Monday, May 30, 2016


by Chris Goff

Why I was destined to write DARK WATERS.

Like many of us, I am a child of the Cold War. My grade school had a bomb shelter and conducted regular "nuclear fallout drills," where we filed into the halls, crouched down on our knees, and covered our heads. Not that it would have done much good. And, in the event of a real emergency, who was the bomb shelter for? The teachers?

It was a conspiracy.

During my grade school years, notable things happened in the world: the Bay of Pigs; space flight; the Vietnam War; President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and MLK, Jr. were assassinated; man walked on the moon; and the Beatles came to America.

It was a definitely a conspiracy. Just ask my grandma.

Junior high and high school saw their share of notables, too: Charles Manson, Kent State, the Pentagon Papers, Love Canal, Watergate, and Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves broke Babe Ruth's home run record.


Concurrently, I was reading. I devoured novels by Helen MacInnes, Ian Fleming, John Le Carré, Graham Greene, Jack Higgins, Donald Hamilton. Need I go on? But it was a trip abroad at fifteen studying French in Bordeaux and a later trip at nineteen backpacking Europe for six months that really opened my eyes.

Over the years I've traveled, a lot. I've written columns and articles, done graphic production work, and written six mystery novels. Then something happened that took me to Israel.

New Directions.

In 1999, one of my young daughters got sick and needed medical treatment only available in Tel Aviv. We lived there for two months, and in our free time explored. The suicide bombings were gearing up again, and everywhere we went there was the sense of a country at war. The mixture of religions and the interactions of the people both fascinated and perplexed me. Then, on a weekend trip to Tiberias, a small city on the shores of the Lake Kinneret, I discovered my thriller. 

As fate would have it, I was under contract and had to tuck my idea away to write five more books in my mystery series. Then finally, ten years later and no longer under contract, I knew the time was right to work on the thriller.

DARK WATERS is set in Tel Aviv and features Diplomatic Security Service agent Raisa Jordan. Sent out to investigate the assassination of her predecessor in Dizengoff Square, Jordan ends up protecting a U.S. federal judge and his daughter. It doesn't take her long to uncover a sinister plot that could leave millions of lives hanging in the balance.

The sequel, RED SKY (which I'm just finishing up) opens with Jordan in Ukraine. A year ago, I needed to do some research for the novel, so my youngest daughter and I hopped a plane to Kiev. One of the first things we discovered was—for a very modest sum—we could take a guided tour of the front lines: flak jacket, helmet, Humvee and armed guard included. Wiser heads prevailed (my daughter's)!

All things conspired to make me a writer, but Israel will always hold a special place in my heart. It's where I discovered the idea that refused to be sidelined. It a place that burrowed it's way into my soul and changed me!

I'm curious, in 50 words or less, where is your place and why?

Sunday, May 29, 2016


(Confessions of a Pathological Liar)

Jennifer Garner filmed a recruitment video for the CIA 

by Sonja Stone
young adult thriller
Currently, I’m the only Rogue Woman writing young adult fiction, which makes me feel a bit like the little sister. I think it’s fitting; if you’ve read our bios, you might agree. Our group boasts ex-CIA, ex-NSA, several lawyers and journalists, NYT best-selling authors, an ex-anchorwoman and highest ranking woman in The White House, and me: a former pastry chef (but, oh! the things I can do with sugar).

Why I Write:

I don't play well with others. Engaging in social niceties exhausts me. I discovered that when I’m alone with my computer, people assume I’m doing something important and they leave me alone. Some writers have no choice but to write: inside brews a story that demands to see the light of day. My motives aren’t nearly as noble.

I became a writer because I'm an introvert. 

(The hilarious irony of introvert-turned-writer is that writing is but a small part of being an author. The rest of it—talks, signings, shameless self-promotion—requires me to act like an extrovert. So if you ever attend one of my events and I look absolutely stricken to meet you, please please know this: It's not you, it's me.)

This isn't to say that I don't like people—I do. Very much. I just don't like being with other people. If you’re an introvert, you know where I’m coming from. If you’re an extrovert, let me illustrate a conversation from an introvert’s perspective.

