stand up. There is something so uniquely humbling and yet empowering about both of those careers- they both helped to form the foundation in how I approach agenting and quite frankly, life.

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

Rogues: What made you decide to become an agent?
Well, I was stepping back from acting, just wasn’t feeling the buzz I used to, and I was brushing my teeth, telling my newly wedded husband how I didn’t feel like I had a particular direction and he said, “You should be a literary agent.” And I said, “What? Why?” And he said, “What are your two favorite things?” And I said, “Reading and telling people what to do.”
And the rest is history.

Rogues:  Describe your very first car. 
It was a silver mustang…which was gifted to me on my 16th birthday and then… 4 days later I totaled it in an accident that was my fault. No one got hurt, but I was terrified to drive ever again. I basically refused to get in a car unless I had to. A few days later my dad came home with a shitty little Plymouth Horizon hatchback he paid 2oo bucks cash for and said, “Get behind the wheel and go around the block. Now.”
I shook the whole way, prob never topped 10mph, but I did it. Because of that lesson I have always viewed mistakes as such important fulcrums from which to learn and pivot-  and to always, no matter the fear, get back behind the wheel.

Rogues:  What's your favorite drink? 
I know I am supposed to say something pithy like, “Yes.” Or “Anything distilled.” But really my favorite drink is whatever one I am having across from someone I adore.  

Rogues:  Do you have a literary hero? A teacher, mentor, family member, author?
I probably quote Mary Oliver at least once a week. Whenever I feel a little untethered, I open one of her books and read one of her poems and it somehow seems to be EXACTLY what I needed in that moment.

Rogues:  You’ve been on the agent side of the business, but not as a writer. How was it moving to the other side of the desk, so to speak? Did anything surprise you when seen from a writers’ perspective?

I laughed a lot anytime I realized I was echoing some of my authors’ peccadilloes. But the biggest ahhhh for me was that there was a doubling down on the awe and appreciation I have for what my authors do, ass in chair, every day. My authors are true word warriors. I am so happy to be in this role: to have the machete, the lantern and the pith helmet (at a rakish angle, obvi) clearing the way for their attack. 

Rogues:  Where do you like to write?

As a full time working mom I didn’t have a lot of choice on where to write- it was before and after kids and work were done for the day. But one Saturday, I snuck away to The Uptown Garrison in Washington Heights and wrote for about 5 hours and it. Was. Bliss. Now I bribe my children with Garrison baked goods and read submissions there on Saturday or Sunday mornings. 
Rogues:  If you could have lived in a different time period, what would it be?
I would not. I feel like women have come so far and yet still have so much still to claw towards, I couldn’t bear to even go back a year.

Rogues:  What's your favorite word?

Rogues: Will you be doing events for the book? 
A little here and there, but this book is mostly an extension of what I do for my authors in a way to demystify the publishing industry and create a conduit and a comfort for those pursuing their art. I see this to be a tool for others, not a career path for myself. 

Rogues:  Thank you for taking the time to join us here! 


Monday, January 13, 2020

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

CLUE:  "This debut author qualifies for AARP, and loves to write plays and poems."

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!

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

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

3. Tweet out the clue on a comment below and you'll be entered into a drawing for a copy of The Real Book Spy's JANUARY ROGUE RECOMMENDATION

Game on!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Tips for aspiring writers

By Karna Small Bodman

You have always harbored the desire to become an author. You have what you're certain is a great idea. You vow to make the time to get it down -- on your computer, a tablet or whatever is handy when you're so inspired. You've read a ton of novels, you've decided on your genre, you've gathered a pile of research. Now where in the world do you begin? You've attended writing workshops and just the other day you read the interview with Rogue "In the Limelight" guest, bestselling author, Lee Goldberg, who emphasized that you absoluely must have a killer opening (scroll down below this post to read his advice) 
Several months ago we Rogues had a post about our favorite opening lines and I recall this one from George Orwell's famous 1984, "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." Wow! What reader would be able to put that book down without reading more? And that's the whole point, of course.  

I recently attended a workshop where the speaker, author Abigale Dane, talked about "Killer Opening Lines" and chapter endings to keep your readers turning the pages, along with several ways to end your story. She called them "Endings to Die For." I wanted to share some of her helpful points.

