Wednesday, February 19, 2020

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

CLUE: "This former lawyer hails from TX, loves cowboy boots, and has an affinity for serial killers."

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 FEBRUARY 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, February 16, 2020


by Karna Small Bodman

Enjoying the romantic Valentine chocolates received last week while reading a thriller, I reflected on a question I’ve heard asked at many writers’ workshops and conferences: Should we weave a romantic relationship into our thrillers, or “play it straight?”

It turns out that of all the genre fiction, the most popular IS “Suspense/Thriller” with over twenty million of these novels sold per year. However, a close second is “Romance,” which has grown into a “1.5 billion-dollar industry.” A few months ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that THE most watched TV channel during the Holiday Season was Hallmark with its romantic stories featuring inspiration, a relationship plus a happy ending.

So, is there a way to gain even more readers by combining the two? I recall that when my first thriller, CHECKMATE was released, I wrote about a young scientist paired with an officer on The White House National Security Council staff who work together to track down villains while falling in love. I did receive (just) one email from a reader who said I should not have included a love scene because “it slowed down the action.”

Of course, different readers have different ideas about pacing, and a number of authors have found great ways to combine these two most popular types of stories, now called “Romantic Thrillers.” One of the best in the business is prolific author, Nora Roberts who has penned 215 novels in both the strictly romance category under that name and romantic thrillers using the pen name J.D. Robb. Booklist writes that her recently released Golden in Death has a plot that “seamlessly fuses danger, propulsive pacing and a sexy partnership between a tough-as-nails heroine and a man of mystery.” These books have consistently hit The New York Times bestseller lists as soon as they are published.

An author of 71 bestselling novels with 80 million copies in print world-wide, and translated into 34 languages, is Sandra Brown, who has also successfully combined suspense with budding relationships. Her recent release, Seeing Red, is described by the Associated Press this way: “Brown’s story mixes thrills with mystery and a spicy sex scene or two . . . it is one of Brown’s best books in years.”

One more great female author, Linda Howard, has been penning clever romantic thrillers for decades. Her story, Mr. Perfect, pairs a woman with an attractive under-cover cop. They work together when lives of her friends are threatened. A summary of this novel indicates that it “combines rapid fire, often humorous dialogue with scenes where the two are about to steam up the windows and burn up the sheets.”

While we have been focusing here on novels combining thrillers with romance, looking back we see examples of wonderful, intriguing movies that would also be dubbed “Romantic Thrillers.” A master of this type of film, of course, was Alfred Hitchcock with the memorable Vertigo and Notorious. Finally, the all-time favorite classic produced back in 1941 featuring the relationship between Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca, is still being shown today.

Now, what do YOU think? Should writers include a romantic involvement in mysteries and thrillers? If so, what are some of your favorite stories with this combination of elements?

Friday, February 14, 2020


by Lisa Black

           Bestselling author Meg Gardiner's fifteen thrillers have been translated into twenty languages. She graduated from Stanford Law, became a wife and mother to three, and won an Edgar. Oh yes, and is a three time Jeopardy! champ. Today, we ply her with Rogue questions!! 

Rogues: Which is harder as you approach writing a new novel: writing the first or last sentence?

Meg: Definitely the first sentence. It’s the doorway to the novel. The first sentence has to hint at the world that lies beyond, and entice readers across the threshold into the story. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a few little words.

Rogues: What's your favorite word?

Meg: Inspiration. Because it’s a rare and wonderful thing, and when I capture it, I’m thrilled.

Rogues: Where do you like to write?

Meg: The spare bedroom that I’ve claimed as an office. The windows overlook a spread of oak trees where red-shouldered hawks swoop and perch. I’ve also taught myself to write on airplanes. Strapping myself into a seat that’s hurtling across the sky at nearly 600 mph provides a wonderful work environment... because I can’t escape it. At least, not without causing a scene at 35,000 feet. I have to sit still and actually write.

Rogues: What do you do when you need to take a break from writing?

Meg: I hike, go to concerts (I live in Austin!) and send memes to my kids. Oh, who am I kidding? I read.

