Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Dream Killers And How To Ignore Them

New York City at Sunset, May, 2019
By Jamie Freveletti

Isn't that a beautiful image of New York at sunset? This city is the one that artists, actors, writers and musicians write about, sing about, and dream about. From New York New York by Sinatra to On Broadway by The Drifters, this city represents a pinnacle to be reached by many. I was there this past week and attended an event where actor Molly Shannon discussed dream killers and gave advice, and I found myself nodding along with her.

For those who don't know her body of work, Shannon appeared on Saturday Night Live for six years and originated many of that show's memorable characters (Mary Katherine Gallagher, Sally O'Malley), won an Independent Spirit award as best supporting actress in Other People, appeared in countless movies (loved her take as a friend to Kate Beckinsale in Serendipity), and recently wrapped roles in not one or two but three new movies.

Shannon discussed her early years when starting out in NYC as an unknown. She first ran through a series of jobs she held while waiting to break into show business. A litany of waitress, receptionist, and other positions that sounded as dull as they were necessary. And then at one particular poignant moment, she recalled the day that she went to get a new head shot photo taken. She'd saved money from her waitress job and finally booked a photographer and makeup artist. She arrived at the studio, dolled up and feeling beautiful. The photographer looked through the lens and said, "you're ugly."

It was at this point that the audience, including me, gasped. Ugly? What? This beautiful, funny and warm woman standing on the stage could never be ugly. She said that she was never sure if perhaps the photographer thought he was being funny, but she did note that he is no longer a photographer. She went on to say that no matter who tries to kill your dream, you must not take their words to heart. I agree with her wholeheartedly.

I find that few dream killers are mean, but instead are those people that couch their advice as if they're doing you a favor. And dream killers don't limit themselves to the creative world, no indeed. They try to hammer you down in a lot of different industries. From the placement office at law school (you don't have what it takes to work at [insert large firm name]) to the other writers in a writing group (this needs so much work I don't know where to begin) there are plenty of people who want to tear you down.

Don't listen. What they say is only their opinion. Even if they are partially correct: odds are high and the work needs more, it doesn't follow that you should quit. It only means that someone has an opinion. In fact, you should expect to meet these people numerous times in numerous situations over the upcoming years. When they're mean you have two choices: call them out or snort and walk away. Be aware that snorting and walking away bothers them far more than being called out. The mean ones hate it when their darts don't hit and they hate being laughed at.

But if they're not mean, or at least appear to be well-meaning, tell them that you love what you do and can't imagine a life without such creativity in it. Tell them that writing, or dancing, or drawing brings you joy on a daily basis. And say that if you have to work a day job while creating, well, if you weren't creating you'd have to work that day job anyway, right? Might as well also work at something that brings you joy.

This month I went to a concert given by The 1975. This is a pop/rock band that began in England to middling reviews. At one point they couldn't get a record deal and so just uploaded their music and reached out to anyone who liked it. I've seen them in concert several times over the years: twice at Lollapalooza, the big music fest here in Chicago, and this year headlining at the United Center. At the end of this latest show the mean words about their music from critics were projected across a massive screen at the back of the stage. Things like "Is this a joke?" "They're making essentially robotic Huey Lewis tunes," to, "This band thinks it has a charismatic singer...they are mistaken." Meanwhile, in front of the words, the lead singer sang his heart out to thousands of fans in a packed arena. He delivered joy to those fans, and he most certainly did it in a charismatic fashion. The critics' opinions appeared laughable in that setting.

Joy is wonderful, contagious and worth chasing.

I wish you joy.

All the best, 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Quintessential Rogues

. . . by Karna Small Bodman

We Rogues write novels about plots, spies, and danger among other things.  And we are often inspired by "real life" experts in spy craft, who we could call "Quintessential Rogues" in their own right.  I'd like to share two brand new stories with you about some brave and talented people that would indeed be great sources for thriller writers as well as great reads for anyone interested and intrigued by the experiences of experts in the field.  It is especially helpful to be able to attend a presentation by the authors of these excellent books and hear first-hand, how some of their heroes served in the most dangerous assignments, survived under harrowing pressure and were able to make great contributions to our country's national security.

For example, I had the pleasure of attending a talk the other night here in Washington, DC given by Lynne Olson, a New York Times bestselling author of non-fiction books, where she discussed her brand new one, Madame Fourcade's Secret War. 

