Monday, March 1, 2021

ROGUE WOMEN FEBRUARY ROUNDUP!

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

As we geared up to celebrate Valentine's day, Karna Small Bodman gave us a little rundown of the history of the day and some great reading recommendations.

ZJ Czupor took us on a deep dive through the phenomenon of doppelgängers in science and literature.

Author of The Mercenary, Paul Vidich, shared his expertise and top tips for researching a historical novel. 

Book rejection can be really difficult to navigate, and Lisa Black opened up with us about how she's persevering through her "book-less 2021." 

Valentine's Day isn't just about romantic love. And for all who might rather read less conventional tales this month, Jenny Milchman shared her favorite "not romantic love" book list!

As a sneak preview to an X-Treme CrafFest session airing in July, Chris Goff shared some of her musings about how to craft compelling character relationships based on real life relationships.

J.T. Ellison, the "Thriller Chick" herself, was a guest on our blog. She gave us some special insight into the context of her upcoming March release, "HER DARK LIES." 

Friday, February 26, 2021

J.T. ELLISON GOES ROGUE

Karna Small Bodman: We are delighted to welcome New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 25 novels and the EMMY award winning co-host of the literary TV show, A Word on Words, J.T. Ellison. With millions of books in print, her novels have been published in 25 countries. Here J.T. tells us where she got the inspiration to write her new thriller, HER DARK LIES, described as one featuring a mystery, a ruined wedding dress and troubling shadows hovering over what should be a lovely wedding in an idyllic setting.

by J.T. Ellison

For those who know me, it’s not a surprise that my latest novel is set off the coast of Italy. My family is Italian and live in the Piedmont region, so any excuse to visit, I find.

Our last trip to visit family was a bit of a disaster. We went to Italy to celebrate my major milestone birthday. It was my parents, my husband and myself, my brother, and one of my nephews.

It rained, almost every day. We all caught terrible colds. We tend to migrate around when we travel, in order to see and experience as much as possible, and there were six of us (sometimes eight) in a rented van (nicknamed, appropriately, Van Go) barreling around the Italian Alps, sneezing and coughing, and, well, arguing. If you’ve ever been sick on vacation, you understand. It’s ten thousand times worse when you’re not at home. Being overseas, it is one heck of a challenge.

Como was our last stop, and we planned to be there three days before flying home. Traffic was awful, the roads so narrow we nearly scraped off the mirror a few times. Add in the sneezing, coughing, shouting — in Italian and English — by the time we alighted on the shores of Lake Como, everyone was primed for murder.

Thankfully, we found some excellent codeine-laced cough drops and soldiered through. There was good wine, of course. Our room had a beautiful terrace that overlooked the lake, and miracle of all miracles, when we woke, the sun was shining. My birthday had arrived, and finally, things were looking up.

I’d lost my voice at that point (a decennial tradition) but this was my first time on Lake Como, so I packed up a box of tissues and we caught the ferry. We toured around on the lake all day, disembarking at the various towns, gobbling down risottos and Prosecco. Eventually, we simply sat in our seats on the ferry’s top deck and motored around the lake. It was a wonderful day.

Spirits restored, we settled in for a special birthday dinner. As the wine arrived, a yacht pulled up to the dock on Comacina, Como’s sole island.

A wedding party emerged, disappearing into the island’s heart. It’s become something of a family joke — it never fails, no matter where we are, we run into a wedding. We could hear the makings of a grand party going on. As we were served dessert, fireworks began. I was wildly impressed that my husband had managed fireworks for my birthday, but quickly found out it was a Comacina wedding tradition.

We all had a good laugh, and I knew immediately I had to find a way to write this into a book. The setting, the yacht, the wedding, the fireworks. Murderous intentions. A novel was born.

Comacina has a number of legends surrounding it, which piqued my interest to do more research in the area. But to achieve my vision for the novel, I also needed crashing waves, extreme isolation, and a sheer cliff face, so I married Comacina with Capri for the cliffs and grottos, set it off even farther west where no one can reach it easily, and put a grand fortress on the cliff. Only later did I realize I’d put my fictional Isle Isola smack dab in the Tyrrhenian Sea between the Scylla and Charybdis. So fitting.

Being on an island in the middle of the sea, only accessibly by yacht, hydrofoil, or helicopter, during the stormy season, amped up the isolation needed to make HER DARK LIES the ultimate gothic thriller. Its roots are as Italian as I am. I can’t wait to go back to Italy and see what sparks for me next!

This new thriller will be our March 9. In the meantime, you can visit J.T.'s website hereThanks, J.T. for being a guest here on Rogue Women Writers. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

RELATIONSHIPS: FICTION VS. REAL LIFE

 by Chris Goff

The Big Reveal

In July, I will have the distinct pleasure of discussing this topic with fellow Rogue Carla Neggers in our X-Treme CrafFest session entitled “Character Relationships,” airing during Virtual ThrillerFest XVI, June 28-July 10, 2021. Attendees can tune into over 100 conversations featuring over 200 industry professionals, all discussing specific aspects of the writing craft: setting, dialogue, conflict, opening sentences, etc.

So what do Carla and I know about Character Relationships?

A lot! I am the author of eight books—six in a Birdwatcher’s Mystery series and two international thrillers. I’ve been nominated for a lot of awards, won a few and honed my craft for nearly 30 years.

Okay, I admit, I have ten years’ worth of learning curve sitting in boxes in my basement. At least four novel attempts and a slew of short story attempts. But who doesn’t?

Carla, maybe!

She is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 75 novels, including her acclaimed Sharpe & Donovan suspense series. Her books have been translated into two dozen languages and sold in over 35 countries.

I’m in awe.

But I digress.

In the world of crime fiction, there is an ongoing debate about what’s most important– character or plot. As a beginning writer, I would have said plot. After all, it’s the pulse-pounding ride that makes a thriller so exciting, right? It’s all about the chase to the end to see justice triumph. But, as a seasoned writer, I’ve changed my mind. After eight books, I’ve come to the realization…

It’s character that drives the story.

After all, justice looks differently to different people. How justice looks depends on whether you’re the protagonist or the antagonist, the wife or the other woman, the boss or the employee.