Conversation Between Two Introverts:

Introvert 1: Oh my gosh, it's so good to see you! I miss you! We should get together for coffee or lunch or something!

Introvert 2: That sounds fantastic! I would love to! Let's do it!

The Aftermath: The two friends part ways feeling very socially connected. Neither has any intention of making an effort to follow through on the plan, but both feel warmly toward themselves and the other.

Conversation Between an Introvert and an Extrovert:

Extrovert: Oh my gosh, it's so good to see you! I miss you! We should get together for coffee or lunch or something!

Introvert: That sounds fantastic! I would love to! Let's do it!

Extrovert: Great! What about tonight?

Introvert: (starts to panic) Wha--tonight? Oh, I can't tonight. I uh...

Extrovert: Tomorrow then! Dinner and a movie.

Introvert: (curses herself for not hiding when she saw her friend) Tomorrow. I actually have a thing tomorrow.

Extrovert: All day?

Introvert: Yup, all day.

Extrovert: Saturday. I’ll meet you at noon. Put it on your calendar.

The Aftermath: Extrovert looks forward to lunch with friend, introvert spends the next three days pissed off that she's been pressured into a social engagement. Countless excuses are workshopped. If lucky, a major disaster—preferably an act of God so the introvert will in no way be linked to the disaster—will occur and the roads will be closed/phone lines down. Texting is okay, so hopefully that service will still be available. That way she can communicate without actually speaking. And on her own time.

Why I Write Young Adult:

I write for teenagers because I think like a teenager. I have SLIGHTLY better impulse control, but that’s only because I’ve been working on it for a few decades. I have the attention span of a gnat.  When my kids offer the excuse, “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” I understand. And I have the tattoo to prove it.

I like cooking up lies and letting my characters suffer the consequences, spending days at my desk formulating (what I’m sure is) witty banter. And I almost always think I’m funny.

Why I Write Young Adult Thrillers: the most part, I prefer action to conversation. I’m not always easy to get along with (no surprise there, right?), but if we do manage to forge a friendship, here's something you should know about me: 

I'm a bury-the-body kind of friend. 
You call me up, tell me you've got a situation, I'm not gonna ask a lot of questions. I'm searching the GPS for a remote patch of land and throwing my work gloves in the back of the SUV.
So despite my apparent inability to engage in normal human interactions, I’m great for those times when you need help with the heavy lifting. I won’t ever spill your secrets (that would involve talking to someone). Eventually, however, I will want to hear about WHY we just buried your ex in the desert. I love exploring behavioral motivations: altruistic, nefarious, benign; it's all fascinating.

Which is why I love the thriller genre.

Want more? Stalk me here:

How do you land on the introvert/extrovert scale? Have you ever found yourself thrust into the world despite your best efforts to remain delightfully isolated? Or are you one of those people--the kind who come alive in a crowd (and what's that like?)? 

Best Friend photo credit:

Friday, May 27, 2016


by Francine Mathews
The thunk-thunk of a Chinook grew louder in the damp Virginia air; it swung into view just as we lifted our heads from the deep grass of our hiding place. It wasn’t the Enemy, with their forward-looking infra-red that could detect body heat even in the densest forest; it was salvation, in the form of our pickup chopper. We’d made it to the rendezvous point and survived the ordeal of Escape and Evasion.
Daniel Craig's stunt double in a helicopter still from Spectre.

My squad mate, Karen, lifted her M16 in the air. “Oh, yeah, baby,” she crowed. “Grandma was airlifted out of an undisclosed CIA location!” She was twenty-two at the time and had no kids. She quit our elite training program soon afterward. She told us she’d enrolled purely to have kickass cocktail party conversation for the rest of her life.  And she was right: I always wait for the pregnant pause at the dinner table after some new acquaintance says, “Wait. Seriously? You worked for the CIA?”

I did. And it was worth all those hours of being hunted by land and air just to say so.

I wasn’t born to be a spy. But I grew up near Washington, D.C., during the Deep Throat years, when nothing seemed sexier than a small brown sign off the George Washington Parkway. CIA, it said. Just like that. An exit ramp disappeared into a thicket of trees. Could you even take that exit? And live to talk about it? I had to know.

