Wednesday, January 31, 2018

KAREN CLEVELAND GOES ROGUE dishing on CHARLIZE THERON...and a fabulous story!

 hosted by K.J. Howe

Meet the sensational woman behind the recently released blockbuster, NEED TO KNOW. I'm hoping the spy thriller's talented author Karen Cleveland will share everything you "need to know" about her CIA analyst character who will be played by Charlize Theron on the big screen.  

I was fascinated by the concept behind Karen's book and the authenticity in the prose because she is the real deal.  Karen was kind enough to share some intel with us....

1.  Vivian Miller is a CIA analyst, and you offer phenomenal insights into this world given you also worked in this milieu.  What attributes are needed to be an effective analyst?

I very much enjoyed working as a CIA analyst. I used to think of my job as being similar to putting together a giant puzzle – but without all the pieces, and without a picture as a guide. Attention to detail is very important. A love of reading and writing helps too!

2.  Were there parts of NEED TO KNOW that were based on real-life cases?  Did you need clearance from the CIA to share of any the information included in the book?

The book isn’t based on a real-life case (luckily!). There have, however, been fairly recent cases of Russian sleepers in the United States – ten Russian agents were arrested in the U.S. in 2010. The book, as with everything I write, had to be cleared by a review board at the CIA. It’s sort of a double-check to ensure that I’m not accidentally disclosing anything classified.

3.  You portrayed two distinct sides of Vivian, as a devoted wife and mother and as a talented CIA analyst.  Did you ever struggle between the two roles yourself?  

It’s difficult to juggle a demanding career and the demands of young kids. I’ve struggled with it, and a lot of other parents have, too. I wanted to make Vivian as real as possible, so I wanted her to have some of the same experiences that so many of us go through.

4.  How realistic is it that Russians could infiltrate today’s governmental agencies?  What kinds of measures are there to protect Americans from the human frailties of the people who work in these arenas?

The Russian intelligence services are sophisticated and aggressive. But I have every faith in the security personnel at the CIA and other government agencies – they’re highly capable and diligent. And they do work hard to vet people in sensitive positions, through measures like polygraphs, monitoring finances, and even vetting potential spouses.

5.  In what ways was your work as a CIA analyst similar to the process of writing a book?

CIA analysts spend a lot of time trying to put themselves in other people’s shoes, trying to predict how an individual or group will act or react to certain circumstances. Authors tend to do the same thing, I think. And at the Agency, everything is really a team effort. So much so that written products never include an author’s name – it’s just a CIA product. A novel is such a team effort, too – editing, marketing, publicizing, etc. It seems wrong to have a single name on the cover!

6.  How many analysts are there?  Can you tell us more about the way the CIA divides the analysts into groups?  Do analysts ever meet directly with agents?

The number of people who work for the CIA is actually classified, believe it or not. Analysts usually focus on a specific “account,” which is generally broken down by subject and country or region. Meeting with assets in the field tends to fall more to operations officers, while analysts focus more on analyzing information and presenting it to policymakers.

7.  What was the most remarkable thing (that you can talk about) you worked on in your career?

It’s hard to talk specifics, unfortunately. But I always got a thrill out of knowing that something I wrote landed on the President’s desk. As an analyst you want to feel like your work is having impact, so that was always a great feeling. 

8.  Did you always want to write a novel or did this idea come to you because of your work?

The idea for the book had been in the back of my mind for many years. I met my husband around the same time I started working for the CIA, and it actually crossed my mind, very briefly, that he might not be who he said he was! Luckily I was wrong, but the idea for the book stuck.

9.  I’m hoping that there will be a sequel to NEED TO KNOW, especially given the blockbuster ending.  Can you kindly share what you’re working on next?

Well, that’s great to hear! I do feel like there’s more of the story to tell. Right now I’m hard at work on another thriller set in Washington, DC. I’m excited about it, and I hope readers will be too!

10. Congrats on the wonderful news about Charlize Theron taking on the role of Vivian for film!  Can you tell us the story of how this happened?

Thanks! I’m so excited about it. She’s an incredible actress, and one who plays such a wide range of characters so well. I’m excited to see what she does with the role. As for how it happened – it was all very fast! I’m not sure of all the details, but there was interest from movie studios at the same time it was being considered by publishers. We had a film deal the day after we had a book deal. I’m so grateful that it worked out that way.