It took me years to complete my debut thriller, DARK WATERS. The idea came to me in 1999. I was in Israel for eight weeks with my daughter. She was eleven and there receiving medical treatment. I was the parent on the ground. I had just turned in my first book in the Birdwatcher’s Mystery series, and was under contract for four more in the series. I knew I should be working on Book #2. Instead, I spent the eight weeks focusing on my daughter and taking notes. Lots of notes. The more I watched, the more I was struck by the by the complexity of Israeli society. There were lots of Jews, who believed different things. Some weren’t religious, some were. Some were orthodox, some were ultra-orthodox. There were Israeli Arabs, separated by a border wall from their Palestinian relatives. I was enthralled with how many similarities there were to things happening at the borders in the US.

It was right at the time when suicide bombings were gearing up, and the fear and anger was palpable.

Later, when I worked on the book, it was the characters in my book that made the story work. It was their differences, offset by their similarities and their common goals, which drove the plot and made the story come alive.

The good the bad and the ugly.

It is incredible how nuanced relationships are. You can love someone and still not like them. You can be in awe of someone’s accomplishments, but despise them as a human being. You can try with every fiber of your being to make someone understand, and still not be able to make them comprehend.

And that’s what makes it interesting!

Like in real life, it’s the push and pull between characters that captivates the readers. Who is smarter, the villain or the protagonist? Does the person your character loves unconditionally, place conditions on their relationship? Do the characters have different belief systems and yet want the same outcome? For the same or for different reasons?

I’ve spent the past few days thinking about what I want to say in our session, and what I want to ask Carla. I know there’s a lot I can learn from her. And for the past week, I’ve been taking notes again, and begun tweaking Operation Gentoo. One thing I know for certain, the stronger my characters, the better the book.

If you could share one truth about relationships or character, one thing you’ve learned over the years, what would it be?

Friday, February 19, 2021

NOT ROMANTIC LOVE: 8 THRILLING READS FOR FEBRUARY

by Jenny Milchman

Did anybody else have those carnation campaigns around Valentine’s Day in high school? I think they were a student council fundraiser, maybe to pay for prom. The fact that I don’t really know shows my relationship to the carnation sales (and also to high school). I didn’t even go to prom, and I was never the one getting carnations delivered in every single period, standing up in a for me? dance over and over again. My best friend and I had each other’s carnation backs, saving the other from being flowerless.

Point being, Valentine’s Day can be tough. As a teenager who has yet to experience romance. And as an adult in myriad ways. Plus February is about much more than Hallmark. So I thought I would share some thrilling reads that each embrace a different kind of love.

Love for a Twin Sister

Speaking of Summer
by Kalisha Buckhanon

Anybody who has a sister will relate to the love that infuses this dark literary mystery. Autumn’s twin sister, Summer, disappears one snowy night from a rooftop in Harlem. There is only one set of footprints in the snow, and the door from the building is locked. Intriguing setup—but the strong, beating heart of this story is the lengths to which Autumn will go to find out what happened to her sister, and the tangled, twisted bonds of sisterly love.


Love for a Cause

Don’t Turn Around
by Jessica Barry

I know, there’re two Jessica Barry novels on this list. She’s, like, [cue tween-y voice] my new #faveauthor This book frightened me to my very toes, as in, I had to stop reading at one point and go stalk around the house to put me back in the Now instead of the terrifying world Barry creates where society is divided, and you can almost (note that I did say almost) see the other’s point of view. In those shades of gray, which Barry delves into furiously well, true terror lies.


More Twin Love

The Vanishing Half
by Brit Bennett

Another twin sister disappearance novel, dealing with the topics of identity, race, and the dark legacy men leave on women. Is it possible to grab hold of another life, even if it means never seeing your family or going back home again? When Stella Vignes stumbles almost accidentally upon the chance to live as a white woman married to a wealthy businessman, she takes it, although it requires abandoning all that she loves. And then one day, her stack of lies is threatened.


Mother/Daughter Love

Freefall
by Jessica Barry

The love a mother has for her daughter propels this wilderness thriller. When a small plane crashes in the Rockies, there are no survivors. Or are there? Because even though Maggie Carpenter hasn’t spoken to her daughter in years, knows nothing about her life, job, or her impending marriage, she can’t believe that Allison perished in that fiery crash. And as Allison makes her way home, her journey places the mother who won’t give up on her in grave danger as well.


Can’t We Just Be Friends Love

The Lost Night
by Andrea Bartz

The love friends have for each other can be as deep as any other. But the flip side is how intense the hatred and rivalries and betrayals can also run. A group of friends has grown up; it’s been ten years since they left their drunken, partying days behind, with one key member dead. But when one of the living starts to wonder why her memory of the last night they spent together is so cloudy, everything else has to be questioned too. Hipster Brooklyn and millennial life are put vividly on the page, as well as the reality of what happens when we leave our youth behind with secrets still buried.


Love for a Child Who Isn’t Your Own

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

How much must you love kids to be a professional nanny? Arguably, Emira Tucker behaves more lovingly to her three year old charge, Briar, than does Briar’s snooty, entitled mom. But when Emira is accused of kidnapping little Briar in an upscale grocery late one night after her employers have leaned on her to work extra hours, all you-know-what breaks loose in the upper crust neighborhood where the Chamberlains live, on the media, and in mom Alix and nanny Emira’s lives. Especially because Emira is in no way a kidnapper, and Alix doesn’t know her three year old at all.


Love for an Era

Confessions in B-Flat by Donna Hill

This is the most traditional love story of my selections. Will Jason Tanner, a new arrival to New York City at the height of the civil rights movement, who comes bearing the anti-war message of Dr. Martin Luther King, woo beat poet, Anita Hopkins, a devotee of Malcom X? But this novel is also a love letter to an era, one we in many ways need to revisit, rediscover, and reboot now, as we seek to build new and loving binds with each other.


Love for a Stranger

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner

Frankie Elkin is Lisa Gardner’s new heroine, a woman who seeks and finds people who’ve been forgotten to the world, their lives, even their own families. There are so many people truly alone in the world, or who feel alone in it, and that’s why everybody needs a Frankie: fierce, dogged, and brave. Because this is a Lisa Gardner novel, we know the character will come riddled with flaws that make her relatable and real. But you also know you’ll find in Frankie a heroine for the times, along with the truest message of love, which is: Never, ever give up.


What's on your Valentine's month reading list? Let us know! 

Friday, February 12, 2021

MY BOOK-LESS 2021

By Lisa Black

I will not have a new book coming out in 2021. 

Last summer I finished what I thought would be the first book in a new series. My protagonist could be described as ‘like Jack Reacher, if Jack Reacher were a fortyish ex-housewife with no martial arts training.’ I loved it. My agent was enthusiastic about it. We sent it to the publisher.

The publisher said: No. 

