Sunday, July 5, 2020

SUPPORTING LOCAL BOOKSTORES

by Karna Small Bodman

Even before Covid-19 forced many bookstores to close, several faced the challenge of online shopping and the rising popularity of e-books vs. the print variety. Now that we all have been spending more time at home, working virtually, self-quarantining and all the rest, people are finding more time to read great books they simply could not get through before. (Have you read War and Peace yet?) Now, it turns out that certain independent bookstores are defying the odds and thriving with online sales, curbside pickup, and especially organizing Zoom events with bestselling authors as their speakers. Some of the most successful stores are owned by authors. I’d like to tell you about them.



Novelist Ann Patchett, along with her business partner, Karen Hayes, own Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN. In spite of the competition, they built up a thriving business by attracting customers with Children’s Storytime, book clubs, author readings, a bookmobile and a first-editions subscription box, among other inducements. Throughout the pandemic, Ann Patchett kept spreading the word about her store and her books by posting photos on Instagram showing her in a ballgown or cocktail dress because, she says, “the alternative was staying in yoga pants for the rest of my life.” She also uses her account to offer compelling book recommendations.
At the moment the store is busy with online sales and curbside pickups and hope to reopen soon. Meanwhile, you might like to check out Ann’s latest book, The Dutch House, already a bestseller.


Remember the great novelist and screenwriter, Larry McMurtry who usually set his stories in the Old West or contemporary Texas? Sure you do. Who could forget the famous television miniseries that earned 18 Emmy award nominations – winning 7, based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Lonesome Dove. What you may not know is that he opened a bookstore with two partners in Georgetown, Washington, DC back in 1970, named BOOKED UP, which became one of the largest used bookstores in the United States, carrying 450,000 titles. Eventually, he decided to move the store to Archer, TX. He sold some of his inventory in an historic auction, but today his store still carries 200,000 titles of “Fine, Rare, and Scholarly” books. Besides Lonesome Dove, you probably recall other novels such as Horseman, Pass By, The Last Picture Show, and Terms of Endearment which were adapted into films earning some 26 Oscar nominations and 10 wins.

I wanted to include something special for children here as well. An international bestselling author of books for them is Jeff Kinney, who became famous for his Wimpy Kid stories. Next in the series, which will be book #15, is titled The Deep End Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and will be released in October.. For families who have been hunkered down at home with their children,  this is something  to look forward to, although reading the other Wimpy Kid books to them right now could be a most entertaining exercise. Jeff Kinney also owns a bookstore, AN UNLIKELY STORY, in Plainville, Massachusetts.



Finally, up in Brooklyn, author Emma Straub created the BOOKS ARE MAGIC. This store features many virtual events which you can check on their website (note several coming up this month). The owner-author has a new novel out, All Adults Here, which The Wall Street Journal describes as a “Perfect novel for summer reading.” And People Magazine called Emma Straub a “Master analyst of romantic relationships … witty and wise tales.” Other popular titles include Modern Lovers, The Vacationers and Laura’s Life in Pictures. These bestselling books are now sold in 15 countries.

This is just a sampling of the many independent bookstores owned and operated by authors. During these trying times (and in the future), I hope we all can support our local bookstores, no matter the ownership, of course.

Question: What bookstores do you have in your own community that you would like to recommend and support? Leave a comment so we can share your thoughts, and thanks for visiting us here on Rogue Women Writers.

Friday, July 3, 2020

ROGUE WOMEN JUNE ROUNDUP!


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

In early June, NYT best-selling author, Laurie R. King went Rogue, sharing info about her writing style, daily routine and divulging details on her newest release, RIVIERA GOLD.

Nest, best-selling thriller writer Joseph Badal came by and filled in the secrets behind his latest novel, PAYBACK.

Who knew that Heather Young harbors a hidden literary passion for fantasy and sci-fi. It's a passion that informs her newest release, THE DISTANT DEAD, and makes it a book we all need to read.

June 15 marked the first ROGUE READS online presentation featuring special guests: Robin Burcell, John Gilstrap, Joseph Badal and Don Bentley. You definitely want to check out the Rogue Reads video on the Rogue Facebook page.

The Real Book Spy's Rogue Recommendation, Mike Maden, releases his final Jack Ryan Junior novel FIRING POINT, and passes off the franchise to Don Bentley. A terrific choice for a replacement, but Maden will be missed.

Have you ever wondered where the name Ponzi came from, as in Ponzi scheme? Lisa Black reveals that the name comes from Charles Ponzi, an Italian who came to America with dreams, BIG dreams. He saw BIG profits, too, until....

Friday, June 26, 2020

COMING OF AGE IN THE TIME OF COVID

by Chris Goff

I celebrated a birthday a few weeks back, one that marks retirement for many people. But not a writer. Right?

That's something I am. I have four training books on the shelf and eight books published novels  I've had some success, garnered some critical acclaim, won a few awards. I have yet to hit the New York Times list, but there's time.

With Covid and quarantine, we've had nothing but time. My husband is now working from home, so we have a routine. After coffee, we both head to our separate offices, then convene for lunch and dinner, and our daily walk at the end of the day. Outings have consisted of trips to the grocery store to let someone put bags in the trunk―bags that occasionally contain the items we ordered, but more often a list of what couldn't be filled.

Yet, with all that time...

I've got nothing. 

In three months of quarantine, I've written and rewritten a few chapters of a few new books. I've thought the stories through. I know where they start. I know approximately where they end. I've thought up some great plot twists, developed some interesting characters, been intrigued by some complicated, timely and interesting story ideas. And yet nothing's panned out.

I sit down at the computer, fill some pages, then slow to a grinding halt. I soon find myself rewriting a few paragraphs over and over. I spend hours crafting one or two sentences, which I eventually abandon.

I've done great work.

For other people!

For ITW, I put in hours and hours judging manuscripts in the Best Paperback Original category.

For the Colorado Book Awards, I spent hours and hours producing events and building interest in Finalist books (I got paid for this).

For SinC and MWA, I dedicated massive amounts of volunteer hours, produced webinars and videos, hosted Zoom sessions.