Congrats on your success, and welcome to the world of thrillers.  So happy to have you on today!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Skating on thin ice

S. Lee Manning: When I was around nine, I loved to ice skate. I was one of those weird kids who liked to read all the time and didn’t have many friends. Sometimes it bothered me. But not when skating. I liked to skate alone.

There was an ice skating rink at the Cincinnati Gardens and my parents would drop me off at the beginning of the session. I was not very good, couldn’t do spins or even skate backwards, but I didn’t fall – much - and gliding on ice felt like flying. Ice skating also made me think of snow, and snow, for me, was magic, even though we averaged maybe two big snows a year in Cincinnati that melted within days. But in the heart of the gray Cincinnati winter, with brown grass and barren trees, there was the skating rink.  Skating transported me to a fantasy world.

I would skate by myself for hours while tinny music played, and I’d make up stories. Day dreaming, my parents called it back then, and I thought I might be a little crazy, and maybe I was, in the way all writers are crazy. Time on the ice was my time – and I savored it every Saturday night. Now, looking back, I wonder what my parents thought about it – and whether they worried about my isolation and my escape into fantasy.

 After a year or two, I grew out of my skates. I developed bad knees. Then I hit the teen years – and it was the late 1960s.  Skating was not what young hippies did in the late 60s – and I was most definitely a young hippie. So I put skating on ice, so to speak.

Over the following few decades, as my life changed again and again, I would go ice skating from time to time – with friends and then with my children.

Then maybe fifteen years ago, I stopped. Life is complicated, and we don’t always have time for things we enjoy. My parents needed help, my kids had issues, and I had a different job. Besides, my feet and ankles weren’t what they used to be.

I thought from time to time about trying to skate again, but the thought of a teenager slamming into me while on the ice kept me from giving it a try.

Then two weeks ago, on a whim, I looked at the ice skating schedule at a local rink while spending a few weeks in New Jersey with my son. There was adult only skating at 8:30 a.m.  I remembered how much I used to love skating. My husband still skies. I am terrified of heights and therefore don’t ski, but the ski resort where he went in December has a skating rink. It would be something for me while he skied.

At 8 o’clock the following morning, I dug out my skates and looked out the window at the inch of snow that had coated the neighborhood overnight.

I am aware that I am no longer nine. (Not going to say how old I actually am.)  I am aware that my balance isn’t what it used to be, nor are my feet.

I am aware that a fall at my age could be a lot more serious than a fall for a nine year old. I know that older people skate, and there’s an 87 year old who competes (and wins) in figure skating. But most of those senior skaters know what they’re doing and didn’t give it up for twenty some years.

But that morning, I just said, what the hell.

The snow was still drifting down as I drove to the rink in my Subaru. The skates were tighter than I remembered, but they still fit. Kinda. I strapped them on and wobbled to the side of the rink. There was a wall all the way around the rink for grabbing purposes. There was only one other person on the ice. Perfect. I took a deep breath and stepped on the ice.

And didn’t fall.

But I didn’t glide either. My feet felt like lead, and I clung desperately to the wall, taking baby steps to move forward.

The sole other occupant of the rink skated over to me and introduced himself as Jeff. “Bend your knees,” he suggested. He was fifty-nine, and he also had started up skating after twenty years or so off the ice. That was reassuring. He also thought that I was younger than him. That was more than reassuring.

I bent my knees. I tentatively pushed off with my left foot. I glided a foot and then I grabbed the wall.

I made it around the rink, never far from the wall, clutching it every few feet. I celebrated my success by getting off the ice and tightening my skates. Then I tried again. This time, I would make it maybe twenty feet before grabbing the wall. Then fifty feet. I made it around five times staying close enough to the wall to grab it if necessary. By then, my feet were protesting the too tight skates. I had felt the flush of victory – but it was time to leave.

The next day, I was back with my son’s wider and slightly better fitting skates.

I did better, lasting forty-five minutes on the ice. I wobbled here and there, and never strayed far from the wall, but I rounded the rink, gliding. I remained afraid of falling, but there were moments when I recaptured that old feeling of flying. Then I grabbed the wall again. My son’s skates were better than my old ones, but not perfect.