Not ‘this needs some work.’ Not ‘the villain isn’t convincing.’ Not ‘here is ten pages of suggested changes.’ 

Just ‘no.’ 

They did add: ‘But you know what we’d really like…’

In the writing world, having a book rejected is not only a shock, an interruption to the publishing schedule, a pain in the #*&^$ neck and possibly a financial hardship, but it really hurts your feelings. It’s a punch to the gut like your mother throwing your drawing away instead of hanging it on the fridge. It’s like spending your senior year working up the courage to ask a particular person to the prom and when you do, they give a snorting laugh and walk away. It’s like overhearing your spouse confiding to their best friend that they should have married the person they dated before you. 

It is, in a word, the worst. 

In case I haven’t made it completely clear, it’s not only that a year of your life has been utterly wasted. (Sure, you can tell me it was a learning experience and all for the best and it will make me a better writer, but I won’t believe you. On principle, I won’t believe you.) It’s not a matter of second guessing, such as: Did I choose the wrong setting? A boring title? Maybe I should have given my character red hair. 

No, a rejection this flat makes you doubt your very sanity. Am I so out of touch with reality that I thought this was a good book? Am I crazy, or just stupid? 

Of course I handled the whole thing with maturity and professionalism. For example, I moved through the seven stages of editorial rejection in record time: 

Disbelief: What, no? You’re just going to say no? As in, like, no?

Denial: This can’t be right. Is my editor on vacation? Did the snarky temp at the front desk write this email?

Bargaining: What if I throw in a sex scene? What if I make the character twenty years younger and a one-armed trapeze artist who escaped from a circus in Uzbekistan?

Guilt: This is karma for not completing the three-page character profile of the protagonist’s second cousin.

Anger: The publishing world has been taken over by uncouth mercenaries who wouldn’t know a good book if they were stuck overnight on the Flushing line with nothing but a copy!

Depression: I suck. This book failed because I suck, have always sucked, and they probably only published all those other books because my mom made them. 

Acceptance: All right—what would you, publisher, really like? [Maybe I can repurpose this manuscript down the road….]

But of course, it was 2020. The country, the entire planet, was having the worst year ever and I’m going to publicly weep and moan because I typed ninety thousand words that no one wants to read? Complain to my husband, who was out of work for 8 months? To my niece who’s trying to teach middle-schoolers via Zoom? To friends and family who have loved ones in the hospital with Covid-19? Nope, not an option. Besides, who wants to advertise the fact that they crashed and burned into a still-smoking heap of failure? 

So there I was, wallowing in a writer’s peculiar and lonely kind of misery—but here’s the kicker: I actually mean this to be an inspiring blog. Because I’d been there before, and survived. 

I’ve had a book rejected before, a previous year of my life tossed in the can. I’ve had chapters axed, a character completely remade, book ideas vetoed without even an outline read. Once before an editorial meeting I spent ten minutes explaining my next plot to my agent only to be warned: “Yes, well, don’t say that. Say pretty much anything but that.” 

There is a lot of rejection in the writing life, and yes, you have to get used to it. But you also have to believe that it’s only a rejection of this particular piece of writing. It’s not a rejection of you. Writers write a lot of stuff--some of it works out, and some of it doesn’t. 

You only fail when you let it stop you. 

So tell me, dear readers: when did you refuse to let a setback stop you? 

 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

FIVE KEYS TO SUCCESSFULLY RESEARCHING AN HISTORICAL NOVEL

by Paul Vidich

The Memorial Wall in the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley Virginia has 133 black stars carved into Vermont marble.  Each star represents a fallen agency officer.  Many are named, but a few are identified only by the date and place they died.  My new novel, The Mercenary, is inspired by one anonymous man represented by a star.  Initially, I was intimidated by the challenge of telling the story of a high-ranking KGB officer exfiltrated by the CIA, not because it was about Cold War spies, (I had addressed this world in my previous novels), but because my novel was to be set in Moscow, a city I had never visited – and couldn’t in the pandemic.   

I wanted to make sure The Mercenary evoked a vivid sense of Moscow in the last years of the Soviet Union. To create an authentic sense of that place and time, I knew I would have to do a great deal of research.  Before sitting down to write the novel, I did six months of extensive research to get five things right: setting, characters, dialogue, location, and the historical context. This breakdown was helpful for my spy novel, but it can offer readers and writers useful tips for any type of novel research.

SETTING: Setting may be the novelist’s first critical choice. Setting means a certain place at a certain time where the story unfolds. Setting is not just scenery, or nice descriptive passages, although an illustrator’s eye for a place is part of it. It’s about mood, it’s about the things that draw a character to a place, establishes the novel’s atmosphere, and evoke the story’s imaginary world. Setting provides the yearnings, fears, attractions, and possibilities that are available to characters who find themselves at a unique moment in a particular place. It is the stage for the characters whose stories will be told.

BELIEVABLE CHARACTERS: In The Mercenary, I needed to imagine men and woman whose choices, values, and actions were convincing and of the era. I read several autobiographies of high-ranking KGB officers who successfully defected to the West. Their stories are gripping real-life accounts of spies and they paint a graphic picture of the paranoia, incompetence, intrigues and sheer nastiness of the KGB. I was able to understand the hopes and fears of men who were caught in the Soviet system, and once I inhabited their world, I created Viktor Petrov, a KGB Lieutenant Colonel who wanted out. He became a whole person who lived in a specific apartment block, drank too much, spoke with a provincial accent, and cared deeply for his son. I created him, as all writers create characters, by accessing my own emotions and psyche, combining them with the real-life accounts of the KGB officers, and then I scraped all this material into a mental space, breathed on the ember, and gave life to Petrov.

DIALOGUE: It is critical. It reveals character and it drives plot. But to make dialogue authentic, you need to know your character well. I listened to the voices of the Russians who I researched and developed an ear for imitation. Often writers make the mistake of describing a character to help the reader imagine, but writers sometimes wrongly use Somerset Maugham’s technique of sumptuously describing a person’s aquiline nose, grey eyes, knitted brow, and so on, and by the time the reader has finished the paragraph the reader still doesn’t have the faintest idea what the person is like. But if the character opens their mouth and says something, you reveal them in two or three lines. 