For Rogue Women Writers, I helped launch Rogue Reads.

I'm finding it hard to sleep.

I started soul searching.

Growing up an only child, I figured quarantine would be a piece of cake. After all, I know how to entertain myself. I have never lacked for solitary endeavors. I love to read. I love to knit (mostly baby sweaters or crazy scarfs—projects easily completed). I love making things—sewing projects, needlepoint, sculptures, cribbage boards, paintings. I do not lack for arts and crafts projects. And I have home projects out the wazoo—filling in ancestry charts, organizing photos, sifting through the massive collection of stuff you gather in 38 years of marriage.

At a time when there is nothing but time, I'm finding it hard to concentrate.

I'm making lists.

To be honest, I've always made lists. They help me prioritize, and keep me on task. I put writing at the top and then watched it slip slowly down in importance, usurped by things like FAMILY, UNFINISHED BUSINESS (work or volunteer commitments or taxes), UNFINISHED PROJECTS.

The funny thing is, the items seem to circulate. WRITING moves back to the top, followed by PROJECTS, followed by....

I'm finding things aren't getting done.

I'm giving myself permission.

I've decided that it's okay. If I don't write for a few months, I'll write again. If the projects sit uncompleted, they will be there when I want to tackle them again.

18 years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a life-changing moment. There were surgeries, missed deadlines, lost contracts, new contracts. I swore at the time my outlook on living would be different going forward, and for a time it was. I relished being alive, cherishing the days. But like most people who experience the "wake up call" heart attack, the diagnosis of a chronic illness, the loss of a loved one, time has a way of putting those moments into perspective. It might take years, but most of us slip back into complacency.

That happened to me. I began to fall back into comfortable patterns, and before I knew it, I was back on the treadmill—over-committed, over-extended and wishing I had room to focus on things that matter the most, like family and friends and breathing.

I'm giving myself time.

Part of this changing world is taking the time to reevaluate and reassess. To ask the BIG questions. What is it I want to do with the time I have left? What is it I'm on this earth do do? Where can I make a difference? What brings me joy?

COVID-19 is here to stay for a while. I've heard projections that say things won't get back to "normal" for between two and eight years. Timelines like that mean there will be a new normal. For instance, can you ever imagine blowing out the candles on a birthday cake again, and then sharing pieces of that cake with your family and friends.

I'm taking baby steps.

WRITING has recently topped the list again. I have three very different ideas. One for a Birdwatcher's Mystery novel; one for a domestic thriller set in western Colorado; and one for an international thriller that takes place in the United States. One is lighthearted and fun; one is marketable; one is difficult, complicated and would be a hard sell. Guess which one I'm leaning toward?

And, to give myself a jump start, I've signed up for an ITW Master Class. My instructor, William Bernhardt, founder of the Red Sneaker Writers Center, just touched base, and I felt a flutter of excitement. I've taught Master Class, but right now I'm in need of a teacher. Like I said, baby steps.

How is this pandemic treating you? Are you struggling, or are you more productive than ever? Are you lonely, or spending too much time Zooming with friends and wishing for some quiet time? 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

THE PONZI SCHEME'S NOT-SO-HAPPY ANNIVERSARY

by Lisa Black

We’ve all heard of Ponzi schemes, the shorthand often (but not always) deserved. The name comes from Charles Ponzi, born in Italy in 1882, intelligent and educated (he apparently attended the university of Rome) and charming—oh, so charming. He came to America with big dreams, worked odd jobs, moved to Canada and worked in a bank. Unfortunately the bank went bankrupt and Charles, without funds, passed bad checks. Like any dutiful son he wrote his mother, but told her he was working at the jail rather than incarcerated there.

Afterwards, he came up with his first scheme, one that may sound a bit confusing to those of us who don’t do a lot of international mailing. ‘International Reply Coupons’ are coupons to cover the cost of return mail to the country of origin. These were designed by the Universal Postal Union, a grouping that has officially existed since 1874, and today is a division of the United Nations. (I’m a lifelong mail junkie, and I’d never heard of it.) Like an economic union, it establishes systems and rules so that mail can flow between countries without having to set up a separate agreement between each one. The IRCs were enclosed so that the recipient could send a reply without having to obtain foreign stamps or worry about sufficient postage. This practice only died out in the 2010s. Point is, Charles figured out he could get people in other countries to buy IRCs there and send them to him, he could exchange them for more valuable stamps, and then sell those. Doesn’t sound too exciting, but profit margins topped 400%. Charles warmed to the race in a white-hot blaze.

He could do more with more, so he recruited investors, promising them 50% profit in forty-five days, or 100% in ninety. (Of course, 12% is considered a healthy rate of return, and that’s over a year!) Did they know they were investing in mail fraud? Were they more co-conspirators than victims? It’s uncertain—the scheme sounds legal, and Ponzi most likely told them it was. The happy investors told others, and more came, and more. But Ponzi paid out those profits with funds coming in from new investors, not with funds generated from the stamps scheme, a pyramid doomed to crumble. But in the meantime, man, life was good for Charles Ponzi.

He bought a mansion in Massachusetts with air conditioning and a heated swimming pool, over-the-top luxuries in 1920. He bought a Locomobile, the finest car of its day. He reportedly made $250,000 a day. That’s over three million in 2020 dollars. A day.

Of course it couldn’t last, and it didn’t. The Boston Post (yay, investigative reporting!) heard tales of wild profits and came to check it out, spooking investors who then tried to pull their money back out. The pyramid collapsed, and on August 12 one hundred years ago, Ponzi was arrested for eighty-six counts of mail fraud. He pled, went to jail for fourteen years, and died penniless in Rio de Janeiro in 1949. The scheme’s collapse deprived his investors of $20 million (nearly $26 million today) and ruined six different banks.

He even stole credit for the scheme, though he probably didn’t mean to. Twenty years before Ponzi’s reign, New York bookkeeper William Miller promised investors 10% per week, and defrauded investors of over a million dollars. And they continue well into the new millennium with people like Bernie Madoff, Tom Petters, and Lou Pearlman, the mogul who created NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys. 