Jeff was there and gave me a thumbs up for persistence. Jeff had been joined by a man in his seventies who skated backwards to me to offer his suggestion.

“Buy some skates that fit.”

A week later, I called my cousin, two years younger than me, and told her that I had gone ice skating.

“You’re brave,” she said.

Am I? I didn’t feel brave on the ice. I felt scared. But I felt something else as well. I felt alive. There will come a time when I am physically unable to do the risky things I used to enjoy as a younger woman, but while I still can, I damn well am going to keep trying. As we age, we have to distinguish between what we can actually do and what we are afraid to do. I hate that my body will eventually limit me. I am not going to be limited by my fears.

So I’m in the market for a new pair of skates. Suggestions?

Friday, January 26, 2018


Submitted by Karna Small Bodman

Please welcome our guest blogger, New York Times bestselling author, John Lescroart, whose terrific novels have been translated into 16 languages in over 75 countries.  I first met John at one of our initial International Thriller Writers Conferences over a decade ago. He was already a well known author, and yet he took the time to give encouragement to me along with many other aspiring writers. Then, when my first thriller was published, he offered to do a joint signing with me at a major bookstore in San Francisco.  I never forgot that gesture and have enjoyed reading his great mysteries ever since.  Today John is Co-President of ITW, still working hard to advise authors from all over the world.

Author John Lescroart
John has a new mystery which will be published soon -- so we invited him to tell us just how he created his clever, continuing character, Dismas Hardy, a San Francisco attorney who becomes quite the resourceful sleuth.  This is his story:

            Here are two of the biggest decisions I've had to make in my publishing life:  do I want to write a series based around a finite cast of regularly-recurring characters? And, if so, do I want to have those characters live in "real time"?
The first decision pretty much got made for me by my publisher at the time.  I wrote my first Dismas Hardy book, DEAD IRISH, as a stand-alone novel that I didn't even consider to be a mystery.  At least, that was my feeling until the first set of revisions arrived at my desk. 

My editor/publisher, Donald I. Fine, liked the tone and voice of my manuscript well enough, but felt that withholding some information from my readers until later in the book would not only make it more readable and commercial, but would place it squarely in the ranks of mystery fiction.  I could have said no, of course, but upon reflection, I decided that he was right.  I made many of his suggested changes, and suddenly I was a writer of a contemporary mystery, with a publisher who was ready and willing to give me an advance for a sequel!  Another mystery!  In fact, another mystery featuring the same main character(s)! 
This had not been my plan at all, but at the time, given the albeit meager financial incentive, I eagerly accepted the challenge and within a year I'd finished the second book in what was beginning to look very much like the beginning of a mystery series.  At the same time, DEAD IRISH got nominated for the Shamus Award for Best Mystery.  It appears I was committed. 
As I embarked on the third book, I came up head to head with my second major decision.  In the first two books, Dismas Hardy was very much a former working attorney.  His full-time job was as a bartender at a San Francisco bar, The Little Shamrock. 
The two cases in which he'd so far been involved put him squarely into the sphere of a neighborhood kind of guy who happened to solve crimes on the side, a bit like Jessica Fletcher in "Murder, She Wrote."  I loved that television program, but I had grander ambitions for my hero.  I didn't want him to have to depend on someone's cousin dying to motivate him to become involved in a murder case.  He had to be more involved in the big picture, in all facets of contemporary life itself, if he was to have the kind of gravitas that I envisioned.
So for Book 3, I moved him ahead several months, put him back to work as an attorney, got him married, gave him a child (and another one on the way) and an extraordinary case to solve.  In short, I committed myself to follow my hero's growth. 
I little realized the can of worms I was opening with this decision, but it also set the stage for twenty-six books (and counting) in which Hardy and the other people in his universe -- wife, children, friends and enemies -- live and sometimes die in real time.  Taking nothing away from Travis McGee, Kinsey Millhone (RIP Sue, we'll miss you!), Jack Reacher, and all of the other sleuths who don't age, I have found that the advantages inherent in my approach has provided a richness and reality to the stories that more than compensates for the complications I encounter trying to fit these moving-target elements into my plots.
All this is by way of introducing this year's novel, POISON, which Atria will be publishing on February 13. 
Last year, after deciding that I needed to give Dismas Hardy and company some time to grow (and heal from gunshot wounds), I left the series alone and came out with a stand alone novel, FATAL. 
When I returned to see what was up with my old pal Dismas, I discovered that sure enough, there had been a major change in his life.  Much to Hardy's dismay, he had grown somewhat estranged from his millennial son, Vincent, who now was a full-fledged adult with a serious job at Facebook.  Vincent remains glued to his screens, phones, and other technical devices, and not so much connected to his father, as he used to be.  
At the same time, and also much against his will, Hardy feels duty-bound to take on the case of a young woman, a former client, who had been arrested for murdering her boss.  In the course of his investigation into that homicide, Hardy comes across another murder victim with ties to his son Vincent!  And Vincent, ignoring his father's entreaties to the contrary, begins to conduct a low-key but incredibly dangerous investigation of his own. 
This is exactly the kind of story -- suspense about the ever-changing dynamic in family relationships -- that I never would have had a chance to consider as the driving engine of a complex, kaleidoscopic plot if long ago I hadn't made the decision to let my characters become whoever they were destined to be over time. 
I'm so glad that I made that decision, and I hope that after reading this new book, you'll be glad I made it, too......John Lescroart
Thanks, John, for telling us about that creative "journey" you took with Dismas through your 26 novels -- now it's time for me to pre-order my copy of Poison -- out on February 13 just in time to be a great Valentine gift! And for all you fans good mysteries, this new novel can be pre-ordered at:  I hope  you readers will enjoy John's stories as much as I do! So glad he could be with us here In the Rogue Limelight.
...Karna Small Bodman