LOCATION: In my previous novels, set in Havana and Washington DC., I visited the cities doing something akin to location scouting. I wanted to see where the action happened, the routes my characters took from their hotel, where my characters lived, and what they saw when they walked down the street. I couldn’t visit Moscow in person so I did my location scouting with Google maps. The street view feature allowed me to visit the city virtually. Street names, traffic patterns, pedestrian’s clothing can all be seen. All these little details are important to establish authenticity, but they have to be transparent. If a detail stands out, the writer has failed. There is tendency in historical fiction to show off period details, but a detail that draw attention to itself takes the reader out of the moment.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT:  I read as much as I could to understand the Soviet Union in 1985.  The Afghan War had been raging for several years and the Soviet occupation had become deeply unpopular and depleted the Soviet economy.  Details of the historical moment helped shaped the tone of the novel, and became background for several of the characters, allowing me to insert myself into the mind of those characters. Serge Schmemann’s Echoes of a Native Land, a New York Times correspondent’s memoir of living in Moscow, provided a stark and moving account of the city in the 1980s that was infinitely suggestive.

Finally, when I had finished a draft of the novel, I looked to see if I could find a sensitive reader whose personal experiences could validate the experience of a foreigner living in the Soviet Union’s pervasive surveillance. I was fortunate to be find John Beryle, American Ambassador to the Russian Federation 2008-2012, who also happened to be a counselor officer in the American embassy in 1985. He provided invaluable insights into specific details, Moscow life, Russian vocabulary, and he corrected mistakes that would only be noted by someone who lived and breathed Moscow in the ‘80s.

The writer’s sleight of hand is to create a world that is authentic to the reader. It is not easy to do, but it’s what makes the books we admire succeed.

What are some of your favorite tips, tricks, and strategies for writing an historical novel?

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

MYSTERY MINUTE GOES ROGUE

By Z. J. Czupor

Doppelgänger: Myth, Literary Device, or the Real Deal?

Unless you are an identical twin, would it unnerve you to bump into your dead ringer … your doppelgänger?

Would your lookalike be your exact double, your evil twin, or just a mischievous spirit?

When a carbon copy character emerges in literature, the author is playing with our sense of reality. In a novel, when another duplicate self appears, doubts automatically surface. The main character questions the double's identity (who are you?) and the main character questions him or herself, (who am I?). In other words, the use of a doppelgänger as a literary device helps writers portray complex characters.

Seeing through the main character's eyes, it sets readers wondering if their protagonist's experience is real, an imagination, or hallucination? That duality inspires terror and dread. 

In general, the doppelgänger creates a creepy or eerie tone within a story, possibly because we see ourselves from outside our own bodies. In other literary situations, an incompetent look-alike can be used to humorous effect.

"Doppelgänger" is German meaning "double-goer" or "double walker." 

It was introduced by German author Jean Paul, in his 1796 novel Siebenkas. In fact, he invented two words: doppeltgänger, (with a "t") his name for an uncanny lookalike; and doppelgänger, to describe a meal in which two courses were served simultaneously. But it wasn't until 1824 that the latter word stuck to mean "apparition of a living person." 

Myths about spirit doubles have been around for thousands of years. In Ancient Egypt, the "ka" was considered one aspect of the soul and depicted as a spirit identical to the body. This myth also lived in Europe, Africa, in Norse mythology, and in English and Irish literature during the 18th and 19th centuries. These oral and written traditions assumed that if you saw your ethereal double, it was a harbinger of bad luck, or … signaled death.

Dueling Natures

Perhaps it was these myths and oral traditions that inspired numerous authors over time to explore our dual natures. 

In Fyodor Dostoevsky's (1821-1881) novella, The Double (1846), a mild and antisocial government clerk meets his bold and assertive reflection. The doppelgänger encroaches on the clerk's affairs and drives him mad by the end of the story.

Edgar Allan Poe's (1809-1849) short story "William Wilson" published in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine (1839) is about an English schoolboy who meets another child with the same name and appearance. This spitting image follows William throughout his life and impedes his ambitions.

The doppelgänger, however, is different from the alter ego — the alternate self, which is embodied by a single person, i.e., Superman/Clark Kent or Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. The device is also different from the imposter who dresses or acts as another character, such as Tom Ripley who pretends to be his Princeton classmate in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) by Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995). 

Some critics consider the doppelgänger plot ruse to be a cliché, but popular stories still abound in novels, soap operas, TV, film, and video games. 

An extensive list of well-known modern mystery and thriller writers has also employed the doppelgänger or evil twin plot tactic, i.e., Stephen King (The Outsider, 2018); Joyce Carol Oates (Jack of Spades, 2015); Tana French (The Likeness, 2008), and Tess Gerritsen (Body Double, 2004) to name a few. The gambit also is popular in romance, science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. 

Are doppelgängers the real deal? 

There are several cases in which historical figures have reported seeing their duplicate selves including President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) who told his wife, Mary Todd, that he saw his reflection doubled in the mirror with one face beside the other. She said the mirror image looked deathly and foreshadowed bad news. Nevertheless, she thought Lincoln would be re-elected but wouldn't "last through it." Lincoln won re-election but was assassinated forty-two days into his second term.

Neuroscientists claim that intense emotions can cause you to perceive an illusory body which shifts your awareness away from your body to the perception of a separate bodily self. In neuroscience jargon, this is called heautoscopy, where scientists study data from brain scans of patients who experience their "double selves" moving and interacting along with a sharing of emotions and thoughts.

Some physicists have speculated that the "Big Bang" — a theory that our universe was created by a massive explosion—also created a parallel universe. They argue that since space is infinite, matter can arrange itself in a finite number of ways, like cards in a deck. Sooner or later our matter is going to repeat, but not necessarily our mental configuration, which could cause an evil doppelgänger version. For example, in its simplest terms, if you love chocolate, your evil twin from a parallel universe would hate chocolate.

According to folk wisdom, everyone has at least one doppelgänger, or maybe as many as seven other "duplicate selves" walking around the world. Creepy, but not very likely.

There are seven billion people on the planet. There is bound to be someone out there who shares your same features. Right? Scientists, however, claim there's about a one in 135 chance that a pair of complete doppelgängers exist somewhere in the world. But the likelihood of someone walking around looking identical to you, specifically, with your facial features, is only one in 1 trillion. 

Psychologist and paranormal investigator Jayne Harris, who authored What Dwells Within: A Study of Spirit Attachment (2015), says, "Whatever the real truth, belief in the spirit double has instilled both fear and wonder in people for thousands of years and will no doubt continue to do so. After all, the wonder of life is surely its mysteries."


How They Met Themselves, watercolor by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1864).



Saturday, February 6, 2021

ROGUE FLASH – KARNA BODMAN'S THRILLER ON SPECIAL SALE


Just in time for a Valentine gift, Rogue Karna Bodman’s latest thriller Trust but Verify just went on sale at Amazon.  Both the hardcover and audio versions are available at a special price, though not for long.