But those are the ones we know about. When I was a newlywed, my husband worked as an auto mechanic at a car dealership. One day he came home with news about an ‘investment club’ that some of his coworkers were talking about; they would ‘buy-in’ and then get their profits back as they helped recruit new investors. I still give thanks that, along with inheriting my father’s very no-nonsense attitude about money, I had happened to read a fun little book called The Perfect Crime and How to Commit It by Pamela Jekel. Each chapter is a different type of crime, and one dealt with fraud. I warned my husband off it, but some of his coworkers didn’t listen to him and lost money—not millions, but to the average working stiff, any amount hurts. You might say a book saved my bank account (and maybe my marriage!). 

What about you? Do you know the victim of a scheme?

Friday, June 19, 2020

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

by The Real Book Spy

It’s hard to state just what Mike Maden has meant to the Jack Ryan universe. Years back, I broke the news on The Real Book Spy that both Mark Greaney (Jack Ryan books) and Grant Blackwood (Jack Junior books) would be moving on from the franchise—with Marc Cameron and Mike Maden replacing them, respectively. 

Now, here we are almost five years later, and Maden is gearing up to release his final contribution to Clancy’s iconic franchise, FIRING POINT.

Those paying close attention might have caught the announcement a couple of weeks ago that Without Sanction (2019) author Don Bentley would stepping in for Maden, taking over the Jack Ryan Junior books starting in 2021. While Bentley is a terrific choice, and one heck of a fine writer, there’s no question that Maden’s presence will be missed. It’s also clear that Maden will leave the franchise better off than he found it, which is really saying something.

Maden’s first Clancy thriller, Point of Contact, came out in 2017 and marked a subtle shift in the tone of the books. Whereas Blackwood found success staying true to the style often seen in traditional political/techno thrillers, Maden infused more action into the stories—which was evident from the first chapter on, when he opened his first Jack Ryan Junior book with a Brad Thor-like action sequence that set the tone for the three books to follow.

Now, with this one, Jack Junior sees his dream vacation morph into a nightmare when a suicide bomber blows up a café moments after Jack runs into an old classmate and former lover. With her dying breath, she leaves Jack a vague clue that he can’t help but follow up on in his quest to track down the group behind the attack. As always, though, it soon becomes clean that there’s more to the story than what originally meets the eye, and it’s up to Jack Ryan Junior to put all the pieces together before it’s too late.

Consider this Maden’s mike drop of a moment, as he exits the Clancy universe with another high-flying thriller that’s not to be missed.

RESEARCHING A TOM CLANCY NOVEL

by Mike Maden

One of the questions I’m asked most often on book tours and media interviews is how I go about researching the wide variety of subjects in my novels including economics, politics and of course, military technology.

The hallmark of all great Tom Clancy novels is the depth of knowledge he displayed in his work, particularly in regard to military technology. He was so good at it that he was able to elevate the technology itself to “character” status and his ability to do this is why I argue that he single-handedly invented the modern techno-thriller genre as we now know it. Before Tom Clancy, a woman had a pistol in her hand. After Tom Clancy, she held a Glock 19 with fifteen rounds in the mag, the polymer grip slick with the sweat of her palm.

Readers marveled at the early Tom Clancy novels in particular. It appeared as if he had access to top secret information that no civilian should have. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had current or retired military personnel approach me at book signings and tell me variations of this story: “I was reading a Tom Clancy novel while on duty and was shocked to discover he was discussing a weapons system that I had only just heard about because of my TS clearance.” Tom Clancy was totally analog, and completely brilliant.

So let me sidebar here and say this: as great as a storyteller as Tom Clancy was, I think his real gift was his ability to do research. It’s not hard for me to look like I know what I’m talking about because I have the internet and search engines. But back in the day when Tom Clancy was first writing, he was hanging out at the public library, digging through card catalogs and microfiche. (If you aren’t personally familiar with those ancient artifacts, Google them.)

Because I write in the techno-thriller genre, I spend a great deal of time researching combat systems and particular weapons technologies. But techno-thrillers are ultimately about organized violence either by governments or individuals. If I’ve done my job well, the reader roots for the good guys with guns who take out the bad guys with guns. But for me, these stories are only interesting (and I’m only able to touch upon the “truth” embedded within them) when I ground the characters in their political, historical and cultural contexts. Why are the “bad guys” bad? What motivates them? Why do they think they’re the “heroes” in their own stories? My research helps me to get to these truthful moments in my fictional writing.

So, yes, I invest many long hours on internet searches ferreting out all kinds of information and I work very hard to get it right. But there are some facts you simply can’t get on an internet search and that’s why I also travel to as many of the places I describe in my novels as I can, including a trip to Spain (and in particular, Catalonia) for my current novel, FIRING POINT. It’s important for me to tell the best story and I can and even though I’m writing fiction, I’m also trying to tell the truth about my characters and the worlds they inhabit if for no other reason than my desire for authenticity.

While it’s never possible to become an expert in matters of history and culture in a short period of time, you can get a taste of these things. Speaking of which, I do want to assure my readers that if one of my characters in FIRING POINT indulges in a glass of tangy, bubbly cava or relishes the soft crunch of a deep fried bomba, well, let me tell you, that was the kind of authentic research I was happy to conduct…and verify…and test again, just to be sure, ya know?

Thank you to The Real Book Spy and Mike Maden. We can't wait to read Firing Point!

Friday, June 12, 2020

HEATHER YOUNG GOES ROGUE

by Chris Goff

The Rogues are thrilled to welcome Heather Young. Heather earned her law degree from the University of Virginia, and practiced law in San Francisco before beginning her writing career. She received an MFA from the Bennington College Writing Seminars, a Fellowship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and has studied at the Tin House Writers’ Workshop and the Squaw Valley Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Mill Valley, California. THE DISTANT DEAD is her second novel.

by Heather Young


I have loved mysteries and thrillers ever since I got my hands on Harriet the Spy in second grade. Before I finished high school I’d torn through all the classics: Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, Nero Wolfe; John le Carré, Robert Ludlum, Robert B. Parker. So when I wrote my first novel, The Lost Girls, it seemed natural to hang the plot around a mysterious death.