Let's go back to opening lines. I'm sure you all have your favorite examples, but one author who has always impressed me with his creative openings is Ken Follett who has been writing international bestsellers for decades.

Author Ken Follett
I happen to have a number of his novels in our library, collected over many years.  Let me give you a few examples.  Ken's book, A Dangerous Fortune, published back in 1993, has this opening line:

      On the day of the tragedy, the boys of Windfield School had been confined to their rooms.

And from his famous 973 page story, The Pillars of the Earth:

       The small boys came early to the hanging.

While both of those openings make the story-to-come sound pretty dire, there are many ways to think about opening lines - including the use of: action, dilemma, surprise, humor, irony, satire, shock, intrigue. The workshop presenter said that the writer should show that something just happened, is happening or is about to change. For more examples, she suggested we could check out this blog, 5 Spellbinding Ways to Begin Your Novel written by Juleanne Berokoff.

On a personal note, I thought about a humorous opening line, but never developed the story.  It was "They used to whistle." For you aspiring writing, go figure out the most promising opening you can and start writing.

Next come chapter endings. One rule: do not end a chapter with one of your characters simply going to sleep.  Again, you want your readers to keep turning the pages. How? Here's a list:
     --Ask a question
     --Present a door                                
Author Hank Phillippi Ryan
     --Invent an obstacle
     --Force a decision
     --Realize a mistake
     --Form a plan
     --A visitor arrives
     --Learn something new
     --Create unresolved action
     --A pivotal confession
     --A big misunderstanding

Many of those ideas have been summarized in publications by author friend (and prior Rogue guest blogger)  Hank Phillippi Ryan whose terrific novels truly do keep me turning the pages.

OK, now you've got your story down with a dynamite opening, tension at the end of every chapter, and it's time to figure out how to wrap up your creation with a clever ending that will satisfy your readers and perhaps have them anxiously anticipating your next endeavor (if you're planning a sequel).  In the workshop, it was emphasized that you don't ask: How do I want this story to end? Instead ask: What final reaction do I want my reader to have? Amusement, tears, shock, fear, surprise, wonder, humor, satisfaction? A great way to end a novel is with a unique plot twist.

When it comes to plot twists, one of the best  I've encountered recently was in the movie The Good Liar with Helen Mirren.
If you haven't seen it, you should check it out. I guarantee you will learn about a plot twist you never saw coming. You might try this technique (no "foreshadowing") in your own story.

An ending all of us undoubtedly remember, if not from the famous novel by Margaret Mitchell, perhaps from the film adaptation of Gone with the Wind. Mitchell's writing earned her a Pulitzer Prize and a description of that book as "The Great American Novel."  Who can forget the wealthy plantation owner, Scarlett O'Hara, who saw her entire way of life change  in the sweeping tale of passion, courage and determination -- showcased in this last line, "Tomorrow, I'll think of some way to get him back.  After all, tomorrow is another day."

Finally, some authors have ended their novels with a play on the title.  I did that with my third thriller, Final Finesse, the story of an evil plot by a dictator that was carried out by his henchman, Rossi, who later went beyond the dictator's original plan by putting an even worse operation in play.  The last paragraph reads like this:

   Tripp turned to Samantha and whispered, "I thought it was pretty wild when you told me the FBI had learned that
it was Rossi who orchestrated the last attack and that el presidente evidently had nothing to do with it. But then he gets the blame for all of it and now he's history."
   Samantha leaned over and murmured, "Yes. Let's just call that the FINAL FINESSE."

Do you have some books with clever endings that you'd like to recommend to aspiring writers (and the rest of us)? Leave a comment and thanks for visiting us here on Rogue Women Writers.

...Karna Small Bodman
  My website

Saturday, January 11, 2020

ROGUE FLASH: Tomorrow is the Time to Buy!

by Chris Goff

Guess what?

DARK WATERS, the first book in my Raisa Jordan thriller series, has been selected for Amazon's January 12th "Wish List Reads Gold Box January Kindle Deal." 

What does that mean? 

I did a little research on the "Gold Box Deals," and I'll admit, I'm still a little confused. There's a lot of chatter, but finding the actual place where the deals appear on the Amazon website is a challenge. Suffice it to know that on January 12th, you can buy the kindle ebook version of DARK WATERS for only $1.99.