Sean Connery and Ursula Andress on the set of Dr. No
All writers begin life as readers—and I cut my teeth on LeCarre. I devoured Ludlum, MacInnes and Deighton. I pressed copies of Nelson DeMille’s Charm School on prospective boyfriends. I wanted it all: the cat suit, the thigh holster, the midnight assignation under a bridge in Prague. I could quote Bond from Dr. No to Never Say Never Again, and there was a special place in my heart for Vesper.

But it’s tough to be a woman in America and really love Bond. Bond Girls have copious breasts and Barbie Doll legs. Bond Girls have names like Honey Ryder. And most importantly, Bond Girls always die--usually because they insist on wearing high heels, or they can’t drive a stick shift. They trip on their stilettos as they race to the helicopter, and expire on the word “James...!”

Far better to wear combat boots, as I did. Provided you carry a particular shade of lipstick in your gear—MAC’s Chili will do just fine—that pairs brilliantly with camouflage.

I applied to the Agency as an analyst, but after a year of FBI background checks and a polygraph, I was pulled into the CIA’s training program as a special treat. For a year I learned to be a spy: tossing supplies out of open airplane doors to imaginary partisans waiting in the bush; rappelling off a helicopter skid with an M16 strapped to my back; making brush passes and taking agent meetings and servicing dead drops. This was long before waterboarding and Rendition and the ugly outing of Valerie Plame. A kinder, gentler intelligence era. Our worst enemy was Moammar Gaddafi, who downed Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. CIA employees died on that plane. I was allowed to work on the investigation. I spent four years at the Agency before quitting to write spy novels, and I don’t regret a day of it. My knowledge of the covert world has proved endlessly useful as background to the stories I tell—particularly my latest, TOO BAD TO DIE, which follow’s Ian Fleming, Bond’s creator, as he goes rogue during World War II.

Intelligence is a funny business, worked in the shadows with occasional bursts of glory. There was the time I flew to Houston to debrief George H. W. Bush; the time I got a yellow sticky note of praise from Al Gore; and the never-to-be-forgotten moment when I donned a Dolly Parton wig and rhinestone glasses to meet a terrorist asset. Raising kids, I’ve gotten endless mileage out of my old career. When one of my sons—then about five—told me scornfully that he could never be a writer because “that’s a girl’s job, Mom,” I narrowed my eyes and said, with just the right hint of menace, “Remember, Sweetie. It’s Mommie who knows how to fire a grenade gun. Not Daddy.”

What are your fantasies about the cloak and dagger world?

Until next time--

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


By Jamie Freveletti
I’m excited for my first post on the Rogue Women Writers blog! I write my own Emma Caldridge series as well as Robert Ludlum’s Covert One series. Both of these series give me ample opportunity to write about some of the most interesting geopolitical and biological issues facing us today.

Emma is a bio chemist that travels the world searching for plants and other things that have an application in cosmetics or medicine.  Think “MacGyver meets chemistry” and that’s Emma Caldridge.  Over the course of the four books in the series she has also been tapped by a government military contractor to handle undercover assignments in hot spots the world over.

In order to write the books, I place Emma in failing nations and exotic locales and I research everything and anything about these areas, both the geopolitical environment and about the unusual and strange plants and animals that inhabit the earth.  That covers a lot of ground. But during the course of the four novels I’ve learned and written about many different, fascinating subjects. I’ve touched on the four below in various books. Did you know:

·                                 On certain islands there are trees that drip acid sap? The Manchineel tree, with its yellow “death apples” (called beach apples by the locals) will burn you with its sap and kill you with its fruit. Don’t stand under one in the rain and never eat the fruit.

·                                 In Colombia the FARC, a paramilitary group, once downed a plane on a highway and kidnapped a Senator? As KJ Howe wrote in an earlier post, kidnapping is BIG business in a lot of sketchy nations.

·                                 That the common Salvia plant can cause psychedelic hallucinations?

·                                 That bulletproof glass can be shattered, and if the attacker fires three shots in a tight triangular pattern it can shatter quicker?