But the mystery/thriller genre wasn’t my only literary passion. I also gorged on fantasy and sci-fi--The Lord of the Rings, Dune, anything by Ursula K. LeGuin or Neil Gaiman. I admire authors like Erika Swyler and Kate Atkinson who bring elements of this genre into their literary novels with deft assurance. I’d never thought I had the skill or imagination to do that, but while writing my second novel, The Distant Dead, I decided to try it.

It didn’t work. My early drafts had supernatural elements that I thought were really nifty but that my editor, gently and over several months, persuaded me to take out. Unlike the reincarnation premise of Atkinson’s Life After Life or the magical book in Swyler’s The Book of Speculation, they felt gimmicky. Worse—and this was what finally convinced me they had to go—I realized these elements were a crutch that kept me from doing the hard work of showing, rather than telling, what characters were thinking and feeling. (There were telepathic powers involved—talk about cheating!). So, despite my best efforts, The Distant Dead doesn’t have magic, or supernatural talents, or visits from the titular dead people. Well, okay, maybe it does have that last one, just a little bit.

But I did pay tribute to my love for speculative fiction in other ways.

One of my main characters is an eleven-year-old boy named Sal. Sal isn’t the mind-reader I originally imagined him to be, but he is deeply empathic; a quiet, watchful boy whose ability to read people is so acute that he thinks of it as an actual superpower. He’s also an imaginative child who loves graphic novels about angels and demons and monsters. He fills notebook after notebook with his own illustrated stories about two warring archangels, estranged brothers who lead the armies of Heaven and Hell. As Sal falls deeper under the spell of his favorite teacher, the man whose death drives the book’s mystery plot, these imaginary characters come to represent the moral weight of the secrets he is forced to carry, and their long-running contest becomes a battle over the true meaning of honor.

Sal also buys a copy of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book at his middle school book fair. For Sal, a fatherless boy whose mother has just died, this book speaks straight to his heart. It’s about a young orphan who finds shelter among the ghosts in an old cemetery, kindly spirits who protect him from the evil forces who killed his family. They also grant him the “powers of the graveyard,” which enable him to see the dead and move unnoticed among the living. Soon Sal imagines that he, too, might be able to talk to the dead if he tries hard enough. Like any kid who reads Harry Potter or The Once and Future King under the covers when they’re supposed to be sleeping, he longs to be the hero of his own story. But in Sal’s case, his vivid imagination, empathy, and desire to be a savior lead him to make a decision that has fatal consequences for the only person left on earth that he truly cares about.

While The Distant Dead wound up being a different book than the one I started, in that weird, alchemic way of most writing it turned out to be exactly the book I wanted it to be. It’s grounded not in fantasy but in the real world, with all its grit and odd moments of joy. It rests on characters whose motives are illuminated not by a superpower but by the complexity of their actions. The solution to its mystery is not magical but tragically human. And, above all else, it’s a bittersweet, heartfelt love letter to all those kids who smuggle flashlights into their bedrooms and imagine that they, too, could pull a sword from a stone or wave a magic wand. Kids like the one I once was.

Thank you for blogging with us today, Heather! We can't wait to read your latest book THE DISTANT DEAD

Monday, June 8, 2020

JOSEPH BADAL GOES ROGUE

by Karna Small Bodman

I'm delighted to welcome bestselling author Joseph Badal as our guest blogger. I first met Joe at Thrillerfest some years ago and learned that he first served as a commissioned officer in the US Army in highly classified positions, then he worked in the banking and financial services industries for nearly four decades. Joe has utilized this impressive background as inspiration for his 16 suspense novels, including several stand-alone thrillers along with his series. Here he tells us about his exciting new novel which will be out on June 20.


by Joseph Badal


Payback is my 16th novel and my 4th standalone. I find writing a standalone story in between books in my three series to be liberating. Taking a break from my series forces me to take a different creative path, with new characters and innovative plot lines.

When I started Payback, I wanted to include several elements that I felt would be entertaining for the reader. First, I wanted to present a protagonist who was as close to real life as possible. Someone that the average reader would be able to relate to. My characters, unlike those in many thrillers, do not leap tall buildings in a single bound nor do they rush headlong into dangerous situations. Bruno Pedace has avoided conflict and confrontation his entire life. I wanted the reader to be sympathetic toward Bruno but, at the same time, wanted him to stand up for himself.

The second element I wanted to inject in the story was a strong female character who had overcome a difficult background and who would befriend Bruno. Janet Jenkins is that character. She is a strong, caring individual who becomes an inspiration for Bruno. Bruno and Janet become good friends and, at the end, the reader is left with the hope that they will become more than that.

The third element I put in Payback is an historical connection to the irresponsible behavior of the investment banking community during the Capital Markets Meltdown that occurred in 2007-2009. I wanted the reader to understand how the economic upheaval that affected almost everyone came about, without getting too deeply into the weeds and turning the book into a financial thriller alone. The antagonist in this novel is an investment banker, Sy Rosen, who is a sinister character who will do anything to preserve his power and to grow his wealth.

Payback is a thriller about everyday people who are confronted with evil and must decide how to react. Do they run? Do they stand up and combat evil? There is a common theme that runs through all my books: the triumph of good over evil. Payback is perhaps the penultimate example of that good versus evil battle.

We’re sure you will enjoy Payback as much as author David Morrell who described it as “Another thrill ride . . . relentless from start to finish. Badal just gets better and better.” Join us for Rogue Reads on June 15, 2020 to hear Joseph Badal read from this book, For more info click here.

Friday, June 5, 2020

LAURIE R. KING GOES ROGUE

by Karna Small Bodman

We are delighted to welcome guest blogger, Laurie R. King – the New York Times bestselling author of the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series.

Author Lee Child describes this series as “the most sustained feat of imagination in mystery fiction today.” In the newest installment, Riviera Gold, Mary and Sherlock turn the Riviera upside down to crack their most captivating case yet.

In addition to this series of fourteen mysteries, Laurie has penned a number of other bestselling stories as you can see here.

Now, Laurie tells us about her writing style, daily routine and other personal details.