It is especially timely to make this announcement in conjunction with President Ronald Reagan’s birthday, which is February 6, because the author served six years in the Reagan White House,
first as Deputy Press Secretary, later as Senior Director of the National Security Council. 

This thriller features a member of the White House staff an
d an FBI Special Agent who race to unravel an explosive plot that threatens the lives of international financial leaders and would sink stock markets worldwide.

New York Times bestselling author, Lee Child, describes it this way: “Bodman’s hard-won insider information and sheer storytelling talent make this a book to remember. This novel was recently awarded a medal by the Military Writers Association of America. 

Happy Valentine’s Day from Rogue Women Writers.

 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

THE MYSTERY OF VALENTINE'S DAY

by Karna Small Bodman

Valentine’s Day is next week. Won’t it be nice to take some time to focus on romance rather than simply remaining safe during challenging times. You know why we all must be careful and keep our distance. But do you know why we celebrate love and close companionship on February 14, when Americans are expected to spend over $27 billion on cards, chocolate, roses and other gifts? Is any part of Valentine’s Day’s history authentically romantic? 

You’ve probably heard that the day has something to do with a patron saint named Valentine, but the actual origins are shrouded in mystery since there are different “martyred saints” with that name. According to one legend, Valentine was a Roman priest living in the third century who secretly married couples after the Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage because he thought single men made better soldiers. 

Anther legend focused on a man named Valentine who, while imprisoned, helped Christians escape and sent the first “Valentine” to a woman who visited him while he was there.  He reportedly signed it, “From your Valentine.”

What about the date in February? Some believe that it originated in the Middle Ages when birds’ mating season was thought to begin on February 14.  The first actual mention of celebrating Valentine’s Day as one that centers on romantic love goes back to Geoffrey Chaucer in 1375 with a line from the poem Parliament of Foules: “For this was sent on Seynt Valentynes’ day/ Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”

When it comes to choosing how to celebrate the day with a gift for your own Valentine, you can certainly send a card, but how about choosing a book . . .  perhaps one focusing on romance, mystery or a combination of the two? Since we Rogues are women, I thought I’d pull together a short list of novels penned by bestselling women authors that just might fit the bill.

A new series by Tracy Gardner from Hallmark Publishing features both romance and mystery.  The first is Out of the Picture. The star of this story is Savanna Shepherd, a former art authenticator who can tell a forgery from the real thing.  She’s described as having a talent for spotting secrets hiding in plain sight. One reviewer tells us this is “A story of family, new beginnings and community … that holds you in pleasure, particularly for mystery and romance story lovers. You will be gripped by the story’s irresistible pace…it will not disappoint.”

The second in this series is Behind the Frame. In this installment, Savanna is convinced that the arrested murder suspect did not commit the crime, and with the help of a doctor, who is her new romantic interest, they uncover hidden resentments and intrigue. This novel also gets rave reviews with readers saying it is, “Everything I love in a cozy mystery: an appealing location, an intriguing mystery to solve, plenty of suspects to consider, and a wonderful group of likable characters.”

If you think your Valentine might like to read more focused mysteries (vs. the “Hallmark variety”) here are two brand new releases that immediately hit the bestseller lists.  We have written about author Marie Benedict before when her terrific novels, The Only Woman in the Room, about the inventions of actress Hedy Lamarr, and Carnegie’s Maid, about a servant who may have inspired Andrew Carnegie.  

Now Marie has penned The Mystery of Mrs. Christie. This novel takes place in 1926 when famous author, Agatha Christie disappeared for a mysterious 11 days, one of the most notorious events in literary history. What happened to her when her empty car was found on the edge of a deep pond, the only clues being tire tracks and a fur coat left in the car which was strange for such a frigid night? What is real and what is mystery? Read the book and decide for yourself.

A final recommendation is a book released just last month, The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins. This too was an instant New York Times and USA Today bestseller. CNN called it “One of the most anticipated books of 2021.” It’s described as being “A delicious twist on the Gothic classic, Jane Eyre that pairs Southern charm with atmospheric suspense.” It’s also called “A delicious thriller with a fresh, sharp twist that you’ll likely want to read in a single sitting.”

Of course, I would also recommend books written by my Rogue colleagues that are listed on the left of this page. These thrillers appeal to both men and women. If you haven’t sampled their story telling skills, you might want to order one of their books as a gift on February 14.

What are YOU going to give your own special Valentine next week? Leave a comment – we’d love to know. And thanks for visiting us here on Rogue Women Writers. 


Monday, February 1, 2021

ROGUE WOMEN JANUARY ROUNDUP!


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

Most people make resolutions at New Year's, but Rogue Jenny Milchman goes all out and makes resolutions for every month of the year.

ZJ Czupor takes a hard look at Mario Puzo in "He Did It For the Money," a tale of how the Godfather came to be.

Ever wonder if a writer's background made them the writer they are? Chris Goff spills the beans in Shoutout Colorado. Chris Goff tackles the pandemic with the idea for a new book: The Spy Who Worked From Home.

His first novel won the ITW Thriller and Barry Awards and was nominated for Edgar®, Anthony and Hammett Awards. And his sixth book, The Breaker, is just coming out. Nick Petrie shares with the Rogues just how hard writing can be.

Plenty of authors write really good action sequences, but few have ever really lived that life. Not true for this months The Real Book Spy's Rogue Recommendation, Brad Thor. Check out his new thriller: American Traitor.

Carla Neggers told us how to create a writing space that 'sparks joy'.


Friday, January 29, 2021

ORGANIZING A CREATIVE WORKSPACE THAT "SPARKS JOY"

by Carla Neggers

With all the oh-so-tempting sales on all things that help us get organized, I’m not surprised to discover the National Association of Professional Organizers has designated January as “get organized month.” Everything has a place, everything in its place, right?

Marie Kondo, who’s taught and inspired millions to tidy up, has launched a new collection with The Container Store. It offers bins, boxes and canisters in a variety of sizes for…well, everything. It looks fantastic. I’m measuring drawers and shelves and making a list!

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up is comprehensive in its approach but it offers great ideas to help create a tidy, inspiring writing space. Her approach is rooted in keeping only items that “spark joy,” an essential concept that resonates with so many of us.

Now, some writers I know like their “clutter.” They work best with everything out, visible. They’re surrounded by books, magazines, reference materials, printouts of research, drafts of their work-in-progress, bills to pay—nothing gets lost in a drawer, as one friend puts it. And why not? If it works, it works.