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Our front yard.  Yep.
By Gayle Lynds:  It’s true that winter can drive some of us writers into dark metaphorical caves, but then we escape the despair and boredom by throwing ourselves into our writing.  Whew.

Or instead, winter invigorates us, and we head outdoors to challenge the snow, bask in sunshine beneath crystal blue skies, and wallow in sport ranging from shoveling the sidewalk to skiing downhill at blistering speeds.  The result?  We return to our desks with adrenaline rushing and nowhere finer to put it than into our latest book.  Fun!

I’m always suspect of those who find winter little different from any other season. Yes, those crazy folks exist, especially in California and Florida.  Since I lived in Southern California for a few decades, I get to say it: The subtlety of the seasons is often lost in the day-to-day beauty, although there’s graphic evidence of change.  For instance, bottle brush bushes, prickly pear cacti, and poinsettias blossom at different times.  On the other (confusing) hand, roses bloom all year round. 
That's me, bundled up & out for a brisk hike on our driveway.

No wonder so many writers of murder mysteries live there — they’re drumming up emotional excitement.

In Maine, winter gives us plenty of thrills.  Think how much fun it is to write about blood steaming in the snow.  Or about tromping through a humid jungle while an Arctic snowstorm blasts past our windows. 

John and I find winter swings both ways for us, with periods of lassitude and meandering minds, and long stretches of focus and work.  This is my seventh winter here, and I’ve discovered a lot of joy not only in the challenges of the elements but also in their visual feast. 

I watch the mountains beyond my office windows the way I used to watch the ocean in Santa Barbara.  Shadows and storms, sunrises and sunsets ... all feed my writerly soul.  Our isolation here in a forest is new for me — I’ve always lived in cities, concrete as much a part of my life as the daily buzz of electrical wires, the drone of traffic, and the cadences of different languages as I walked to a theater or the grocery store. 

But here in our forest, deer pause to look at the house as if they can see me at work, and I smile.  When I spot a fox running near the treeline, my heart skips a fluttering beat.  There’s nothing like the array of birds who partake of our birdfeeder — chickadees, cardinals, bluebirds, blue jays, red-headed woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, and pileated woodpeckers.  And of course there are the hawks and bald eagles.
Dawn.... I'm sitting at my desk & glorying in this view.

Much of life is decided for us.  But not all.  We can choose how we see what we see, how we experience it, whether we want feast or famine.  I had no idea how I would feel about Maine until I got here.  Imagine my joy in the adventure of it all.     

So take heart all you writers and nonwriters.  Winter is our friend. 

Monday, January 22, 2018


Every year people across the world celebrate the New Year by making resolutions. I’m no different, but this year I decided to keep it doable.