1. Which is harder: writing the first or last sentence? The last, definitely. The first sentence is usually a thing that has been living in the recesses of my mind for the weeks—months—while I was waiting to start the book. Not that the first sentence doesn’t change, or become the first line in chapter two or three, but there’s usually such a relief at being allowed at last to start the book, I hit the ground with my feet already in motion. The last sentence, on the other hand, is so incredibly important, that final taste the reader will have before the book closes, that sentence that needs to wrap it all up and tie the knot and encourage the reader to sit for a moment in satisfaction AND make them look forward to the next book—I mean, so much rides on that last sentence, the only thing that gets anything written that day is the nagging deadline and the reassurance that it’s not carved in stone.

2. What's your favorite word? One word? I couldn’t begin to choose one. But I love words that are so specific, you can’t use them more than once or twice in a novel. Miasma. Gusto. Languid. Dubious. Fraught. 

3. Where do you like to write? I have a very nice study, the size of a two-car garage because that’s what it was, with a dark purple carpet and shelves on all the walls. A study that is currently filled with workout equipment since the other three people in the house, including one who teaches workout classes, need some place to exercise. So I’m writing in a corner of the bedroom. Although it’s a very nice corner of the bedroom, and there’s nobody lifting weights or running the treadmill in it.

4. What do you do when you need to take a break from writing? Depends on what you mean by a break. I’m always writing something—if not a first draft, then a rewrite; if not a novel, then a short story or essay or (ahem) Q&A. They’re all on keyboards, true, but they all seem to draw from a different part of the brain. Longer-term, I don’t write much when I’m traveling, unless it’s a long trip and I have a deadline. Travel might be exhausting, but it definitely renews the writing sections of the brain.

5. If you could have lived in a different time period, what would that be? If I could take along modern medical and dental practices? I think I’d have found a good niche as an abbess in one of the more progressive Medieval convents. Though preferably not during a time of plague…

6. What's your favorite drink? What time of day is it? Well, over a 24-hour period, the drink whose cups outnumber all others is tea: black in the morning, herbal in the evening. 

7. When you were ten years old, what did you want to be when you grew up? Because I’d never met a writer, it didn’t occur to me that actual people wrote the books I took down from the library shelves. Instead, I assumed I’d be a teacher, an attitude that persisted through grad school when I began to realize that with small kids and a husband looking longingly at retirement, I wasn’t going to spend seven years on a PhD in order to teach at university level. So I sat down to write a story, thinking that perhaps I could tell some stories… and I could.

8. Do you have a literary hero? A teacher, mentor, family member, author who has inspired you to write stories? I think that would be a group, rather than one individual: the Golden Age women of crime, who told the stories they wanted, and it turned out the reading world wanted them too. Ladies like Sayers and Tey and Allingham and Christie, who ended up patting the boy writers on the head and gently setting them aside. 

9. Describe your very first car. A 1954 Chevy. This was 1973 or 4. I’d traded my sister for a guitar, since she was off to Africa and couldn’t drive there, and I was living with someone and couldn’t inflict my guitar-playing and folk-singing on him. We called the car Proud Beauty—black, round, smelled of horsehair and long years of being parked in the sun. I drove her for years until someone else fell in love with her and I upgraded…to a 1939 Chevy. That one had a handle you pushed down to open a vent that blew onto your feet: thirties air conditioning.

10. Do you write what you know or what you want to know? What I know is boring. Where I’ve been is interesting—but even then, a setting isn’t in itself an exciting story. So what I aim for is something that fascinates me, because I know that the fascination will show up in the writing. Of course, that means I have to take care with research, and make sure I don’t describe a place or event in a way that betrays my ignorance. (And one thing that always makes me ridiculously happy is when someone who knows a place or thing writes to say that I got it right. Yay, research!)

11. Is there anything you’d like to tell us – maybe about your upcoming book? Or is there a question we’ve forgotten to ask or that you wished we’d asked? Does there seem to be a theme in these replies? Proud Beauty, Golden Age crime writers, and monastic abbesses? Yes, the next book is in a series, but is focused on an under-appreciated member of the Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes world: Mrs. Hudson. Old ladies like her (and, I have to admit, me) can be invisible, unimportant—and slyly subversive.

Thank you, Laurie, for being our guest. We all look forward to reading your new mystery which will be released on June 9.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

ROGUE WOMEN MAY ROUNDUP!

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

Do you ever daydream about fantasy houses that you'd love to live in? Rogue Lisa Black shares her top three.

This whole thing got started four years ago. The Rogues think back. What were they reading, researching and writing?

Scott Turow shares the insider scoop on the process of writing his fantastic legal thrillers.

Piper Reynard steps off the pages of THE WIFE STALKER, just released, to share some health and wellness advice.

Rogue Gayle Lynds is The Real Book Spy's May Rogue Recommendation for her book THE ASSASSINS. Imagine this: you're finally coming home, only to find someone who looks just like you, living your life, in your flat. Then imagine the imposter dead.

Who among us has lived through a pandemic? Okay, so technically HIV/Aids (2005-20012), "HongKong Flu" (1968) and "Asian Flu" (1956-58) all qualify. But how many have us has ever been quarantined? Chris has some ideas on how to survive. Check out Pandemic 101.

Monday, June 1, 2020

THE APPEAL OF AUDIO BOOKS

by Karna Small Bodman

Many of us are still hunkered down working from home, while others are slowly getting back to their jobs. For those returning, instead of using crowded public transportation, some are driving to work when they can. It turns out that for both the at-home crowd, along with the commuting crowd, the appeal of audio books is on the rise. What better “companion” to have at home or on the road than a great novel narrated by a professional actor or actress. Who are they, and who are the best in the business?

Narrator Scott Brick
One of the most successful narrators is Scott Brick, a talented actor and screenwriter with credits in film, television, stage and radio who has narrated over 800 audiobooks for authors including Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Michael Crichton, David Baldacci and Nelson DeMille.