This is the little-known story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, who headed the largest and most influential spy network in occupied-France during WW II. In 1941, at the age of 31, this beautiful French woman became la patronne -- the boss -- of what would emerge as the most
important Allied intelligence organization, working on sabotage, helping escapees in occupied territory and, most important, gathering intelligence on everything from German military secrets, troop movements, submarine sailing schedules, gun emplacements, and the Reich's new terror weapons, the V-1 flying bomb and the V-2 rocket  -- all of which she and her 3,000 agents shared with MI6.

Marie-Madeleine had recruited her agents from all walks of life: bartenders, dockworkers, housewives - and assigned code names to each one from the animal kingdom such as Wolf, Lion, Tiger, Eagle.  For herself, she chose Hedgehog (she loved the stories of Beatrix Potter as a child). Known only by that code name for the first year,  when she finally met her MI6 contact, he couldn't believe this leader was a woman! But he had to admit that her network was indispensable to the war effort.

The element of danger was ever-present, and when she was arrested - twice - by the Gestapo, she escaped both times. . . once by stripping naked and forcing her slim body through the bars of her jail cell hours before what would have been a brutal interrogation. A hero indeed.  Now wouldn't this story make a wonderful  movie?  Speaking of movies, if you'd like to "meet" the author of this incredible tale, Lynne Olson, tune  into Turner Classic Movies on June 27 when she will co-host with Ben Mankiewiz for two nights of films commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Another woman who became a  spy as well as a writer herself is Jonna Mendez.  She and her  husband, Antonio, were both CIA operatives. It was "Tony's" rescue of 6 American diplomats from Tehran during the Iranian revolution that was the basis of their book Argo which was made into an Academy Award winning movie that won Best Picture in 2013.

As for Jonna, she was a Master of Disguise, helping to prepare the CIA's most highly placed foreign assets to serve in dangerous places. Her disguise of husband, Tony, is just one example of her work:

 Now there is a new book by this couple that just came out a few days ago, The Moscow Rules, which tells the story of how Jonna and Tony were CIA operaties working to spy on Moscow at one of the most dangerous moments in the Cold War. This is a tale of intelligence breakthroughs honed by the pair that allowed our officers to finally get one-step ahead of the KGB...using techniques such as identity swaps, evasion weapons, forgeries, and gadgets including the development of receivers that were able to listen in to radio frequencies that KGB surveillance teams were using.

If you'd like to hear one of Jonna Mendez' author talks, here are several on her upcoming schedule: May 29 at the Washington, DC Spy Museum; June 19, Hotel Crescent Court, Dallas, TX; June 25, Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, CA; and June 26, Forum at Town Hall, Seattle. Details are on the book's website.

I'm sure many of you have read books about "real life" heroes and heroines working in the most dangerous of circumstances....individuals we could also dub "Quintessential Rogues."   Please share some of the titles with us in a comment below and on our Facebook and Twitter pages (icons at top left).  I'm sure they would offer great ideas and additional research to our efforts to craft new (and believable) thrillers.

Now, thanks for visiting for visiting us here on Rogue Women Writers.

. . . Karna Small Bodman 

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

S.O.S—SAVE OUR SANITY, from the digital world

The personal computer and smart phone promised to set us free from meaningless, repetitive tasks and generate free time to be our best, creative selves—oh yeah, and offer a paperless office. Sadly, the latest research in this domain demonstrates this promise was hollow. Our technology is pilfering time, and we are less creatively productive than we used to be. Fortunately, we can recapture our time and work more efficiently if we adapt our work habits and use the internet as a lever rather than an obstacle.

First, we must identify the problem that online time is causing, and it can be reduced to one word: distraction. To be effective, we must focus singularly on a task for a sustained period of time. Multitasking, seen by some as a virtue, is simply the enemy of excellence and productivity. Once your mind is distracted from the focus subject to another item, it takes over 20 minutes before your mind is fully re-engaged. When you tell yourself it will only take a minute to reply to an e-mail, you are losing over 20 minutes of your laser focus. Do this several times a day, and your productivity and intensity plummets. The following three tips can help you enhance your productivity and creative expression.

1)   Shut off notifications. All of them. Unless you are an OBGYN waiting to deliver someone’s baby, everything can wait. Studies show that receiving notifications, even without looking at the underlying messages, splits your attention and reduces cognitive efficiency. Noises are the worst, but even seeing the little “1” for a newly landed text message chips away at your concentration. Notifications are like super-addictive crack for your brain. Kill them all without mercy. Turn them off on your laptop and place your phone in airplane mode. 