Rogues: If you could have lived in a different time period, what would it be?

Meg: WWII. I wish I could have worked at Bletchley Park.

Rogues: What's your favorite drink?

Meg: Coffee. AND LOTS OF IT.

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

Meg: A writer. From Day One.

Rogues: Do you have a literary hero? A teacher, mentor, family member, author who has inspired you to write your novels? 

Meg: My parents. They told me I could do whatever I set my mind to, and be whatever I wanted to be. They believed in me.

Rogues: Describe your very first car.

Meg: A ’66 Mustang my parents bought used, and let me drive to high school. Sky blue with a straight six engine. My baby.

Rogues: Do you write what you know or what you want to know?

Meg: What I want to know.

Rogues: This has been fun!

Meg: Thanks for inviting me to visit the blog. I hope you’ll look for my new novel, THE DARK CORNERS OF THE NIGHT.

Find out more about Meg's books at:

What is your favorite Meg Gardiner novel?

Wednesday, February 12, 2020


by K.J. Howe

Valentine’s day holds a special place in our hearts. A holiday set aside to celebrate love in all of its forms—romantic, filial, parental, for pets, teachers, and anyone else you might want to include. It’s also an excuse to wear red, buy presents, and eat tons of chocolate. What more could one ask for? But inquiring minds want to dig a bit deeper. Just who was this Saint Valentine and where did this tradition originate?

Interestingly, we can’t be sure which Saint Valentine the day is named after or what the real origin of this holiday was:

The name Valentine was very popular in late antiquity (its root found in the Latin “valens” meaning worthy, strong or powerful) and no less than 14 recognized saints share that name from the period, seven of whom who died on February 14th. Scholars have narrowed the field down to three Saint Valentines who are the most likely candidates behind the holiday. The confusion has existed for over 1500 years because when the feast of Saint Valentine was first established by Pope Gelasius I in 496, he included Saint Valentine among those “whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are only know to God.”

As time passed, tradition merged at least two of the three Saint Valentines into a single mythological figure who forms the basis of modern traditions. By the time the Middle Ages rolled around, Saint Valentine was a Christian persecuted for his faith and interrogated by the Emperor Claudius II in person. When Claudius tried to convince Valentine to accept paganism to save his life, Valentine responded by trying to convert Claudius to Christianity to save his soul. We all know how that attempt worked out, but even after his execution had been ordered, Valentine performed a miracle by curing Julia—daughter of his jailor Asterius—of her blindness. In turn, Asterius and his forty-six-member household converted to Christianity.

The legend developed and later the story included Saint Valentine writing a final note to Julia the night before his execution which he signed “Your Valentine,” the origin of how Valentine’s cards are signed today. Further expansion of his story included the tale that this historic cupid performed secret Christian weddings for Roman soldiers who had been forbidden to marry. At the weddings, he would cut out heart shapes from parchment paper and give them to the newlyweds to remind them of their vows and commitments.

Like several other parts of modern folklore, the first recorded association of St. Valentine’s Day comes to us from Geoffrey Chaucer, who in 1382 wrote:
"For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make."
Chaucer insinuated that he was only expressing a well-established tradition, but it remains our earliest association of the date with romantic notions. The idea of birds choosing their mates on February 14th was quickly emulated by several other authors, and by the year 1400, the date was enshrined in the “Charter of the Court of Love” as a day that was celebrated with a feast, amorous song and poetry competitions, jousting, and dancing. The attending ladies would hear and rule on disputes from various lovers. Whether these celebrations actually took place is debatable, but they sure made for entertaining reading.

From the 1400’s onwards, Valentine’s Day gained momentum, appearing in private letters and even earning a reference in Shakespeare’s Hamlet:
To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes,
And dupp'd the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.
— William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5
Valentine’s Day has become a powerful meme, accepted across many cultures and religious denominations. St. Valentine remains on the official church calendar for the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox, and several other denominations. And while the real explosion in the modern world started in English-speaking countries (lead by the UK), it has become a ubiquitous celebration. Singaporeans, Chinese, and South Koreans now spend the most money on Valentine’s gifts!