As for DeMille’s books, I got “hooked” on this author and narrator way back when one of his early and most successful novels, Charm School, was published. Scott Brick is particularly adept at using accents for different characters. You can listen to an example of how he does it by clicking “Audio Sample” under the cover art here

Scott Brick also narrated a number of books by John Grisham. But this author does employ other narrators from time to time. His new thriller Camino Winds is voiced by Michael Beck, an actor best known for his roles in “The Warriors, Xanadu, Megaforce among others. Camino Winds is currently #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and is available for download from Audible and in a CD format. Listen to the opening of the story – again by clicking under the cover art where it says “Audio Sample” here.
Narrator Julia Whelan

Several novels by the Rogues are available in audio formats. For example, Liv Constantine’s brand-new book, The Wife Stalker, is read by professional narrator Julia Whelan who became enchanted with books when she listened to her parents reading bedtime stories. She entered the audio field after graduating from college where there weren’t many voices to record new books. In an interview, Julia says she “loves the luxury of listening to audio books on long drives." (I admit I always have an audio book in the car and turn it on even during short drives). 

Rogue Gayle Lynds has written many wonderful thrillers available in audio versions. One of the best, The Book of Spies, was voiced by Kate Reading. We used to hear men narrating thrillers, but now, as you can see, many terrific women are in the “game.” When Brilliance Audio recently released three of my thrillers in these Audible or CD formats, I couldn’t wait to listen to the actresses they chose (I had no input in those decisions). Karen Peakes did the narration of my most recent thriller, Trust but Verify, but they used another woman, Julie McKay to voice both Checkmate and Gambit, which I thought was terrific since Julie is also a musician and has sung professionally in French, German, Italian and Spanish. So, you can imagine she would be great when it comes to using accents. Check out the audio sample of Gambit here.

I’ve often been asked if I ever narrated one of my own books. It turns out that I was invited to read a few chapters of my first book, Checkmate, for an organization (where I served on the board for 11 years), Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (now renamed Learning Ally). Their volunteers record books in studios all over the country for the use of students with certain disabilities. It was started after WWII so soldiers blinded in the war could take advantage of the GI Bill for their education. Walter Cronkite was one of their first volunteer readers.

When I read my chapters, I have to say it was hard sitting in a studio for hours on end, trying not to make mistakes, cough, or mispronounce a name or place. That experience left me in awe of the terrific professional narrators mentioned above. If you’d like to hear how the professional narrated Checkmate, check it out here.

Now, how about you? Do you enjoy audio books? What are some of your favorites? Let us know so we can share recommendations with all our readers. And thanks for joining us here on Rogue Women Writers.

Friday, May 29, 2020

PANDEMIC 101


Who knew in February what our lives would be like in May? It’s almost surreal, like a bad science fiction novel or B-rated movie.

The Timeline

December 31, China informed the World Health Organization (WHO) of 41 patients with a mysterious pneumonia, most connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.

January 20, the first US case is reported in Washington state.

January 30, WHO declares a global public-health emergency. Things move forward with a California person dying on February 6. WHO names the virus Covid-19 on February 11. Cases start to spike in South Korea, Italy and Spain.

March 7, I got on a plane and flew to Hawaii to visit my daughter.

March 8, Italy places all of its residents on lockdown.

March 15, I was changing my plane tickets and flying home with my husband to Colorado. I wanted to stay in Hawaii. He had to get back to work. My kids insisted I “act like an adult and come home.”

Ahhhhhhhhh.........

Life As We Know It Has Changed

Things snowballed after we got home. “Stay at Home” orders were put into place. My husband moved his office into the guest room. We’ve learned to work around each other’s Zoom calls. Trips to the grocery store to have someone load groceries into the back end have become adventures. We wear masks, because that’s what you do to protect other people. We miss our family and friends and colleagues.

And now we’re emerging and entering the “Safer at Home” phase. Unfortunately, being in the high-risk category that means continuing to stay at home for...a while. Having witnessed first-hand how terrible this disease can be, we’re listening.

Looking at the Positives

I figured there have to be some good things coming out of all of this, so I’ve made a list.

1. I have four cancelled trips worth of plane tickets stashed away for next year. One writer’s retreat, two cancelled graduations and an Alaska trip with our son and his family that I should be packing for. Maybe we can combine them to go someplace really special next year?!

2. I’ve gotten better at cribbage. I think I’m now tied with my husband for overall wins.

3. We Zoom with the kids every Sunday. I don’t expect it will last forever, but it’s been great spending time apart together. We have six kids and two grandchildren, plus their significant others. It’s like a party!

4. I’m mastering new technology. Who knew I would become a Zoom master?

Bottom line, I’m busier than I’ve ever been. Which ties back to #4 and how it pertains to my day job and volunteer work. And when better than during a pandemic to have my mysteries re-released by Sharpe Books?


So How Does One Stay Sane?

I have a suggestion. Based on all the YouTube videos that people have sent me, it seems anyone can create a video these days. Tik Tok videos are all the rage. So why not try your hand at a parody like these women did?


Of course, everyone's offering all sorts of suggestions. This list in USA Today has a lot of great ideas. Here are a few, but the list is worth checking out if you have time on your hands.

1. Complete a puzzle. I think Robin Burcell likes puzzles.

2. Start a journal. Tom Colgan has this locked up. We’re into Day 70+ and he just keeps getting funnier.

3. Need some excitement? Text all your exes, just in case you have something more you want to get off your chest.

4. Watch all the really old long movies you’ve been avoiding up until now. Lee Goldberg likely has suggestions. Wes and I have tried watching a few, with definitely mixed results.

5. Teach yourself a foreign language. Okay, I admit. I did this, too. I dusted of my old Swedish language tapes and confirmed that jag förstår inte.

And my personal favorite:
6. Treat yourself to a facemask. They’re talking about mud!

So, tell us dear Readers, what are the positives you’re taking away, and what fun thing have you done while quarantined?

Friday, May 22, 2020

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

by The Real Book Spy

What a month!

I know we’re only five months in, but I think it’s safe to say that 2020 has been the longest year ever. Like, ever.