DARK WATERS is the first book in the Raisa Jordan series, and a 2016 Finalist for a Colorado Book Award, Colorado Author's League Award and the Anthony Award for Best Crime Fiction Audio.

"Absolutely masterful...Goff’s novel is filled with non-stop action and is 
very accurate in ​portraying the delicate political situation in the Middle East."
Manhattan Book Review

Raisa “Rae” Jordan, an agent for the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service, isn't in Israel for more than a day before her predecessor is assassinated in a Tel Aviv square. Assigned to investigate, she must also protect Judge Ben Taylor and his teenage daughter, who may be the next targets. They are most certainly being threatened by a desperate cadre of terrorists with their sights set on the Secretary of State's upcoming visit. But is an attack on the Secretary of State all that they have planned or is that just the beginning?

There are no protocols for this kind of a situation, and following the rules is exactly the kind of thing that could get the Taylors killed. To subvert an attack that could crush the fledgling peace in the Middle East, Jordan must trust her instincts and bring together a contentious team of agents from Israel, the U.S., and the Palestinian territories to uncover a conspiracy years in the making.

DARK WATERS received some great recommendations, but perhaps my favorite comes from the Rogue's own Gayle Lynds, who was recently called out as "the queen of spy fiction" alongside Helen MacInnes in The Guardian :

"Edgy and exciting....Rich with detail and bristling with suspense, 
you’ll want to put your life on hold to read this first-rate thriller." 
​ — Gayle Lynds, New York Times bestselling author

If you haven't read DARK WATERS and you own a kindle, this is THE BEST DEAL YOU'LL FIND. Please click here and buy your copy today.

Friday, January 10, 2020

In the Limelight: Lee Goldberg Goes Rogue

Lost Hills by Lee Goldberg
Submitted by Robin Burcell

I first met my friend Lee Goldberg at a writer's conference decades ago, having a fangirl moment when I found out that he wrote for a few of my favorite TV shows, and tie-in novels to go with them. He's not only a talented and prolific author, but he's a super nice guy. Here are 9 things you might not know about Lee. Enjoy!

1. Which is harder: writing the first or last sentence?
By far the first. It not only has to set the stage, establish the tone and introduce the voice for the story to come, but it also has to grab the reader’s interest. Here are some of my first lines:
“The assassin wore only a Speedo and his lean body was slathered with sunscreen that made him smell like a baked coconut.” True Fiction
“Conrad Stipe sat in the bar of the Spokane Marriott nursing his sixth Old Grand Dad, flashing his nicotine-stained teeth at the big-busted woman in the too-tight silver space suit.” Dead Space
“It’d never gone so long without a murder.” Mr. Monk Gets Even
“The northern stretch of Mulholland Highway ended in a T-intersection with Mulholland Road.” Lost Hills
Now, I know what you’re thinking, the opening line of LOST HILLS sounds awfully flat compared to those three previous examples. But that was intentional. I wanted to immediately establish that LOST HILLS is a just-the-facts-ma’am police procedural, that the “authorial voice” wouldn’t be clever, flashy, or opinionated, and that any observations would be made by the characters, not the third-person narrator. That said, there is a hook in that opening sentence, albeit a subtle one: The highway and the road have the same name? Why is that? Isn’t that confusing? Yes, it is. And it’s the crux of the story.
By the time you get to the last line of a novel, you already have the reader in your grasp. All you’re doing is tying the bow on the story and characters…and, if the book is part of a series, leaving the reader wanting more. That line is always easy. The first line? That is hell. I rewrite it constantly as I am writing the book (and sometimes, I’m still tweaking it through copyediting and the final galley!).
Author Lee Goldberg
2. What's your favorite word?
3. Where do you like to write?
Because I travel a lot, and spent decades working in TV, where I often am on-location wherever we're shooting, I've learned to write anywhere and under almost any circumstances. I've written in airplanes, cars, hotels, factories, boats, trains, garages, abandoned warehouses, hospitals, and once even in the waiting room of an insane asylum while a relative was being admitted for care. I've written on the beach, in a forest, in a maternity ward, under an overpass, and on an oil derrick. I've written in the snow, in the rain, and in sweltering heat. But I suppose I do my best work in my home office, between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m, listening to TV & movie soundtracks and drinking caffeine-free Diet Coke.  