It has also become an economic force, with approximately $19.6 billion dollars spent on an average year just in the United States—and about $1.8 billion of that is spent on candy alone, and $650 million is spent on gifts for pets. In fact, cat owners spend about 20% more on Valentine’s gifts for their kittens than dog owners spend on their animals. Fascinating…

Valentine’s Day epitomizes the amazing power of a positive idea. From a fairly obscure Christian feast day, the idea has spread across the globe, touching many cultures and billions of lives. A clear demonstration of the power of love. Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!

Who will be your Valentine this year?

Sunday, February 9, 2020


Marie Benedict
by Karna Small Bodman

          We are delighted to welcome New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction, Marie Benedict, to be our guest blogger. I heard Marie talk about her terrific books when she spoke to the Naples, FL Friends of the Library series last week (which attracts over 700 attendees!!) and was happy to chat with her there about how I have enjoyed reading her stories about remarkable (and "under appreciated") women. One of my favorite books of hers was THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM about Hedy Lamarr. Two other winners were CARNEGIE'S MAID and THE OTHER EINSTEIN about the first Mrs. Albert Einstein. Marie has a brand new release LADY CLEMENTINE.Now the author gives us the background and inspiration for this very interesting novel:

From Marie Benedict:
          When you picture the leadership of Great Britain during the hardships and challenges of World War II, do you think of Winston Churchill in those iconic photographs? Do you imagine the ubiquitous cigar, the Homburg hat, the famous speeches, and the “V” for victory sign? Do you usually envision him alone, or perhaps, in the rare photograph, with Roosevelt or Stalin? Would it surprise you to know that the lens on those famous images of Winston during the war — and long before it as well — should be broadened to include his wife, Clementine?

Winston Churchill
If the photographs of Winston were altered to accurately reflect the role that Clementine Churchill played throughout their lives — not only in World War I and World War II, but all the critical years in between — we would see her sharing the broad mantle of leadership alongside her husband, because their society would not allow her to assume her own political power. We would witness her campaigning alongside Winston for Parliament over many decades and serving as a senior government official’s wife like no other, as the spouse of the Home Secretary, Lord Admiral, and of course, the Prime Minister — all the while vetting and editing his speeches, discussing policies and strategies, influencing governmental leaders towards their shared goals, and helping him deal with the difficult landscape of colleagues and staff.

Clementine Churchill
And these tasks are only the ones she performed with Winston. Behind the scenes, she are undertook many projects of her own design — such as ensuring the safety of air raid shelters for the British people during the Blitz, advocating for roles for women in the war effort, and raising millions of dollars in aid for the wounded people of Russia — not to mention the vast array of responsibilities she assumed on Winston’s behalf, such as caring for their family and home and tending to his demanding schedule, and for his safety, such as accompanying him on his tours of Blitz sites so he wouldn’t act rashly, as was his wont, and get in harm’s way.

So why do we always envision Winston alone during the critical periods in modern history? Because he certainly wasn’t. Can we attribute it to limited historical preconceptions about the nature of women’s abilities? If so, even though we cannot travel back in time and alter the photographic record to ensure that it accurately reflects Clementine’s role, we need to begin affirmatively write women back into the historical narrative where they’ve been all along, hidden in plain sight.

Now what women in history do you feel were never given the credit for their accomplishments?                                                                                   

Friday, February 7, 2020


Use the links below to binge read our posts from January

Can you believe it's February already? Here's what we Rogues talked about, researched, and revealed in January as we opened 2020....

Gayle Lynds reveals 5 secrets to be successful AND happy in the new decade here

Physical exercise is good for our bodies, but it's also a mega-boost for our minds. K.J. Howe talks sports and the 7 Benefits of Finding Your Game.

Nine things we didn't know about Lee Goldberg, New York Times bestselling author of LOST HILLS. Get the scoop as one of our favorite authors basks In the Rogue Limelight.

For writers looking for great ways to begin a novel, create chapter endings and put together intriguing and "satisfying" endings -- Karna Small Bodman has tips for you here.

Have questions about publishing? Literary Agent Barbara Poelle might just answer them in her new book FUNNY YOU SHOULD ASK, an extension of her wildly popular Writers' Digest column of the same name. 