Though it seems so insignificant when people are fighting for their lives and enduring social distancing and self-isolation, many on the thriller scene are worried about book sales and what all this will mean for the industry moving forward. Fact is, the publishing world (like every other industry) has no doubt changed due to COVID-19. To find even just one small example of how much, look no further than my May Rogue piece—yes, this one.

In preparation for this month, I actually picked two different titles that I wanted to write about, but both ended up being delayed and are now slated to come out later in the year. So, with release dates in a state of flux (some summer 2020 books have already been moved to spring of 2021), I pitched the Rogues the idea of a throwback piece that would focus on one of my favorite books from one of my very favorite writers . . . someone I had been trying to figure out how to cover on this space, but hadn’t yet been able to do because she hadn’t put a new book out since I’d partnered with the wonderful Rogue Women Writers.

In case you haven’t caught on yet, I’m talking about the Queen of spy thrillers, the brilliant New York Times bestselling author, Gayle Lynds.

Nobody writes espionage quite like Gayle, who rocked my world with her last book, The Assassins, back when it came out in 2015. Back for more action is former military intelligence operative Judd Ryder (he first appeared in The Book of Spies; 2010), who returns home to his flat in Washington, D.C., only to find an imposter posing as him. Things take a wicked turn, though, when the double is murdered and Judd witnesses the whole thing, leaving him scrambling for answers. Who wants him dead? Who was behind the hit on the double? Who else might they be going after?

Little does Judd know that, behind the scenes, a deadly game of killing is taking place as a fraternity of assassins battle it out in the shadows. Worse, whether he likes it or not, Judd’s just inadvertently stepped onto the playing field, and as the story heats up . . . it becomes clear that only one victor will emerge at the end.

With the stakes at an all-time high, Judd teams up with his former colleague and lover Eva Blake, and together the duo set out to piece things together and takeout anyone and everyone who’s hunting them before it’s too late.

As I wrote in my review five years ago, “Forget Game of Thrones, Gayle Lynds has dialed up a relentless game of spies, and it rocks from beginning to end!”

by Gayle Lynds

I’m jazzed and honored that The Real Book Spy chose The Assassins, a book I love, as this month’s Rogue Recommendation.  It’s brought back many wonderful memories — greeting the dawn after a great all-night writing session (whew!), research that took me figuratively around the globe, brainstorming with my creative and very funny husband, John, and the magical moment when a scene finally came to life.
Gayle Lynds revealing secrets.

Here’s a secret.  No one knows this.  The Assassins didn’t begin with the idea of writing about six semiretired international assassins who have a face-off that inevitably must lead to the survival of only one of them.  And it didn’t begin with my discovery that Saddam Hussein’s $40 billion fortune was missing (and is still gone, gone, gone), although it sent my writerly instincts atwitter.

The entire book was launched by a simple imaginary scene that tantalized me, and which the great Real Book Spy has (of course) zeroed in on.... 

Meet Judd Ryder, a nice guy and former military intelligence spy, slogging home on a snowy morning on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.  It’s bitter cold.  He’s tired after an all-night flight.  He spots his row house – hooray!  A shower!  His own bed!  Then he’s gobsmacked: From a half block away, he watches his front door open, and some guy backs out, pausing to lock the door.  It looks like he’s wearing Judd’s overcoat and gloves.  When the man turns around, Judd sees it’s all true – he’s not only dressed in Judd’s clothes, he’s got Judd’s face. 

(Pause here a moment, my friends.  Take it all in.  Imagine you’re arriving home and you see someone come out of your house who looks exactly like you!)

Yes, the guy’s a lookalike.  Either he was born that way (unlikely), or he’s been deliberately, professionally made to look like Judd.  In spookspeak, he’s a double.  And since the gray underbelly of international espionage and crime was Judd’s terra firma not so very long ago, that’s got to be the answer.

It’s not that we writers lack for ideas.  Take a walk, and kaboom – we get an idea.  Drift off to sleep, and a storm of ideas wakes us up.  When our imaginations start delivering ideas, a lot are dreck, or at best just, well, okay.  So when the gods smile and hand us a sparkling gem, we snatch it and don’t let go.

I’m thinking about all of this because the reviews of The Assassins kindly praised a lot of aspects of the book — the little-known clandestine world of espionage, Saddam’s hidden billions, and the assassins themselves — such interesting sociopaths and psychopaths, so disarming they’re almost good enough to take home to mom. 

But what no one knows is that Judd Ryder launched the whole thing, just because he wanted to go home, take a shower, and sleep.  Gotta love that man.

Thank you to The Real Book Spy. Have you read The Assassins yet? Tell us what you thought in the comments below. 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Piper Reynard steps off the pages of THE WIFE STALKER to go Rogue!

by Liv Constantine

Hello, I’m Piper Reynard direct from the pages of The Wife Stalker (which comes out on 5/19). I’m so excited to be here with the Rogue Women Writer’s! And although I don’t write books, I do write blogs and as an innovator who embraces new ideas and change, I consider myself a rogue woman too. I believe there is no higher calling than to share the wisdom one has acquired with others who are still lacking. I’m deeply honored to have the opportunity to share some of my tips for a healthier, more balanced life. Before we begin, I encourage you to breathe in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth. And again. Now I want you to try and connect more deeply with the words you are reading. Quiet your mind. Everything else can wait. Sit for a moment in silence. Breathe once again. Now if you’re ready, we will begin.

Today I want to focus on how you are nourishing your body. Are you optimizing each and every food choice to ensure that whatever you eat is beneficial and life-giving? As motivational speaker Jim Rohn said: “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” Satisfying your sweet tooth doesn’t have to compromise this tenant. Here are two of the many delicious recipes that will satisfy your palate while being healthful to your body.

Creamy Cauliflower & Blueberry Smoothie
by The Natural Nurturer September-28-2017

This Creamy Cauliflower & Blueberry Smoothie is loaded with tons of antioxidants, fiber, nutrients, healthy fat and protein. You’ll be totally amazed that you can’t taste the cauliflower and will adore how smooth and creamy the cauli makes your morning blend! This smoothie has become a new family breakfast staple and is especially great for getting a filling, balanced breakfast in on the craziest of mornings that will see us through until lunch.