I love books, paper, pens and all sorts of office supplies and resources, but I tend not to have a lot of stuff out when I’m writing. Just what I need at that moment. It’s not a sterile space. I wouldn’t want that, either. On my desk are two pen-and-pencil holders my daughter made in pottery class when she was in third grade. They might not be the most practical options but they’re sturdy and they definitely “spark joy.”

For me, art is part of creating an organized writing space. I’ve never framed any of my book covers. I’m proud of my work but I don’t want it up on my walls. I have an original painting by Irish artist Maureen O’Shea that makes me smile; it brings back warm memories of when I fell in love with it at Cleo’s in Kenmare, Ireland.

Like many avid readers I know, I didn’t follow Marie Kondo’s advice on getting rid of all my unread books. I’ve read some of them since the start of the pandemic. Others…I can see she has a point. No books, though, in my workspace. I have non-fiction books in an adjoining room. I’ll sit with a cup of tea and thumb through books on Ireland, Maine, stone masonry, art history. Lots of books. My husband and I keep our library of novels in a different place altogether. (I just finished Lisa Black’s Every Kind of Wicked and loved it!)

I’m not always tidy by any stretch. When I’m finishing a manuscript, I’ve been known to toss printouts of drafts on the floor and then dig around for a cast-off scene. And there was that time with the mice. Best not go there.

What about you? Are you getting anything organized this month? What items in your workspace “spark joy” for you?

Saturday, January 23, 2021

ROGUE FLASH: A Chance to Zoom with Liv Constantine

Pre-order The Wife Stalker and email your receipt to livconstantine2@gmail.com for a chance to win a giveaway of books AND join a Zoom party with best-selling writing team Liv Constantine


“Compelling and surprising, THE WIFE STALKER is a fast-paced page-turner, full of unexpected twists and an ending I did not see coming. Impossible to put down!”
     - Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author of ALL THE MISSING GIRLS and THE PERFECT STRANGER

After watching the trailer, we can't wait to binge-read The Wife Stalker!

Friday, January 22, 2021

THE REAL BOOK SPY'S JANUARY 2021 RECOMMENDATION IS...

by The Real Book Spy

Plenty of authors write really good action sequences.

But few have ever really lived that life. 

Brad Taylor, author of the New York Times bestselling Pike Logan series, is one of the few writers who’s actually experienced the kind of hard-hitting action he writes about. A 21-year veteran of the U.S. Army Infantry and Special Forces, including eight years with the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, Taylor knows a thing or two about combat, and that been-there-done-that authenticity bleeds through on every single page.

In his latest blockbuster thriller, American Traitor, Pike Logan—who is the leader of the Taskforce, an elite, off-the-books counterterrorism unit—and his significant other, Jennifer Cahill (also a member of the Taskforce), head to Australia for what is supposed to be a relaxing getaway. Instead, things go sideways almost immediately when they discover that their host, former colleague Clifford “Dunkin” Delmonty, is on the run from a team of Chinese hitmen. 

Dunkin, it turns out, stumbled upon something he shouldn’t have, and as Pike and Jennifer piece the clues together, a larger conspiracy emerges . . . one so big that it could very well lead to a war between China and Taiwan unless the Taskforce can expose the truth and stop the bad guys before it’s too late. 

In typical Brad Taylor fashion, American Traitor feels ripped straight from the headlines. Without giving anything away, few writers have their finger on the pulse of the geopolitical world the way Taylor does, making his stories feel at times a bit too close for comfort. While much of the genre is still focused on Russia, North Korea, and/or Middle Eastern terrorism, Taylor’s take on what China may or may not be up too is rather refreshing, albeit a bit terrifying. 

As for Pike Logan, well, he reached must-read status years ago. If you’re a fan of Vince Fynn, Brad Thor, Tom Clancy, or Mark Greaney—you will love Taylor’s work. Personally, I’ve always appreciated his diverse cast of characters, which has always featured a mix of strong, kickass women. It’s not uncommon these days to see authors try to include more women into their stories, but Taylor was doing it long before anyone else, and frankly, he just plain does it better. Pike is the star, sure, but Jennifer is every bit as important to this series, and you can expect her to steal plenty of scenes in this one.

Thank you to The Real Book Spy! We love action-packed plots and kickass female characters so American Traitor is sure to be a Rogue favorite!

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

NICK PETRIE GOES ROGUE

Nick Petrie received his MFA in fiction from the University of Washington and won a Hopwood Award for short fiction while an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. His story “At the Laundromat” won the 2006 Short Story Contest in The Seattle Review, a national literary journal. 

His first novel, THE DRIFTER, won the ITW Thriller and Barry Awards, and was nominated for Edgar®, Anthony, and Hammett Awards. He won the 2016 Literary Award from the Wisconsin Library Association and was named one of Apple’s 10 Writers to Read in 2017. Light It Up was named the Best Thriller of 2018 by Apple Books and has been nominated for a Barry Award.

by Nick Petrie

The last time I spoke with K.J. Howe, just before the Night of a Thousand Authors, she surprised me with a question: As a writer, what are you proudest of?  

I’ve done a lot of interviews in the last six years, and nobody has ever asked that question before. I wasn’t terribly proud of my answer, that’s for sure. I said something about how I was proud that I could write a book a year – although even as I said it, I knew it wasn’t coming out right.  

I have wanted to be a writer since high school. I spent more than twenty-five years learning how to tell stories, accumulating three unpublished novels and countless short stories along the way. All this while running a small business, having a family, trying to have a life. 

Then Putnam agreed to publish The Drifter, and asked for another book in a year’s time. My upcoming novel, The Breaker, will be my sixth published novel. And two years ago, I shuttered my business, so I can write full time. Which is another challenge entirely.

Writing is hard work. It’s fun, for sure, but it’s also difficult, especially when your writing life, which, for me, was a precious unpaid preoccupation for twenty-five years, becomes the thing that pays your mortgage. You spend eight hours a day, for months at a time, alone in a small dark room staring at a screen and trying to be creative, goddamnit.

I was a carpenter and home renovation contractor for fifteen years, so I don’t want to equate the challenges of skilled physical labor, with all the attendant risk to life and limb, to sitting at my desk and typing. Compared to working three stories up on a steep-pitched Victorian, teetering on narrow planks as we tear off four ancient layers of shingles with pitchforks and lay down a new roof during the hot, humid heights of August? Sitting at my desk and typing is a breeze.  