Technically correct isn't always correct--at least in Lisa Black's book--which she talks about here

Rogue Flash: Brit female authors have blown the "old boys" club cover, while here in the U.S., women like the Rogues are doing the same. Read all about it in Gayle Lynds in the London Guardian.

Chris Hauty, January 2020's Rogue Recommendation, is a debut author old enough to be a member of AARP. A screenwriter and a poet, this is a new political thriller you won't want to miss.

Rogue Robin Burcell gives the 5 tips she wished she knew as a beginning novelist, but they're good for anyone who writes. Be sure to check the comments for other tips!

Ever wonder where authors get their ideas. You're going to want to follow in her footsteps as our own Lisa Black Goes (More) Rogue: In the Limelight.

10 Tips from top thriller writers - some great advice from those at the top of their game.

Andrew Grant goes Rogue and shares tales of the his tour while In the Rogue Limelight.


Wednesday, February 5, 2020


by Gayle Lynds

My husband, John, still dreams of jogging.  Oh, for healthy knees!  Then there’s my friend who’s upset because the book she’s been reading went AWOL last week.  Where is the darn thing?  And all of us lose keys, forget people’s names, or miss appointments.  It’s the human condition.
John's Steinway - isn't she a beauty?
          Still, wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to go back sometimes and regain a piece of the past?  With that in mind, here's my problem:  I can no longer play the piano, and I miss it terribly.  There was a time I played Chopin and Mozart, Gershwin and boogie-woogie, as well as copious blues and rock ‘n’ roll.  I memorized easily, and I composed. 
          There’s an old photo of me reaching over my playpen to touch the keys of my family’s decrepit piano.  For me, the only instrument was always the piano.  Finally, when I was eight years old, my parents saved enough to buy an “upright grand.”  Dad put it in a back room, and it was all mine.  It had a glorious big sound and could hold a tune.  Wow, some parents!  Nirvana!
          Mom said she knew I was angry when I’d bang out Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp Minor as if the armies of Hannibal were invading across the Missouri River.  (We lived in Iowa.)  She knew I was in love when I gave a particularly sappy rendition of Debussy’s Claire de Lune or Love Me Tender – Elvis Presley, remember?
          Then life happened in the form of deaths, poverty, and responsibilities.  Hormones figured in there, too.  All right, I admit it:  Boys were delicious to look at – but I was too timid to return their smiles.
          So I dove deep into reading where I could inhale the exotic scent of frangipani and gape at a behemoth Soviet tank.  The crazy excitement of genius fascinated me, and I puzzled at the emotional desert of sociopathy.  Books taught me everything from grammar to how to kiss, and I reveled in living vicariously many lives, each more interesting, more adventurous, and more brave than my own.
          After a while, my love of books overwhelmed my love of music.  By college, I’d stopped playing piano but was too busy, too unaware, to notice.
          Today I sit on my husband’s piano bench, soaking in the beauty of his baby grand.  I love to hear him play.  Now he’s away for a few hours, so I get out some of my old music and choose Star Dust, words by Mitchell Parish, music by Hoagy Carmichael.  I open it to the first page and study the music — my music, my old sheet music.  Yes, I still have a lot of it.  I haven’t been able to make myself throw it away. 
          But then my heart sinks.  I stare at the notes and realize I don’t know what they mean.  I’m not sure even where Middle C is on the stanza — or on the keyboard.  I remember being able to look at music and feel it between my ears and in the center of my ribcage.  I’m stunned at what I’ve lost.  Like my mother’s kiss, I’ve lost the anger, joy, fear, shyness, incompetence, triumph, grief ... that once rolled easily from my fingers....
"Gloriously satisfying!" – L.A. Times
           A few years ago I wrote a psychological suspense thriller called MOSAIC about a character named Julia Austrian, a blind concert pianist.  With her Steinway, Julia travels internationally, soloing on the planet’s great stages.  She loves everything about her life – the music, the bouquets, the reviews, the camaraderie.  When interviewed, she always says that being blind is an advantage to a pianist.  In the music, she lives.
          But the truth is, she aches to see again, just as I now ache to play music.  Until she was eighteen years old, she’d had normal eyesight.  Imagine this coincidence – I was eighteen when I stopped playing. 
          The novel is also about a presidential election and a large powerful family, of which Julia is a member.  None of them knows her secret – Julia has psychological blindness, Conversion Disorder.  Simplified, it’s bad PTSD.  But with the right trauma therapy, she may be able to see again. 
          Working on the novel forced me to face my old sheet music – and a deepening sense of loss because if I couldn’t hear the music just by looking at the notes, how could I possibly create a world-class pianist like Julia Austrian? 
          I must remember, go back in time, the writer in me tells myself.... The little rear room where I played.  The sacrifice of my parents.  My joy today in writing novels.  It's the same joy I once had in making music....
          So I stare at my blank computer screen, summon the memories, and write:  “She was all of the music's compelling emotions, all of its grand poetry, all of its myths.  Whether the concert was good or bad no longer mattered.” 
          Ah, yes, Liszt is her choice.  “Snowscape” — the √Čtudes, no. 12.  “She could imagine the snowflakes drifting down everywhere, shrouding the world in white, entombing humans and wild creatures and nature’s monuments to God, while the wind sighed and moaned.” 
          Julia plays on my page, and both of us can feel it.  Through her, I find the rhythm.  At the end of the book, she regains her sight, and I regain an important piece of my history.  She uncovers a corrupt espionage situation, and I recover a love I thought I’d lost.  She fights her way through a novel of suspense to a happy ending, and I have mine.  Through the book, I regain an important piece of my past.