2)   Stay away from the internet, social media in particular. Everyone grossly underestimates the time spent on social media/the internet when we break away from a task. We start off with the perfectly good intention of spending a short period of time researching the effective range of a .460 Weatherby round or what our strange symptoms mean, and half an hour later we are engrossed by the latest analysis about the Game of Thrones finale. Your productivity leeches away. Try using an app that stops you from using internet or time-intensive applications while you are working. Freedom and Focus are apps that work well across platforms and offer ways to enhance and measure your productivity. Make productivity a game, increasing your uninterrupted writing/work time by a small amount every day. This will eventually add up to significant progress without much pain. 

3)   Streamline your e-mails. As one profound efficiency expert likes to say “e-mails are a ‘to do’ list that somebody else creates for you.”  E-mails are rarely helpful in getting things done. If you don’t tame these beasts, they will overrun your day. One of the most powerful ways of mastering e-mails is to create a number of mail boxes and file each e-mail in folders related to various subjects, or from various sources, directly in specific mail folders. For example, you may want specific mail folders for family members, businesses, subscriptions, your fans or whomever. This allows you to find and read messages without having to scan a number of extraneous ads and e-mails. Also consider setting e-mails to digest mode to help save time.   

Beyond such practical tips, defending your productivity from technological (and other) time thieves is a matter of attitude. Be possessive and fierce when defending your creative time against all enemies. Be prepared to risk annoying some people, as that is what it will take. Train your colleagues, friends, and family not to expect instant responses and to respect your creative pursuits as serious work time. Learn to say “no” more often than you do now. Your future self will be immensely grateful to your present self for doing so.

And don’t get me started on the paperless office.

If you have any productivity tips that work well, please share them in the comments section below. We all need to stand together to Save Our Sanity!

Sunday, May 19, 2019


S. Lee Manning: So when was the last time you tried something completely different? Something a little scary?

Me and my cat Xiao contemplating something scary.
You’re probably thinking skydiving or alligator wrestling, but no, I mean really scary. I mean really exposing yourself. Well, not really exposing yourself, the zippers stay up, not exposing yourself physically. I mean trying something that took you completely out of your comfort zone.

Something like standing in front of a group of strangers and trying to make them laugh. I’m doing that right now. (Actually, right now, I’m typing my post for Rogue Women Writers – but generally speaking –right now.)

It all started sometime last winter. In the throes of winter boredom and looking at another year until I finish writing and editing my current novel, I nevertheless was wasting time instead of working, surfing the net for things to do in Vermont. (Yes, there are things to do in Vermont besides hike and
ski and hunt and campaign for Bernie Sanders.)

I found that Burlington – about an hour away – has a comedy club - the aptly named Vermont Comedy Club. A very well-regarded comedy club. Big names like Michelle Wolfe play there.  And, the club offers classes in stand-up comedy.
Last winter in my neighborhood. No good reason to show this, except it's kind of a cool shot.

I have always loved comedy. I have always thought I had a good sense of humor, inherited from my Dad, perhaps, but my books aren’t comedic, at least not intentionally, although my characters do have a certain level of wit and quite a few of my blog posts are on the humorous side.  Still I didn’t think of myself as a comedian.

But then I had just watched Mrs. Maisel – an Amazon Prime show about a Jewish woman in the early 60s deciding to do stand-up -  and I loved the show. I’m Jewish – and female. If she could do it, so could I. Why not give it a try?

So I signed up for the six-week class. At the end of six weeks, we would each have a polished act that we’d perform for anyone in Burlington interested in attending. 

I figured I’d go in for the first class, and the instructor’d explain to us all about writing jokes for stand-up. I’d have another week to absorb that information and prepare myself. I was wildly off in my expectations. A few days before the first class, I received an e-mail – informing me to be ready to perform a five-minute gig the first day.

Panic. Real panic. Wrestling an alligator suddenly looked good.

I have some issues with anxiety. Yes, yes, I know – I have anxiety and I signed up for a stand-up class. I have anxiety –AND I’m a little impulsive at times. I spent several days wandering around the house, moaning to my husband – why did I do this?

Then I decided to put the very fact that I have general anxiety into the act. The first class, I slumped down in my seat, making last minute notes – and then finally, at the very end, I dragged myself up in front of the rest of the class and began my bit. And everyone laughed.

At the end of that first session, the instructor informed us that now we were now all budding young comedians. It’s been so long since I’ve been a budding young anything – that getting that description alone was worth the price of the class.