But writing isn’t typing. Writing, for me, is about digging deep into myself to find the hearts of my characters and to put their emotions – which are my emotions, because all my characters come from someplace inside of me – on the page for all to see. Which means that writing entails a different kind of risk than demolishing a building or raising a roof, but it is risk nonetheless. The risk of exposing my own flawed heart to the world.

Another challenge to the work involves the fact that it’s really hard to know how well you’re doing, from paragraph to paragraph, scene to scene, chapter to chapter. Do the words do what I want them to do? Does the reader feel the emotion I’m trying to convey? Does the action telegraph in a way that makes it vivid? Is the whole thing just a cliché already done better by someone else?  

It takes me the better part of a year to write a novel, and most of that time is also spent trying to stay afloat in the quicksand of my own self-doubt.

For many years, maybe because I wrote mostly in isolation, I thought that I was the only person who felt this way. Since my first novel was published, I’ve spoken to many, many accomplished writers who have spent decades navigating their own confidence quicksand. It’s become clear to me that, in order to succeed in creative life, even in the smallest way, you need enormous reserves of energy and resilience and optimism in the face of great opposition. It’s no wonder that the writers I know tend to be pretty amazing people.  

So, back to Kim Howe’s original question. What I’m proudest of, to be utterly honest, is that I manage to keep writing, despite everything. Despite my own self-doubts, despite a quarter-century of failures and near-misses, despite the uncertainties of how my agent and editor and readers will receive what I’ve written. Even now that I’m an award-winning, bestselling author – I still feel those doubts, and I still write every day anyway.

Here’s why.

In the late 90’s, I went to a talk by Seamus Heaney, Irish poet and Nobel laureate. Someone in the audience asked him: What’s the hardest thing about writing poetry? He gave her a gentle smile and said, “Getting started, keeping going, and getting started again.”

Implicit in Heaney’s tiny impromptu poem, of course, is the recurrence of failure, and the power of perseverance.

I can’t tell you how much that sly comment has meant to this writer over the decades. 

Thank you, Nick! We can't wait to read THE BREAKER

Friday, January 15, 2021

THE SPY WHO WORKED FROM HOME: OR NOT!

by Chris Goff

So, I joked about writing The Spy Who Worked from Home, but to be honest I saw a lot of potential there. Except, it turns out, it's hard to spy from home. Spying is all about intelligence gathering, and in today's world with all the secure buildings and heavily defended cyber connections, its hard to gather much useful intel on a laptop in your pjs. 

What happened when Covid 19 struck?

Some agencies, such as the NSA, stuck with their "strictly forbidden to work from home" policies, and tried creating classified office space. They designated work hours, set up shifts for various teams and contractors, and disinfected the office space during shift change. 

Other spies tried working from home. Not a problem when working unclassified elements. A big problem for classified work. And, as the intelligence communities are known for over-classifying information, it soon became clear some things needed to be declassified. It may turn out that there will be less material deemed classified that spies want to get their hands on, and more clues out there to what material is classified.

Keeping tabs on the workforce! 

Spies also faced problems similar to the problems the regular workforce experienced. With everyone working at home these days, a lot of employers want ways to keep better tabs on their employees. Work surveillance isn't new, but digital advances during the pandemic have taken it to new heights. It's almost like the boss is standing over you. Cyber apps let your boss know exactly what you're up to, what apps you are using most, what digital devices, and even what keystrokes you're making. One cyber surveillance company reported seeing a 16% increase in orders, and a 40% increase from current customers asking for more licenses. 

Just what everyone wants, their spy boss looking over their shoulder, recommending ways to be more productive working from home. What ever happened to the silent agreement that I'm doing my work and you're getting results?

So, are there spies doing real spy work from home?

Yes! Take the two Chinese engineers indicted for "researching vulnerabilities in networks of biotech and other firms publicly known for work on Covid-19 vaccines, treatments, and testing technology." They targeted firms in multiple countries: Australia, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK. They targeted AI companies, defense contractors and a solar energy company. They stole hundreds of millions of dollars in trade secrets. Working for themselves they attempted blackmail, and other times stole information of obvious interest to the Chinese government. In July, FBI Director Christopher Wray accused China of a "whole-of-state effort to become the world's only superpower by any means necessary," and said. "The FBI is now opening a new China-related counterintelligence case ever 10 hours." In fact, nearly half of the 5,000 active counterintelligence case currently under way across the country are related to China. 

And the UK claimed that hackers targeting organizations trying to stop a coronavirus vaccine in the UK, US and Canada "almost certainly" operated as "part of Russian intelligence services."

How are they doing this?

The theory is the Russians hackers used malware (specifically WellMess and WellMail) to download files from machines. The malware was planted through "spear-phishing" campaigns, targeting individuals who unknowingly—or rather unwittingly—gave up passwords and access codes.

The UK's National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) calls out a hacking group called APT29, also known as The Dukes or Cozy Bear. NCSC says it's more than 95% certain the group is part of the Russian intelligence services. Cozy Bear was first identified as being a significant "threat actor" in 2014 by Crowdstrike, an American cyber-security firm.

With a name like Cozy Bear, do you have any doubt these guys are working from home, on laptops in their pjs? Me, either! 

So where does that leave me?

Clearly The Spy Who Worked From Home is not a book I'm destined to write. There is a lot I know. There is a lot I can research. (My friend Lee Goldberg convinced me of that in his latest write up in CrimeReads.) And I may be technically saavy, but not at the hacking level. Which leaves me to take Lee's advice and finish researching my latest work-in-progress. Working title: Operation Gentoo.

What are your theories of what will happen with the traditional spy genre? What changes to you see coming?

Thursday, January 14, 2021

ROGUE FLASH - Chris Goff is featured in Shoutout Colorado!

Shoutout Colorado is an online publication designed to spark meaningful conversations. They like hearing from small business owners, mom-and-pops, and independent artists. It’s all about bringing attention to the entrepreneurs and creatives who live in the community. 

Shoutout Colorado reached out to Chris and asked her to tell them how her background shaped who she is today. Her answers give you an insight into who she is and what makes her tick. Check it out here. Be sure to leave a comment, and become part of the conversation!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

MYSTERY MINUTE GOES ROGUE

by Z.J. Czupor

He Did it For the Money

In 1920, he was born to poor, illiterate Italian immigrants in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City. At the age of 12, he dropped out of school to get a job after his father deserted the family. He worked as a railroad switchboard attendant to help put food on his family's table. Later, he graduated from City College of New York and joined the US Army Air Force in WWII. Because of his poor eyesight, he was stationed in Germany and India as a public relations officer. After the war, he returned to New York and attended the New School for Social Research and Columbia University.