4. What do you do when you need to take a break from writing?

After I’ve finished a novel, after months of carrying all the characters and plot in my head, and feeling the heavy pressure of a deadline, I need a week or two to clear my mind and decompress. Half of the time, I will get a bad cold or some other ailment. It's like my body has been in battle mode for months and, the instant I let my defenses down, I catch something. But after two or three weeks, I feel the immediate desire to write again. My life feels empty if I don’t have a book or script to work on. Plus, I make my living as a writer... and if I am not writing, I am not getting paid :-)

5. If you could have lived in a different time period, what would that be?

The future…because it’s unknown and full of challenges & potential. I’m not someone who enjoys living in the past, or who pines for an earlier time. My best days are now and tomorrow. 

6. What's your favorite drink?

Diet Shasta Cola. If you're talking about alcoholic beverages, I didn't touch the stuff until five years ago. My favorite alcoholic beverage is a manly, rugged lemon drop martini. 
7. When you were ten years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer. I am one of the very, very lucky people who is living exactly the life he dreamed of when he was a kid. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t appreciate my good fortune…or realize that I am doing in my fifties exactly what I was doing in my childhood (writing stories while listening to TV & movie soundtracks).
8. Do you have a literary hero? A teacher, mentor, family member, author who has inspired you to write stories?
I am the writer I am today largely because of Michael Gleason. And in some ways, I am the man I am today because of him, too. Michael is perhaps best known as the writer/co-creator of Remington Steele, but he also worked on scores of other series (McCloud, The Six Million Dollar Man, etc.).

He gave me, and my former TV writing partner William Rabkin, our first TV staff jobsMichael was warm and encouraging and took an instant, fatherly interest in us. He taught us everything he knew. He brought us into casting, editing, music spotting and every other aspect of production and post-production…and gave us far more responsibility than we deserved. He became our professor of television. Our mentor. Our dear friend.

Michael took us with him to lunch every day at La Serre, where he had his own table marked with his name on a brass plaque, and liked to schmooze with his industry friends. We loved it but it was bankrupting us. After a week or two, we told him that we couldn’t afford to eat like that every day. He understood. We kept eating there…but he picked up our check. 

Michael wasn't a perfect person. He had his demons. But he used his mistakes, both personal and professional, as life lessons for me. He gave me some advice that I’ve lived by ever since and have passed on to others:

Don’t get divorced.

You are a writer, first and foremost. Don’t fall in love with your producer credit, no matter how high you climb, or you’ll limit your opportunities. The goal is to get paid to write. The rest is gravy.  

Don’t get divorced.

Live below your means. Your show could be cancelled tomorrow… or maybe in five years…but after that you might not work for a long time, or not as often, or not get paid as well. So sock your money away. Don’t buy a Rolls Royce or build a tennis court on a cliff. 

Don’t get divorced.

Michael was full of love, creativity, and boundless energy. Nobody. NOBODY, could tell a story like he did. The stories and anecdotes were wonderful, but the real pleasure for me was the obvious joy he took in sharing them. In fact, he taught me how to pitch by insisting that I sell our episodes to the network myself. His notes on my performance would either be: “Less Gleason” or “More Gleason.” And I knew exactly what he meant.

Every time I tell a story, I hear Michael Gleason in my ear. I know that I always will.

9. Do you write what you know or what you want to know?

Always what I want to know. I’ve yet to write a book that didn’t require me to do a lot of research into a subject (or many subjects) that I know nothing about. It usually means reading books and articles, interviewing experts, and traveling to places near and far that I’ve never been. I always learn something from every book I write.

Lee Goldberg is a two-time Edgar Award and two-time Shamus Award nominee and the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty novels, including the Ian Ludlow thrillers Killer Thriller and True Fiction, King City, The Walk, fifteen Monk mysteries, and the internationally bestselling Fox & O’Hare books (The Heist, The Chase, The Job, The Scam, and The Pursuit) co-written with Janet Evanovich. He has also written and/or produced many TV shows, including Diagnosis Murder, SeaQuest, and Monk, and is the co-creator of the hit Hallmark movie series Mystery 101. As an international television consultant, he has advised networks and studios in Canada, France, Germany, Spain, China, Sweden, and the Netherlands on the creation, writing, and production of episodic television series. You can find more information about Lee and his work at