I love writing thrillers and I love the research involved almost as much. I try to weave actual facts in with the fiction and end each book with an author’s note to let the reader know what is real and what is not. I’m halfway through the next Emma Caldridge manuscript now and when it launches in May, 2017 you can bet I’ll have added a new and fascinating fact to the above list. As we continue with this blog I’ll try to give a glimpse into the world of writing and researching thrillers. 

And if you have your own story about an exotic location or strange occurrence you’ve encountered, I’d love to hear about it!

Best, Jamie

Monday, May 23, 2016

White House Thrillers

Madam SecretaryWhite House DownHouse of CardsWest Wing-- TV shows, movies and novels about the White House have all been popular.  Are you fascinated with political intrigue, motives involving power, influence, money as well as world dominance and terror? These are many of the themes reflected in my thrillers as well as those by my fellow "Rogue Women Writers" on this new website.

But have you ever wondered just how accurate the portrayals are of the White House itself and how the men and women who serve there try to handle the many crises that hit any administration? I had the incredible experience of serving six years in the White House, first as Deputy Press Secretary, later as Senior Director of the National Security Council where we had our morning staff meetings in the Situation Room at 7:30 AM.  I am often amazed at Hollywood's portrayal of the "Sit Room," as we call it, with banks of computers, maps and flashing lights.  It is actually a conference room with a long table and yes, audio and video capabilities. But if you were to step inside, you might think you were in a corporate boardroom rather than the center of national security decision-making. 

When I decided to write novels, a question often asked on book tours was, "Where do you get your ideas?" All of us can pick up any newspaper and see a veritable petri dish of plot points. But I figured out that "being there" and talking to my government colleagues could be even better.  So I set out to write a series of novels, each focused on a different national security threat to our country, and stories that also described the actual White House, Oval Office, Cabinet and Roosevelt Rooms, along with characters patterned after many of the courageous people I worked with.

My first novel, Checkmate, involves missile defense -- a subject that fascinated me as I saw it play out, first hand, when President Reagan announced his "Strategic Defense Initiative" and watched the Soviets throw a hissy-fit over it when I attended Arms Control Talks.  I carried that theme into my fourth and latest book, Castle Bravo, when I heard a warning from the Major General in charge of our Missile Defense Forces world-wide.  In explaining why we need an expanded system he said, "Let me paint a scenario for you. Let's say it's a few years down the road and some militant group or country that doesn't like us somehow gets hold of a small nuclear device (we know they're all trying -- Pakistan has over 100 of them). And they also acquire a "delivery vehicle" -- a simple missile like a SCUD. Say they have these components on a disguised ship off one of our coasts.

"And let's say they don't aim it at New York or Los Angeles - devastating as that would be. No, they aim it straight up in the air and detonate it 50-100 miles up.  This creates an "Electro Magnetic Pulse" (or "EMP) that "fries" all the electronics on the ground. We would have no computers, cell phones, communication, transportation, sanitation, refrigeration." He went on to say, "Karna, it would set us back to the year 1910 -- and don't think our enemies aren't looking at this because we  know they are."

Wow - what a plot line! And that's the theme of Castle Bravo.  All my stories contain a real (as I see
it) threat and thus a warning, not in a "preachy" way, but in a story people will enjoy reading while also understanding what is at stake.  I'm reminded of a quote by George Bernard Shaw, "The best way to get your point across is to entertain." And that is exactly what all of us "Rogue Women Writers" are trying to do here.  Please visit my website: and check in with this "Rogue" website for more stories, inspiration and challenge.

But first, fellow espionage fanatics, how would you like to see the White House portrayed? What questions has Hollywood failed to answer for you?

Sunday, May 22, 2016


By KJ Howe

There are 25 elite professionals across the globe who travel undercover to the deadliest hotspots in the world to bring hostages home safely by any means necessary.

These remarkable individuals, called response consultants, leave their homes for weeks or even months at a time to insert themselves into a captive's family at the height of the crisis.  They take total control of the response, choose the best representative to interact with the kidnappers, direct the life or death negotiations, and when all else fails, plan and lead rescue operations.