Ingredients

· 2 cups frozen blueberries

· 1/4 cup nut butter

· 2 cups frozen cauliflower florets (you can find them in the freezer section at pretty much any grocery store)

· 2 cups unsweetened almond milk

· 1/4 cup collagen powder (optional, but great for added protein)

· 1/2-1 ripe banana (depending on how sweet you like your smoothie)

· 2 tablespoons chia seeds

· 1 cup water

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in your blender. Blend on high until smooth. Add more water a little at a time if needed to reach desired consistency. Pour into glasses and enjoy immediately.

Drool-Worthy Raw Chocolate Avocado Mousse

Ingredients 

· 1 large ripe avocado (Avocado is a great dairy-free alternative to butter)

· 5 Tbsp raw cacao powder

· 5-7 Tbsp pure maple syrup

· 1 Tbsp almond milk (or milk of your choice)

· 1 tsp vanilla powder

· 2 pinches of Himalayan pink salt (or sea salt)

· 2 Tbsp raw cacao butter (or cold-pressed extra virgin coconut oil)

Gently melt the cacao butter in a heatproof bowl set over a small pan of steaming water e.g. bring the water to the boil then turn off the heat and place the bowl of cacao butter on top. This ensures the temperature of the cacao butter doesn’t go above 47ºC and all its antioxidants are preserved.

Place the avocado (peeled and stone removed) in a food processor along with the cacao powder, maple syrup, almond milk, vanilla, and salt and blend until smooth. Slowly add the melted cacao butter with the motor running until it is all incorporated. Spoon the mousse into serving dishes, cover, and place in the fridge to chill. To serve, crush freeze-dried raspberries over the tops and sprinkle a few raw cacao nibs. These will keep covered in the fridge for 3-4 days.
The result is an amazing tasting chocolate mousse that’s super high in nutrients and antioxidants and perfect for anyone with allergies to dairy, eggs, and gluten, or just wanting a healthier dessert option.

If you’re ever in Westport, please consider making an appointment for a wellness evaluation or yoga class at The Phoenix Recovery Center. I’d love to give you a tour and guide you on a journey of lasting change, one that will deepen and sustain resilience so that you can meet life’s challenges with mindfulness and self-compassion, growing your inner resources. Some of you may have heard rumors about me—there are always those who wish to darken the light of others. But I assure you, I am a good person and have never hurt another soul. Once you read my story, I’m sure you’ll agree. As Rilke says: “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage.”

You can read more about my journey in The Wife Stalker.

Namaste,

Piper

The Wife Stalker Book Trailer:

Sunday, May 10, 2020

SCOTT TUROW GOES ROGUE


by Robin Burcell

          I recently had the opportunity to interview Scott Turow who will be one of the guests of honor at the Bouchercon 2020 this fall in Sacramento, and he kindly agreed to answer a few questions for the Rogues. If you’re not familiar with him or his legal thrillers, he’s a Harvard-educated attorney who still practices law (part-time these days). His most recent book, THE LAST TRIAL, will be out May 12, 2020. Per Booklist, in a starred review: 
“Turow has established the gold standard for legal thrillers for decades, and he delivers another bar-raising example of his talent here, with his signature absorbing legal details, cerebral suspense, and fascinatingly flawed characters all on full view.” 
I've been a fan or Turow's since Presumed Innocent, so am honored to present Eleven Things You Might Not Know About Scott Turow. Enjoy!

1. Which is harder: writing the first or last sentence? For me, the last, although once I have the first sentence I know the novel is on its way. The last, however, requires me to fully understand what I am writing about.

2. Where do you like to write? One of the great blessings in my life was that my high school journalism teacher, Dr. Boyd Guest, insisted that reporters needed to be able to write anywhere. No cork-lined rooms for them! As a result, I learned to write anywhere that people will leave me alone. It’s a well-known story that I wrote much of Presumed Innocent on the morning commuter train. Airplanes also suit me well. Recently the single best place to write has been my home office in the house we rent in Naples, Florida during the grey months in the midwest, where I am often at work at sunrise.

3. What do you do when you need to take a break from writing? Respond to email and play golf.

4. If you could have lived in a different time period, what would that be? Clearly some time in the future, at least 50 years forward. I’d love to look in on my grandchildren, see how we’ve handled global warming and witness the new wonders that science has brought us.

5. What's your favorite drink? Club soda at the moment. I’m trying to cut down on Coke Zero, which I also adore. Lagavulin is an indulgence for a celebratory moment.

6. When you were ten (or thereabout) years old, what did you want to be when you grew up? Around ten, I first declared that I was going to be a novelist, my mother’s wished-for ambition for herself.

7. If you could do it all over, would you still become a lawyer? Without question. There is no doubt that the practice of law is an often nasty business, with plenty of strife between opponents and lots of silly economic pressures, but the law itself remains, as my character Sandy Stern would tell you, a noble profession, about deciding how the little of life (that) people can control can become fairer.

8. Do you have a literary hero? A teacher, mentor, family member, author who has inspired you to write stories? Saul Bellow, by the time I was in college, was the famous Jewish-American Chicago Novelist whose work seemed to hit home. But his life was no ideal. Dickens continues to fascinate me. About five years ago, we spent Christmas Day in his former house in London. He was an immense talent, who never forgot how hard his younger life was, and who was one of the first to recognize the enormous health risks to the poor from urban pollution.


9. Do you write what you know or what you want to know? Both, but certainly you have to start from what you think you know of life.

10. Do you have any words of inspiration for aspiring writers? Yes. Write. Put your butt in a chair and do the hard work of getting words on paper. I like to say that Phil Knight of Nike stole the writer’s slogan: Just do it.

11. Do you have any words of inspiration for aspiring lawyers? (My daughter is 1L, so had to ask.) Yes. The most fulfilled lawyers I know live lives where they are never remote from the core job of practicing attorneys, which is to do justice. If it becomes about only meeting deadlines or pleasing clients or making money, the law becomes a grind. If you stay in touch with the law’s larger ambitions, you can feel allied with something truly worthwhile.

Stay safe, everyone! I hope you'll leave a comment to let us all know how you're doing!