His first published work was a short story, “The Last Christmas,” which appeared in American Vanguard (1950) and at the age of 28, he wrote his first novel, The Dark Arena (1955), which received fine reviews but only earned him $3,500. Ten years later, his second novel, The Fortunate Pilgrim, got similar reviews, but only earned him $3,000. The New York Times called the latter novel a "small classic."

Still in need of money, he found work writing and editing for a line of pulp magazines like Male, True Action and Swank,where he wrote adventure stories based on real events, such as WWII battles.

In the late 1960s, Mario Puzo (1920-1999) was married with five kids and living in Long Island. He was virtually broke. His eldest child, Tony, said, "His father liked to do things first-class even though we only had fifth-class money. He ran up a lot of debt.”

Puzo's editor told him his last novel, The Fortunate Pilgrim, might have done better if it had more Mafia in it but he ignored the advice for he did not want to write about organized crime. He wrote two more undistinguished novels before he decided to put his highbrow literary goals aside and set out to write a novel with commercial appeal. 

"I was 45 years old and tired of being an artist…It was really time to grow up and sell out as Lenny Bruce* once advised," Puzo wrote in his memoir. 

So Puzo wrote a ten-page outline for a novel based entirely on research. He called it The Godfather; a fictional account of the Corleone crime family whose son Michael takes the reins after his father is murdered. But his publisher passed. 

Later, a friend arranged a meeting at G.P. Putnam’s Sons, where Mario regaled the editors for an hour with Mafia tales. They gave him the green light and a $5,000 advance. 

The advance was a strong motivation—an offer he couldn't refuse—so he set out to turn his outline into a novel. In 1965, he retreated to his basement nook, a broom-closet-like space that had enough room for a desk, typewriter, and little more. While he wrote away, his five children would often go downstairs and play loud games. Tony said his father would say, “Keep it down. I’m writing a best-seller.” 

While he worked on The Godfather, Puzo was also writing three stories a month for Magazine Management, along with book reviews for The New York Times, Book World, Time magazine, and a children's book The Runaway Summer of Davie Shaw (Platt & Munk, 1966). Puzo said, "I must have knocked out millions of words. I tell ya, it's absolutely the best training a writer could get, to work on those magazines. You did everything."

He finally finished the novel three years later, in 1968, because he needed the final installment of his $5,000 advance to pay for his family’s planned vacation to Europe. Even after he turned the novel into his publisher, he was not happy with the finished manuscript and thought he would do one more rewrite when he returned to America. 

But he was in deep debt. Writing in his memoir, The Godfather Papers and Other Obsessions, he admitted owing $20,000 to relatives, finance companies, banks and assorted bookmakers and shylocks. The Europe vacation would cost him more money than he had. His wife did not know that when they came home Puzo planned to sell the house. 

Upon his return, he had lunch at the Algonquin Hotel with his editor Bill Targ and was stunned to learn that the publisher sold the paperback rights for $410,000 to Fawcett Publishing before it was released in hardback. Back then, the record for paperback rights was $10,000. Today, that $410,000 would equal more than $3 million. Puzo said he didn’t dare rewrite his manuscript, figuring his publisher wouldn’t like it and would take the money back.

Published in 1969, The Godfather became a phenomenal success and remained on the New York Times Best Seller list for sixty-seven weeks, sold more than 20 million copies, and is still in print. Puzo then collaborated with director Francis Ford Coppola on the three screenplays that make up The Godfather film trilogy. The first two movies won nine Academy Awards, including best picture and best adapted screenplay for Puzo. The films catapulted The Godfather into a worldwide phenomenon. 

The novel and films had a huge cultural impact in that this was the first time Italian Americans were depicted as three-dimensional characters and not just cardboard foreigners who spoke in heavy accents. Even mob figures of the era liked the film and said it was “on the money.”

Mario Puzo was never affiliated with the Mafia. Incidentally, the word “Mafia,” never appears in the film script. He said, “I never met a real, honest-to-god gangster. I knew the gambling world pretty good, but that’s all.”

Following on that success, Puzo wrote screenplays for the first two Superman films (1978, 1980) and an uncredited version of The Cotton Club (1984).

On his nationally syndicated television show on CNN, Larry King Live, King asked Puzo, "Why do we like the family Mafia theme so much?" Puzo answered, “Well, because it’s wishful thinking. I think everybody would like to have somebody that they could go to for justice, without going through the law courts and the lawyers.”

He added, “The Godfather was really, to me, a family novel, more than a crime novel.” 

Despite the novel's success, Puzo still considered The Fortunate Pilgrim his best work. In his memoir, he wrote, "The book (The Godfather) got much better reviews than I expected. I wished like hell I'd written it better."

Mario Puzo wrote eleven novels: The Dark Arena (1955), The Fortunate Pilgrim (1965), The Runaway Summer of Davie Shaw (1966), Six Graves to Munich (as Mario Cleri, 1967), The Godfather, (1969), Fools Die (1978), The Sicilian (1984), The Fourth K (1990) and The Last Don (1996). His last two novels, Omerta (2000) and The Family (2001) were published posthumously. He also wrote three non-fiction books and ten short stories.

He continued to live in the same house in Bay Shore, Long Island, the one he almost had to sell. But he did remodel it and doubled it in size.

Puzo was born poor and never felt like he had enough money. When he died of heart failure in 1999, at the age of 78, his net worth was around $20 million.

###

*Leonard Alfred Schneider (1925-1966), better known as Lenny Bruce, was a stand-up counterculture comedian, satirist, and social critic.

Some of Mario Puzo’s most famous lines are:

· “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

· “Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment.”

· “A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.”

· “The strength of a family, like the strength of an army, lies in its loyalty to each other.”

· “What is past is past, never go back. Not for excuses. Not for justification, not for happiness. You are what you are, the world is what it is.”

· “Behind every successful fortune; there is crime.” (based on Honoré de Balzac: "Behind every great fortune there is a crime.")

· "Never let a domestic quarrel ruin a day's writing. If you can't start the next day fresh, get rid of your wife."

· "Moodiness is really concentration. Accept it because concentration is the key to writing."

· “Actions defined a man; words were a fart in the wind.”

· “Italians have a little joke, that the world is so hard a man must have two fathers to look after him, and that’s why they have godfathers.”

Thank you, Z.J. Czupor for bringing the genius behind The Godfather back to life! Readers, do you have a favorite tale written by or about Mario Puzo?