This is the world I've been researching for the past two years, meeting with experts in Miami and London, two cities that serve as hubs for this industry.  I've spent hours talking to former hostages, response consultants, K&R insurance executives, reintegration experts, and the Special Forces soldiers who deliver ransoms and execute rescues when negotiations break down.

Why did this world intrigue me?  I've lived in many places, including Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Switzerland, Austria, Puerto Rico, and others.  My education was eclectic--part school, part adventure, as I was introduced to different cultures, languages, and religions.  Because of my background, I was always interested in international subjects and locales.

Which led me to kidnapping:  a growing international crisis with over 40,000 abductions a year.  Kidnapping is the ultimate purgatory, where everyone but the hostage and his/her family continues the routines of everyday life.  During captivity, you're alive, but you can't live.  The kidnappers control every aspect of your life while inflicting verbal and physical abuse.  You wake up every morning wondering if this day might be your last.

And experts report the most difficult day of a kidnapping is the day you're set free.  You're not the same person you were before you were taken; it's impossible to move on like nothing has happened.  Hostages often delineate their lives in two parts, life before kidnap and life afterwards.  Kidnappers steal more than the time you're in captivity. They rob some individuals of their entire future--and that can destroy a family.

This is the theme I explore in THE FREEDOM BROKER, the first book of the series about elite kidnap negotiator Thea Paris.  Nicknamed Liberata because she once brought a hostage home from the clutches of the Sicilian Mafia without paying a cent.  Thea has intensely personal reasons for choosing this career, and they motivate her to do whatever it takes to bring people back home.

As we move forward with the Rogue Women Blog, I hope to share some of the things I've learned about the dark world of kidnapping.  It has been a fascinating journey, and I've integrated some interesting facts into my novel.  Please visit me at  THE FREEDOM BROKER will be out in February 2017, but the pre-orders should be available soon.

One last question before I go:  What would you sacrifice to bring your loved one home?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A question of gray and tan

S. Lee Manning: Why do I write international espionage thrillers? For the adventure. For the excitement. In part, of course. What could be more thrilling than a high stakes race against great odds to save the world or to save the country or to save hundreds or thousands of people from a terrorist threat?

But that’s a little too simplistic. A little too black and white.  

In international espionage thrillers, it is not always that one side is completely good. Because while the ultimate goal may be lofty, the tactics used to achieve it are not always so pure.  Deceit. Blackmail. Sexual seduction for information. Assassination. Betrayal.  We would find these acts morally repulsive in our private lives, but these are all part of the necessary repertoire in the world of espionage.

In our private lives, murder and assassination are unacceptable. Yet who would argue that it would have been wrong to assassinate Hitler or Stalin? How many millions of lives would have been saved by a simple act that we would otherwise find morally wrong? The German officers who tried but failed to assassinate Hitler and were executed for their attempt are not viewed as traitors, but as true heroes.

But what about other leaders or individuals who, while engaged in policies or actions that are threatening or reprehensible, are not evil on the scale of a Hitler? What tactics are acceptable? Does it matter if innocent people are hurt in order to achieve a greater good? And who decides?

There are no easy answers to these questions - which is what makes espionage thrillers less black and white and more gray and tan – and which makes espionage thrillers interesting and three dimensional. A good espionage thriller forces the reader to think about what should be morally acceptable even to achieve an admirable goal.

For example, in my thriller, Trojan Horse, in order to prevent global nuclear power plant meltdowns set into motion by a cyber terrorist, the head of a U.S. intelligence agency sets up Kolya Petrov, the agency's own operative, and his fiancée to be kidnapped and tortured.  It is important that readers empathize with Kolya – and see that what happens to him and to his fiancée is horrific. From this perspective, the betrayal is an unforgivable act.

Yet how many people would die if the cyber attack against nuclear power plants succeeded? It is a question that even Kolya ultimately has to answer: does he choose to prevent the attack or choose revenge against the agency head who betrayed him and his fiancée.

Kolya’s struggle with this question - that he even considers out of anger letting a cyber terrorist succeed - is what makes him a more interesting character – and therefore, more fun to write.

The overall complexity of the characters and the complexity of the moral questions arise out of the nature of espionage. Characters in an international espionage thriller inhabit a world that remains a secret to all but the initiated. They have to play roles even sometimes with the people they love, and they have to carry out difficult and sometimes morally questionable yet necessary actions. These elements all combine to make the espionage thriller distinctive.