So I’ve had four classes now, and I’m almost to the point where I don’t feel like throwing up when I perform.

And I am liking it more every week. 

The good thing about doing stand-up: it maybe takes a day – two days – to come up with enough material. Then another day – maybe – to practice and hone the jokes. And then, there’s instant feedback. People laugh – or they don’t. When they don’t, you know you have to change up the routine. Shorten it. Punch it out. Or just cut it. 

It’s not like writing a novel.

It takes me a minimum of a year to write a novel. I have to have the idea. I have to work out the plot, and my plots are pretty elaborate. Then the writing – the editing and rewriting.

Those of you who are writers know the drill.

Stand-up cuts most of that out. Writing is fast. Instant feedback. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am. None of this agonizing over a book for a year or so. 

So I’m looking forward to my performance. (Vermont comedy club – two weeks. If you’re in Vermont – be there.) I’ve also signed up for another class – and I’m eyeing open mics.

Mrs. Maisel – watch out.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

MY 3 DAYS WITH A KGB COLONEL ... or was he?

Julian Semyonov, Dennis, and I in the bar
by Gayle Lynds

Have you ever spent time drinking, talking, and brain-storming with a KGB colonel?  Maybe Julian Semyonov wasn’t a colonel.  Maybe he wasn’t even KGB.  Maybe he was “just” the most popular Soviet detective novelist of his time. 

I met Julian in 1986 on the Left Bank in Paris.  A book festival volunteer had come to pick up my husband at the time, Dennis Lynds (AKA: Michael Collins), and myself in a car so small it made a Volkswagen Beetle look spacious.

Out of the front passenger seat uncurled a burly man with a buzz cut and an overgrown Miami Vice mustache and beard.  When he straightened up, we saw he was smoking a Marlboro and cradling a ream of papers tied together with string.  

He jabbed his index finger at the ream.  “Manuscript for next book!” he told us.  The index finger was doing double duty — also pressed against his middle finger to hold his burning cigarette.  “Julian Semyonov,” he introduced himself. “You are Mr. Michael Collins and Mrs. Michael Collins.”  It was an announcement.  And then he grinned.

Book festival poster
Julian Semyonov and Dennis were to be among the international guests of honor at a book festival in Reims – champagne country – northeast of Paris.  Both of us instantly liked Julian, and found him interesting and exotic with his Russian accent and American denim shirt and jeans.  With his heavy shoulders and thick chest, he could’ve stepped out of a Colorado backhoe advertisement.

“Dennis Lynds,” my husband said, giving his real name as they shook hands.

Then Julian took my hand with an Old World gallantry and bowed over it.  “Lady.”  His hand was warm and dry, the large size intimidating.

“We are going to be late,” the driver urged in English.

Dennis and I loaded our suitcases into the trunk and squeezed ourselves into the rear seat.  Once we were inside, Julian started for the front passenger seat, and stumbled on the cobblestones.  He swore.  The manuscript exploded from his hands.  The string slipped off, and the pages flew in all directions, landing on cars and in mud puddles, wrapping themselves around human legs and steel street poles. 

“New book!” he bellowed and ran after the pages.  “Just finished it!”  His terror was palpable.  “My only copy!”

As I chased pages I realized how lucky Dennis and I were – we were carrying our books on disks; we never carried paper anymore.  But Julian might not have a computer or a word processor.  After all, he lived in the Soviet Union, land of technological backwardness.

And so we scrambled for him, snatching up the dirty and crumpled sheets.  Passersby handed us more.  We didn’t try to keep the page numbers straight.  We gave everything to Julian, piled into the car, and were off to champagne country.
Dennis & Julian waiting to go onstage

As we drove, Julian told stories about covering the Vietnamese War for the Communist Party newspaper Pravda, and about describing in his detective thrillers the Soviet Union’s problems with juvenile delinquency, housing shortages, drugs, prostitutes, gangsters, and the rigid stratification of society. 

“I write we need individual labor,” he explained, “we need people to be able to own caf├ęs, businesses, farms, houses, and so on and so on. It is me who publishes it in Soviet press. I do it.”

I was surprised.  “You sound like a Capitalist.”

He grinned.  “Maybe I am.  Is maybe real reason for Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika?  Freedoms!”

“But everyone has work there,” Dennis argued, playing devil’s advocate.  “You never have to worry about getting a job.  People have food and medical care and guaranteed pensions.  Supposedly there's an ideal, a striving for utopia.”