Gone are things like: Lose 200 pounds. In are things like: Join a Fitness Club and find one activity that you enjoy.


Not only did I join the club, but I found one activity I love and one I really hate. I may do both. The first is DEEP POOL, the second is BARRÉ. The first is exercise that is water-resistance weight and aerobic training. The second is 60 minutes of pure torture.

Gone are things like: Stop Volunteering. Learn to say “No.”  In are things like: Choose carefully what you agree to do. Limit the number and scope.


For years I have taken on more “jobs” than I can effectively do. I sat on the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America’s (RMMWA) board for twenty years, helped or ran various conferences, judged numerous awards competitions. For a number of years, I’ve accepted every opportunity that’s come along to appear on panels, teach workshops, sign books and meet readers.

This year I’m committed to serving on two new boards. In October I began a four-year term on the Executive Council of the North American Chapter of the International Association of Crime Writers, and I just recently agreed to sit on the Education Committee of Sisters in Crime administering a new scholarship program for members. Both are exciting opportunities. And I’ve limited the number of conferences I plan to attend. Come say hello if you’re going to Left Coast Crime 2018 in Reno, ThrillerFest 2018 in New York City, and Bouchercon 2018 in St.Petersburg, FL. Otherwise, I’ve planned only a few local appearances spread out in the year.

Gone are the lists of things I must accomplish in 2018. In is one edict: Shoot for more balance in life, which means HAVE MORE FUN.


This year I’ve already taken a spontaneous, impromptu trip to Hawaii to visit Daughter #4 and frolic in the sand with she and Daughter #3, who invited me along on her “sister visit.” We’ve been having a blast! Next up in the fun category, a three week trip to Sweden and a cruise on the Baltic Sea with the husband. Can’t wait!

And, finally, gone is the finish a book in “blank” number of days or months. In is: write your best book.


For most of my writing career (8 books), I have written on deadline. The one book I wrote on my own timeline, DARK WATERS, was the best received—nominated for three awards (a Colorado Book Award, a Colorado Author’s League Award and the Anthony for Best Crime Fiction Audiobook Award), published internationally, well-reviewed and sold to numerous book clubs. Currently I am out-of-contract. RED SKY was published in 2017, and received lots of critical acclaim. It’s too early to know if it’s been nominated for any awards or what may happen in the next year, but I am not finished with the Raisa Jordan series. Stay-tuned for book number three. Meanwhile, I’m working on a standalone thriller for my publisher at Crooked Lane Books. It’s in its baby stages, and I’m getting excited about it. Working title: BLACK ICE. I’m taking my time, because I want it to be my best book to date.

So far, 2018 is going well. I haven’t broken any of my resolutions, and I’ll let you hold me accountable. Here’s to making 2018 the best year ever!

What have you resolved to do this year? Keep it real.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


by Sonja Stone


I'm such an all-or-nothing thinker that the thought of 'baby steps' immediately prompts a bout of eye-rolling. However, having recently completed my new year's goals, I realized that simply rewriting last year's goals onto this year's calendar doesn't seem to be getting the job done, as I have been doing this since 2009. 

Rather than revamp every area of my life all at once to become my ideal physical-mental-emotional-spritual-occupational self, perhaps I should try something new. Maybe if I add a few actionable items to my daily life I'll begin to see small changes. Perhaps this will inspire further change. Maybe drastic change.

Photo by Josh Felise on Unsplash

Here are a few things I've decided to add to my daily routine:

My favorite routine (available on my iPad) is Exercise TV's Meaghan Townsend's am yoga. This link takes you to YouTube, but if you like it, please purchase the video from a legit site (I bought mine on iTunes). I'd like to do this at least five days a week.

Each evening before bed I pledge to jot down three things I'm grateful for. I used to do this on a regular basis, and I found that throughout the day, I'd keep a running list in my head of items to add to my journal. I think it helped me look for the good. This morning, for example, I went outside in the freezing cold (50 degrees) and admired my crocus bulbs poking up through the mulch. I can't express how excited I am that my little bulbs are growing! I worried for months that I'd planted them incorrectly, hadn't fed them well, supplied too much (or maybe not enough) water, and here they are, despite my lack of gardening skill!