Is there something you lost that you'd like to regain ... or perhaps already have?  Please tell!

Sunday, February 2, 2020


by Chris Goff

In 1961, in a downstairs room in Evergreen, Colorado, a dad perched on the side of a bunk bed reading Pinocchio to a six year-old little girl. Originally a collection of stories, printed in serial form as La Storia di un burattino in one of Italy's weekly children's magazines, the book, Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi, was first published in 1883. It's about the mischievous adventures of an animated marionette and his father, a poor woodcarver named Geppetto.

The dad I referenced was mine, and he read that book to me chapter by chapter, every night at bedtime. When we finished, we read Mother West Wind How Stories and Danny Meadow Mouse by Thomas Burgess, both published in 1915. And he loved to read me poems from Silver Pennies: A Collection of Modern Poems for Boys and Girls, published in 1925 by Blanche Jennings Thompson. He knew my absolute favorite by heart. It was "The Elf and the Dormouse" by Oliver Herford, about how umbrellas were invented.

The years moved on until we more often sat in opposite chairs in the living room reading to ourselves, but my dad was the one who taught me the value of a great story. He was the one who instilled in me my love of books and reading.

Years later, I watched my children's delight as my husband read them Rikki Tikki Tavi by Rudyard Kipling as I joined in the nightly bedtime story ritual.

It's no wonder I love the idea of World Read Aloud Day.

In 2007, literacy expert Pam Allyn visited Kibera, an area of extreme poverty in Nairobi, Kenya. Realizing the desire the children had to read, write and share their stories, she also saw how life's circumstances had placed barriers in their way triggering an underlying belief:
        "Literacy is not a gift given just to some lucky ones, it is a foundational human right that brings joy, economic independence, gender equity and a pathway out of poverty."
Inspired, she came back to the United States and mobilized a group of friends and leaders to join her in founding LitWorld. It's all about sharing stories, building community and cultivating a love of reading and writing. It's designed to encourage creative expression and build literacy skills.

Now celebrated in 173 countries and counting, World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults to celebrate the power of words.

This year, World Read Aloud Day is February 5th. So, let's take action! Let's show the world that everyone has the right to read. Let's all celebrate the day by grabbing a book, finding an audience and reading out loud. And when you're done, share your favorite read-aloud moments on social media with #WorldReadAloudDay, and be sure to tag @Scholastic, @LitWorldSays and three friends so they can join, too.

Who inspired you to read? Please, share a favorite memory of reading aloud.