I turned to Julian: “How do you get away with exposing its failures?”  Writers had been sent to the Gulag for far less.

He shrugged.  “Is necessary.”

Dennis & I on hotel stairs
Our hotel in Reims was pretty and modern, with elevators, large rooms, and a downstairs bar.  The bar was important – the gathering place for the writers.  We were already unpacked and sitting in the dim light, breathing the smokey air, and drinking glasses of Stella Artois, when Julian finally joined us.  He was still carrying his manuscript.

He sat, ordered vodka, and apologized for being late.  “I changed rooms.  First thing wherever I go, I change rooms.  The French always bug, and who knows who else?  You should change rooms, too.”

At a party the next day, one of the British authors told us, “Julian says Andropov gave him access to the Soviet secret archives because Andropov was a fan.  Now Gorbachev reads his books, too.  They drink together, I’m told.  Julian has a luxurious five-room apartment overlooking the Kremlin.  Think how impossible it is to get something like that, or maybe it’s just part of the package that goes with being a trusted member of the elite.  It’s said Julian came up through the KGB, and he’s still a colonel in it.  That’s why his books have such authentic backgrounds, and why he can travel – he’s the Politburo’s show horse to prove the lie that the Soviet Union isn’t a totalitarian state.”

We had no way to know whether anything Julian said was the truth, and maybe our new British friend was right – Julian was a KGB colonel.  As the days passed, we asked questions, wondered, speculated, and looked for evidence.  And found none.

As we were leaving the last day, Julian stopped us in the lobby.  He wanted to exchange contact information.  Warm and good-humored, he talked about his publisher in the United States, and that he hoped to tour there soon.

“If I come to California, we must meet,” he said.
Julian, later, the way we remembered him

Over the years, we sent each other cards, and then they stopped.  When we returned to Paris in the early 90s for another book festival, we asked whether Julian was attending, too.

“He died, didn’t you hear?” our British friend told us.  “Yes, he was called in for one of those complete physicals that are really a chance to interrogate under drugs.  He’d apparently finally gone too far politically.”

The official story was that he died September 14, 1993, from a heart attack after being “incapacitated for several years as the result of a stroke.”  He died in the secretive Kremlin Hospital, which was reserved for the Soviet elite – Communist Party bosses, KGB and GRU chiefs, and Politburo members.

Julian had been only 61, young for a writer.  By then he’d published more than fifty novels, sold some 35 million copies within Russia alone, created and edited magazines, written dozens of screenplays, and cofounded the International Association of Crime Writers.  He spoke several languages fluently.

Julian’s loss was sad for us because we’d liked him and admired his work.  At the same time, it was a reminder of the power of the state even as it reeled in the stormy transition from Soviet Union to Russia. 

Maybe Julian Semyonov was just the most popular – and daring – Soviet detective novelist of his time.  Maybe he hadn’t been a colonel.  Maybe he hadn’t even been KGB.

What do you think?

Sunday, May 12, 2019


A couple of weeks ago, the Rogues mentioned that we planned to honor some of the special Rogue Women in our lives.  We all have one—a mother, grandmother, favorite aunt, or someone who has touched us in some way. We had hoped that some of our Readers might share. Instead, several of the Rogues submitted some wonderful tributes to the women that helped shape their lives....

From Gayle Lynds:

My mother loved to read everything from novels to travel articles and “scandal sheets” – show business magazines on hormones. She’d read recipes, too, one after another as if each were a story. But then it was the 1950s, and many women like Mom “didn’t have to” work. Her girlfriends were fun, smart, and restless. They’d come to our house for coffee and gossip. I loved eavesdropping but never really understood the importance of this ritual that was so dismissed as a time-waster by society.

Years later when I was married and publishing novels, I returned home to discover a pile of The Writer magazines on a shelf. They were Mom’s.

“I always wanted to write,” she admitted.

“But you always were writing,” I realized. 

My mother had been a Secret Rogue Woman, and so were her girlfriends. Their gatherings for coffee were to analyze human relationships, argue over politics, and stretch their minds. To the day she died, my mother could hold a listener spellbound with her stories. She did not need a pen or a computer, just a heart and soul and years of experience in “gossip.”

From Karna Small Bodman:

“Evelyn” won the crown of “Beauty Queen” at Northwestern University, and later received her Masters in Music and taught piano until she was 90. But when WW II got under way, she volunteered to be an “Air Force Aide” and worked on recruiting soldiers. After that she traveled to Egypt as the guest of that country’s leading female journalist, Amina al Saad, and became friends with the widow of Anwar Sadat, after his assassination. She also raised money for orphanages in the Middle-East among other projects.