Yeah, you read that right. Not 'eat seven to ten servings of veggies every day.' I'm committing to eating one. Hopefully I'll have more, but if I can consume one serving of leafy greens a day, I'll be well ahead of 2017.

For those of you who like the idea of small, daily steps, here are a few more suggestions that might resonate with you. (They are listed separately because I feel that three commitments are enough for me to pledge right this second. :))

There are so many free apps that offer quick language lessons. One of my favorites is Duolingo. It's available for desktop or mobile devices, and they have over a dozen languages from which to choose. Lessons are completed in minutes, so you can study for as long as you'd like. I've read over and over that learning a foreign language later in life staves off mental decline. (So maybe I should add this to my list of commitments.)

My boyfriend uses the Luminosity app on his iPhone. He has the free version, which allows for three free games every day (the app assigns the games based on his performance on past games). Luminosity is also available on your desktop, if you prefer. With time, his game performance has improved--as would be expected--but he's also noticed his general recall in day-to-day activities is better.

Sometimes I'm in a crappy mood. Like, miserable to the point where I'm sick of myself--if I could ditch me on the side of the road, I would. The fastest way for me to stop feeling sorry for myself is to help someone else. It doesn't even have to be someone less fortunate--calling a friend to see how's she's doing, offering to help someone load their groceries in the parking lot, waving someone in on the freeway (this is actually a pretty big deal in Arizona, where most drivers think a blinking indicator from the motorist beside you means "speed up and block them out"). Not all of us have the time (or inclination) to sign up for a regular volunteer commitment, or are able to mentor someone on a regular basis. But I can certainly find a few minutes in the day to spread a little kindness.

Almost everyone has heard of the book The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. The four agreements he identifies are: 1) Don't take anything personally, 2) Be impeccable with your word, 3) Always do your best, and 4) Don't make assumptions. Integrating these principles into my core has been life-changing. For example, the agreement not to take anything personally. Not everyone will enjoy my writing--it's not personal. I don't love everything I read--even when other people do. My father, for example. I love and respect him (and his opinion), but we rarely like the same books. And the agreement to be impeccable with my word--to speak with truth and kindness, to not gossip. I'm pretty good about practicing this agreement in real life, but on Twitter? I might need to revisit that chapter...

I'm so embarrassed that I'm not ready to commit this to my daily list at the top of this post. I KNOW the health benefits of meditation. I KNOW that I have high cholesterol, and that my parents both had ischemic strokes at young ages, and that I have an intimate relationship with anxiety. I have two apps on my iPhone for guided meditation (Meditation Studio and Headspace), a book entitled 8 Minute Meditation, by Victor Davich, AND a very expensive desktop meditation program called the emWave Pro by Heartmath. I know that a daily practice of meditation rewires the brain, so that in times of stress it becomes easier to access the previously-developed state of calm. I can't for the life of me figure out why it is so difficult to commit five minutes a day for the purpose of meditation. At this point, I have no explanation other than I'm belligerent.

Everyone knows vigorous exercise elevates mood and increases energy. People who do cardio burn more calories at rest than those who don't. The key to sustainable cardio is finding an activity that you enjoy. Martial arts? Hiking? Zumba? I'm not a gym person--I know this about myself. I'm barely motivated to walk into the next room and get on my elliptical, so signing up for spin classes would set me up for failure.

I'm not very good at playing. I love puzzles, but putting together a puzzle feels like a frivolous waste of time. Did you hear what I said? DOING SOMETHING FOR THE SHEER PLEASURE OF IT FEELS LIKE A WASTE OF TIME. I don't know where I developed that attitude--my parents weren't taskmasters. I've probably passed the same attitude along to my kids, which is really unfortunate. If you're not sure where to start, consider an adult coloring book--they're everywhere these days (I mean a coloring book for grownups, not an x-rated coloring book). Here's one by Sasha O'Hara called Calm the F*ck Down. Don't forget to order your colored pencils and a sharpener!

It's mid-January, so I still have excellent intentions for the coming year. I'll try to remember that a late start (or a few missed days) doesn't mean I have to throw out my whole self-improvement plan. Life is NOT all-or-nothing. Life is a series of 10-minute blocks of time. I can do anything for ten minutes...

What do you do on a regular basis that lifts your mood or improves the quality of your life? Please leave your tips below!