Reading or writing, I get caught up in the excitement and the thrills, the twists and turns, the risks to characters that I like. What stays with me are the questions - questions in gray and tan.

What stays with you?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Do you love adventure? Are you fascinated by secrets?

Gayle Lynds:  If so, you’re in the right place.  We’re excited to share with you our stories about the worlds of espionage and geopolitics and our covert lives as authors.  Trench coats not required.  Prizes and autographed novels awarded.

We’re eight best-selling, award-winning authors with the clandestine goods. What’s in our dossiers?  We’ve held Top Secret security clearance at a think tank.  Raced camels in the Middle East.  Been a CIA analyst.  Earned a black belt in Aikido.  Hopped from Israel to the Ukraine and other global hot spots.  Trained at Le Cordon Bleu.  Survived survival schools.  Sat in the Situation Room as Senior Director for the National Security Council.  And been working journalists and lawyers and TV analysts.

You may have noticed we women authors are something of a rare breed in international espionage fiction, which makes the Rogue Women Writers blog all the rarer.  We write in the field because we love it, and we’ve come together because we enjoy each other’s books and collegiality and want to get to know you, our readers

Devious people: you’re our favorites!

 On the other hand, if you have a devious mind, please feel free to think of us as a cabal, a directorate, a sub rosa organization that will rendezvous online with you regularly on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.  And watch for us at conventions like ThrillerFest and Bouchercon, and at libraries, bookstores, and other events, too.

In our first blogs, you’ll learn something about our secret lives — how we came to write what we do.  I was elected to inaugurate the blog, since I was the one who sent out the call that assembled our crew.

My name is Gayle Lynds, and I write spy thrillers.  Why?  Because I find so much that fascinates me in espionage and geopolitics.

Some examples from my books . . .

A few years ago one of my sources asked me a provocative question: “What if someone like Aldrich (“Rick) Ames was actually innocent?”  Rick Ames was one of America’s worst traitors, responsible for the executions of several of our most valuable assets in Moscow as well as blowing the cover of our own undercover officers.  It was unthinkable that Ames wasn’t guilty.  Still, I was intrigued because I’d never considered the possibility.

After a couple of years of research and writing, I finished The Last Spymaster  It’s the fictional story of Jay Tice, chief of the CIA’s Clandestine Service and a legend in the Agency — until he’s charged with espionage and sentenced to a maximum security prison.  In the story, Tice escapes after three years without tripping an alarm or leaving a trace.  Did someone who believed in him help him vanish?  Was he really guilty, and if he wasn’t, what does it say about the CIA — and Tice himself?

My interest in Rick Ames had made me realize that our traitors had been coming from the CIA, but there was no way the CIA had access to some of the information and people who’d been compromised.  From what I could figure out, there had to be a mole in the FBI. With that idea, I wrote Mesmerized, in which I created a traitor buried deep in the FBI and owned by the Russians.  My imaginary character's name was Robert

Robert?  Robert who???

Within two months of the publication of Mesmerized, a real man named Robert — an FBI Special Agent — was arrested on espionage charges and sentenced to life imprisonment.  To this day, that man, Robert Hanssen, is considered the traitor who most damaged the United States.  Was my novel about the FBI mole named Robert a coincidence?  Absolutely.  But at the same time, my research and contacts had been fueling my writerly imagination.  

As the tragedies of 9/11 were unfolding, my literary agent called me from New York, distraught.  “Who could have done this?” he wanted to know. 

I remembered my research for The Paris Option, the third book in the Robert Ludlum Covert-One series, which I’d written.  

“My guess is it was Osama bin Laden,” I told him.  “Bin Laden is the only one with the organization and money.”

All through my writing career I’ve been driven by my fascination with secrets, political power, the booted feet of history, bedroom and backroom betrayals, the crises that reveal our strengths, the temptations that destroy us, and the moments when our humanity is revealed.  The world of international espionage is large and important.  Our policymakers rely on it.  How could I not write about it?

What about you, dear reader?  What fascinates you?