She even wrote a novel (but it wasn’t published) -- Here’s her photo when serving in the Air Force.

From S. Lee Manning:

My mother-in-law, Mildred D. Manning, a poor farm girl who became a nurse, was a true Rogue. To see the world, she joined the army in 1941, and on December 7, 1941, was in the Philippians when the Japanese attacked. She treated the wounded and, with surviving soldiers, evacuated to the island of Corregidor. When the Americans surrendered there, she was one of 66 nurses taken prisoner of war. They were interned in Santo Tomas in Manila for three years with European civilians. While interned, she worked as a nurse to care for the other prisoners. All of the nurses survived – when they were freed, they became famous as the Angels of Bataan. She traveled the country, helping to sell war bonds for the remainder of the war – which is how she met her eventual husband, Arthur Manning, my husband’s father.

The time in the camp took its toil – she lost all her teeth, and she suffered stomach ailments the rest of her life. She also had to deal with anxiety. On a personal note, she was a wonderful warm lady with a great sense of humor, a love of books, dogs, and her family. My two kids adored her. When she died in 2013, the last surviving Angel, we were devastated. She and the other nurses are memorialized in We Band of Angels, and the paperback edition features her in the final chapter, "Last Woman Standing." Her obituary ran in the New York Times.

From Lisa Black:
Honestly, I can’t think of anyone less Rogue than my mother. Born in 1919, she did exactly what was expected of a woman in her day—she got married and stayed that way until death, ran a household, raised six children, cooked, baked, and loved to garden. Of course, that also happened to be exactly what she wanted to do. In no way did the gentle manner make her a pushover, as anyone around her would quickly learn. 

She enjoyed the good times and muddled through the bad and treated every single person she met with dignity and empathy, not only to their face but in every expression, regardless of their race, religion, economic status or any other demographic check box. Only those who engaged in physically reckless behavior or inexplicably loose morals could earn her harshest criticism, to wit: “She’s got rocks in her head.”

All this makes her, in my opinion, the most amazing person I’ve ever known.

From Chris Goff:

My grandmother Smith, my mother's mother, was widowed at the age of 37. The wife of a prominent business man, she lived in a beautiful house in Elgin, Illinois, with a high-spirited daughter and the love of her life. All of that changed in an instant. At the age of 32, my grandfather Smith dropped dead of a massive stroke.

Esther Pauline Swanson grew up on a farm in Lily Lake, spoke Swedish until she was five, and went to public school. She was no stranger to hardship, and when Grandpa died she did what she had to do. She found a job, sold the house, and built a new home for herself and my mother. It was a big change going from a three-bedroom home with a wraparound porch to a one-bedroom apartment in a more eclectic part of town. A big change going from a society wife to the Executive Secretary of the Kerber Meat Packing Company. But Grandma never complained. She and my mother shared a bedroom until my mother went off to college. She worked at Kerber's for 30 years, and she maybe went on two dates after my grandfather died. She liked being introduced as Mrs. Everett Smith.

My grandma's life was filled with friends, family, and church. She loved to quilt, spent six weeks every year at our home in Colorado, and loved eating lunch at the Woolworth's food counter. She was never extravagant, and took only one big trip in her life—a trip to Sweden to meet her cousins and see her ancestral home.

Grandma taught my mother and I about love and sacrifice, and instilled in us a strong work ethic, compassion and humility. Gram led by example. And, she never let me win at Yahtzee!

Tell us about a Rogue Woman in your life! We'd love to know her story.

Friday, May 10, 2019


by The Real Book Spy 

What a month!  There’s all kinds of exciting things happening. First and foremost, I am beyond excited to be partnering with the very talented ladies who make up the Rogue Women Writers. An all-star lineup of premier thriller authors, I’m a huge fan of their work and couldn’t say yes fast enough when they approached me to start a monthly blog post on their site. And with so many great books set to hit stores in the coming weeks, this was a great time to kick things off. 

For my first pick, I wanted to make sure the title and story featured a character who goes rogue for all the right reasons. In that regard, one book stood above the rest—making my job easy this time around. 