Photo by Josh Felise on Unsplash

Friday, January 12, 2018


...Submitted by Karna Small Bodman

Please welcome our friend, New York Times bestselling author, Christopher Reich, dubbed "The John Grisham of Wall Street" in a New York Times review in their Business Section.  
Born in Tokyo, traveling the world, including summers with Outward Bound on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, graduating from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown then adding a Masters at the University of Texas Business School gave Chris incredible experiences that he has woven into his terrific financial thrillers. In fact, a job at the Union Bank of Switzerland gave him the inspiration for his first novel, Numbered Account. 

We asked Chris to tell us about some of those travels and especially the foreign operatives he met along the way, many of whom ended up as characters in subsequent books.  Here's his story:

Private Spies, Porky Pies, and Government Lies

Could it be ten years ago that I found myself walking down Bond Street in Mayfair, London looking for a certain discreet office advertised only by its street address and tucked in between a “wonderful art gallery and a perfectly awful rug merchant?” (My host’s words, not mine.)

            At the time, I was in England doing research for the second in my “Rules” series, the novel that became “Rules of Vengeance.”  I’d spent the past week meeting with officials from both, appointments set up by friends in the law enforcement community back home in the USA.  I’d spent a day at Scotland Yard and a day at the “murder center” in north London.  The one anecdote I remember from my afternoon with the homicide police came after I’d asked if they were ever horrified by what they discovered.  In films and movies, one so often sees a detective rush outside to empty his stomach after finding a particularly grisly corpse.  One older policeman gave me a side glance and shook his head.  “Get sick?  At the scene?  You kidding me? We tend to take a look and have a laugh. Mostly criminals killing each other anyway.  Always amusing to see how they do each other in.”   So much for the movies!
The first half of the story took place in London and involved MI5, the British domestic security service (similar to the FBI) and Scotland Yard.
Scotland Yard

As for MI5, authors don’t get invited into the headquarters proper, so I’d met with two of their agents in an Indian restaurant not far from Harrods.  I think I filled two notebooks with all the fascinating information they imparted.  Anyway, as we left the restaurant, my tongue still burning from the five-alarm curry, one of the officers from “Box” (which is the inside baseball term for what they themselves call MI5) offered to introduce me to a colleague who’d gone over to the dark side…the private sector.  His friend had joined a small group of former MI5, MI6 (the British Spy Service…think James Bond), and Scotland Yard officers who’d set up shop as freelance investigators. He called them “private spies.” 

And so it was that one rainy fall afternoon in London, I was admitted into the offices of “Grosvenor Associates” on the second floor of a building tucked in between an art gallery and a rug shop.  The man I was to interview was named Tony, and for the life of me I can neither remember his last name or find his business card.  Tony was in his fifties and looked as if he’d been sent over straight from central casting.  Tall, slim, dignified, gray-haired, quiet with an air of steely strength.  I’m a John LeCarre fan and Tony looked exactly as I’d pictured the character of Peter Guillam, George Smiley’s acolyte.  His offices were spare and modern, gray carpets, sleek desks, hardly a soul to be found.  It was Tony who told me not only what he did presently, but all about his time in MI5.  Apparently, you can’t talk too much about the job when you’re still working there, but once you’ve left, you’re free to let loose…to an extent.

But while Tony’s career at MI5 was of great interest, (domestic counterterrorism investigations), it was his job as a private spy that really captured my attention, mostly because I’d never heard about the profession. Who exactly did he spy on?
Tony told me his job was to “collect information” for his clients.  I had two questions.  Who were his clients and what kind of information?  His answers were “everyone” and “everything.” But primarily, he admitted after a prolonged silence, he worked for banks, politicians and political parties, and large corporations. If you suspected your wife was cheating on you, Tony was not the man to contact.  His bag of tricks did not include a camera with a large telephoto lens.   He did, however, have contacts with all the major banks and insurance companies, with his former colleagues at Box and MI6, as well as across the pond, and with his counterparts on the continent.  Of course, Tony spoke fluent French, German, and Arabic.  We talked for three hours straight.
Flash forward ten years and the whole world knows about private spying and one private spy in particular.  His name is Christopher Steele and he is the author of the so-called “Russia dossier” which is certainly in the news today. Whatever Steele collected and put in that dossier, my sense is that the information came from sources he’d vetted over a long career.  Steele was a collector, not a creator.  He was an archaeologist digging up bones, and as devoted to his craft as Richard Leakey.
And so, it was because of Tony, and, later, Christopher Steele, that I created my own private spy to star in my new series of books.   His name is Simon Riske.  He’s an American living in London, a former banker, secretly an ex-con, who runs an automotive repair shop restoring Italian sports cars in between doing jobs for banks, politicians, and large corporations.  And, of course, the odd intelligence agency that can’t be seen to be getting its hands dirty.  By the way, the title of the book is “The Take.”  Good fun!