Last year, Nicholas “The Reaper” Irving and General Anthony Tata teamed up to introduce the world to Vick Harwood, an elite sniper who finds himself in the middle of a dangerous conspiracy. Now, Irving and Tata are set to continue their series with Reaper: Threat Zero, a hard-hitting, action-packed thriller that starts fast and never lets up. When a motorcade carrying the president’s cabinet members is ambushed on their way to a secret weekend retreat at Camp David, Harwood is brought in to help figure out what went down. But when he starts receiving questionable orders from the top, Vick begins questioning what he’s asked to do, and ends up—you guessed it—going rogue in an effort to uncover the truth. 

Trust me, once you start this book, there’s no stopping. 


(Congrats to the Irving/Tata team for being the first Rogue Recommendation! We Rogues are super excited to be partnering with The Real Book Spy and seeing what other Rogue Recommendation he brings us each month. So stay tuned for his upcoming RRs. In the meantime, A.J. Tata dropped by Rogue Writers to share his favorite pastime. Enjoy!)


By A. J. Tata

Write about something rogue, the kick ass Rogue Women Writers told me. I thought of the rogue things I’ve done like being a paratrooper or finding that same adrenaline rush in surfing waves around the world.

The Real Book Spy's first Rogue Recommendation
Surfing is my pastime and is definitely a rogue activity. Having surfed in North and Central America, Europe, Australia, and Asia, I’ve had my share of crazy experiences. I’ve surfed Oahu’s Sunset beach at double overhead. Definitely a questionable decision, but surfing is one of those things that I’ve pursued as part of my writing process. Sitting on my board in the ocean centers me and helps me focus, think about life, characters, and plots. Deadlines loom less large two hundred yards from the beach. In fact, everything seems smaller and simpler. The singular task is to find the incoming swell, paddle to the apex, stand up, and stay on the blue face of the wave. It’s an all-encompassing activity that clears the mind of debris, except the rare moment when you see a large shadow pass beneath you.

Regardless of moving shadows and what they portend, surfing is a true remove for me. It’s physically demanding, requiring balance, upper body and core strength, timing, and, like everything, luck. But there’s little that can be done when encountering the rare phenomena of a “rogue wave.” That’s what happened to me at Sunset Beach. The waves were in the 5-7’ range, barely manageable for an average practitioner like me. As I stood on the beach studying the flow of water, as I always do before paddling out, a long-haired surfer walked past me, stopped, and said, “If you have to think about it, don’t do it.”

He was probably right, but one can do rogue things and one can also be a rogue, defy convention and take risks others might not. So, I disregarded the unsolicited advice and paddled two hundred yards to the line-up. Less than a minute or two upon my arrival I heard hooting and splashing from my fellow surfers.

A rogue set was approaching from outside of the bay, frothy white tips spraying rabid foam as the swell built to twice the size of the day’s consistent waves and closed out any avenue of escape. There’s exactly one option when a rogue wave comes your way…paddle out. Get beyond the break. Get out of the impact zone. With a rogue set of waves, that was going to be a challenge, but twenty other surfers and I dug for our lives as the freight train approached.

As the first swell arrived, I naively thought, “I’ve got this,” turned, paddled hard, caught the momentum of the barreling mass of water, and stood up. It felt like I was 100’ high when in fact I was probably 12-15’ above the trough. I blissfully sliced down the face of the wave just like you’re supposed to until half way down I found myself flying like superman into the wall of the curling beast. I belly flopped into the wave, which sucked me to the top in its lifting curl as it poised above the reef, deciding what to do with me. Then, ten buildings fell on top of me as the wave crested and slammed into the ocean floor. I fortunately missed the reef and was so deep I didn’t know which way was up. The turbulence was unbelievable. I was a rag doll in a washing machine on spin cycle. Jerked every way possible, it dawned on me after a minute or so that I was no closer to knowing up from down than I was to being able to breathe.

Finally, my surfboard leash looped around my wrist. I tugged on the rubbery rope that was thankfully still connected to my board, realized I was completely inverted and disoriented, and climbed my way, hand over hand, to the ocean’s surface. Piercing the foaming, roiling water, I saw sunlight, palm trees on the distant beach, and…the second massive wave about to slam down on my head as if it was GPS guided. Taking a healthy gulp of oxygen, I repeated the process, tumbling another fifty yards under water and then popped up near the beach.

My first thought when I realized I was out of danger was the same as after every military parachute jump I made: “I survived, now get on with it.” In the frothy water closer to the shore, I managed to sit on my board, give the “shaka” thumb and pinky sign to the many on-lookers on the beach, who, unaware of my underwater tunneling acumen, were probably wondering how I got there. I looked back and saw the waves continuing to steamroll the line-up of surfers and dissipate 30 yards off the beach where I sat, resting and reflecting.