This new thriller, The Take,  will be out January 16 featuring that Simon Riske character who has been described as "One part James Bond, one part Jack Reacher."  I've already pre-ordered my copy...hope you will too as I'm sure it will be a great read. Now, thanks, Chris, for being our guest here on Rogue Women Writers! ..... Karna Small Bodman

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Four Life Management Tips from the Pros with Suggested Books

My new planner and flowers to brighten up the day

1. Time management counts--no matter what your profession or goals

I'm always looking for ways to increase productivity.  Sometimes my to do list is so long that I don't keep to my tried and true routine and then things fall through the cracks. (Thank god for Gayle Lynds. Don't know what I'd do without her. She usually plans far ahead and then gives me a kindly nudge,"What about that upcoming panel in July?" I'll bet she has some excellent tips).

I love time management tips and read just about every book or blog post on the subject that I can find (which some would argue is not a good use of time).  I like Stephen Covey's (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) and am preparing to read Eat that Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, by Brian Tracy.

I have a timer on the table when I log into Facebook or Twitter, because I enjoy hearing from my friends and if I didn't time myself I'd stay online forever and no books would get written.

2. Conquering clutter helps tremendously (but we all know this and still have our junk drawers).

For this project I'm delving into Throw Out Fifty Things, Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life, by Gail Blanke. I'll let you know in a later post if I find my life, but this book comes highly recommended.

And then there's Marie Kondo's The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Kondo is the Japanese organizing guru who thanks her socks for their service. As a runner I know from socks, and while I don't talk to mine, I spend an inordinate amount of time searching through the laundry to try to figure out where they disappear to when I'm not looking. If anyone has a tip for keeping laundered socks together have at it in the comment stream because I swear the washer is ingesting them.

Kondo suggests attacking clothes first and leave photos for last because they are the hardest to cull. So, true rebel that I am, I started with photos. Mostly because I stumbled over boxes of them while heading to get the Christmas ornaments out of the basement closet. The photo boxes went flying as did the photos. Four hours and two garbage bags later my husband came home and stared in astonishment as he looked at the throw away pile. I explained that we're not the greatest of photographers and all those "2 for 1" specials over the years made for a lot of boring photos and duplicates. Lovely man that he is, he immediately made a cup of coffee for me and dove in to help. We tossed them that day because our youngest is very sentimental and if she had seen the bags would have been horrified that we threw away those duplicate blurry photos of the cat. (See one of the hundreds that we kept below).

3. A word count requirement is your friend.

This one is for writers. My word count requirement is 1000 words per day at least five days a week, but not consecutively. Why not consecutively you ask? Because I work on weekends as well and those days count. I would shoot for seven days, but I just don't have that many words in me every week and running is on the list as well and that takes time. Plus, I hate shopping in most every form and I use Friday am to grocery shop and to do those things I dislike. (Target now has free delivery and I'm ordering more and more online from them. Peapod grocery service is nice, but I've become a big fan of Aldi too, so I trudge there often with my recycling bags in tow).
Sahara or just "kitty"

4. Enjoy the present because the future is uncertain.

Okay, this is my tip. My mother got things done, but often claimed that "when things settle down I'm going to...." fill in the blanks here. She spent a lot of time trying to learn how to live in the present, but she was raised in an often chaotic environment and she said that she had to learn to block it out in order to be able to get things done. I agree that living in the present is important and wish I could follow this advice more, but like most I find myself thinking of or planning for the future. I'm working on the balance.

That's all I've got for now. If you have any tips and/or books you love please mention them below. I'll add them to my "to be read" pile and thanks in advance!

Happy New Year! Jamie