Basically, I had nearly drowned. I was thankful I hadn’t. I used the time on the board to think about my love of the ocean and respect for nature. As I begin each new book, I think back to this day on Oahu’s infamous north shore and lessons learned. Challenge yourself. Improve. Know your limits. Don’t take counsel of your fears. How many of us would have written that first book if we knew what lay beyond us in the ocean of publishing? The hard work. The struggle for survival. The sunlight overshadowed by the next wave. The bliss of doing what you love. Creating, surviving, and finally thriving.

From the safety of the shallows that day, I spotted the long-haired guy on the beach. “If you have to think about it, don’t do it,” he had said. He nodded. I nodded back.

Then I turned around and paddled back toward the reassembling line-up.


Brigadier General Anthony J. Tata (U.S. Army, Retired) is the bestselling author of twelve novels, including Reaper: Threat Zero which releases May 21, 2019, and Reaper: Ghost Target and Double Crossfire.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Resolution-Smesolution: Score Card for my New Year's Goals

By Robin Burcell

It seems like yesterday that we were all talking about do we or don’t we make New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I did a post on it here, where I talked about adopting NYT Bestselling author, Laura Lippman’s One Word Resolution. I went with the word “energize,” because I needed a lot of energy to get a lot of things done, physically and mentally. I probably should have used the word “accountability,” since I’m really good at “procrastination.” 

Since time is short, and you’re probably more interested in winning free books, check out the post here for the Rogue’s anniversary giveaway. But if you’re the sort who likes to laugh (or commiserate at/with those of us who made resolutions), and wondering how I did, keep reading. It’s a quick list.

Taxes and Other Odds and Ends
1.  Office organization: Partial fail. half-full? I unpacked all my moving boxes, but haven’t found bookshelves, so there’s nowhere to put anything that doesn’t fit in my desk. Now, at least it's stored in open plastic-lidded containers stacked next to it. Mind you, this is in the very front room, so anyone who enters will see this (at least slightly more organized) stack of stuff the moment they enter, definitely when they leave.

2.  Organization/taxes:  Glass full! (Only because the IRS are sticklers with that 4/15 deadline.) Everything scanned and filed in a little plastic box (next to the desk in front room as noted above). I did get a bit of a rebuke from my tax guy, who made the suggestion that if I sorted, entered each piece of paper, receipt, etc., as they came in, my end of year process would take a couple of hours instead of the many-day production to sort my over-stuffed file. I've started doing this, but I need a new scanner that doesn’t shred my documents. (Taking Mac-compatible recommendations, BTW.)   

3.  Thinning out belongings: Glass half-empty. Once I got the office unpacked, I piled unused electronics, cords, etc., in a box. In the front room. Next to the desk. (See #1 above.)

I might need this.
4.  Thinning out me:  Glass half-empty, half-full, half-empty, half-full... (You know how diets work.) Trust me, the weight on my license is not  correct! I needed to up my game, because a daily walk of 1-2 miles wasn’t cutting it.  A week ago, my daughter signed us both up for a 6-week boot camp for whole body fitness. On day three, my arm and leg muscles were so sore and weak, I couldn’t get up off the couch. I ended up on my knees, crawling over to the rocking chair, but it only tipped forward when I tried to use it to stand. I crawled back to the couch, managing to maneuver onto it, only to still be stuck in the seated position I couldn't get out of to begin with. I finally maneuvered my hips up onto the arm of the couch and used that to stand. This took 10 minutes!  Even so, I made it through the first week! I’m officially on Week 2, day 2 as I write this, and bonus points, I can get off the couch by myself. I’ll check back in and let you know how this works out for me. 
The Oracle 6/11/19

5.  Writing: Glass half-full. Still not disciplined enough to up my word countbecause I was trying to clean my office, etc. Also, at the beginning of the year, Mr. Cussler and I were finishing up the rewrites/edits of The Oracle, which comes out this June. I'm happy to say that the first review just came in: a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.  I’d jump for joy, but my leg muscles aren’t quite there yet. 

How about you, Rogues Readers? Any progress on your resolutions?

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Mass Disaster

by Lisa Black

In the event of a mass disaster such as Hurricane Michael or the Pulse nightclub shooting, the Florida Emergency MortuaryOperations Response (FEMORS) is mobilized. The purpose of the all-volunteer group of professionals from pathologists to odontologists to forensics and IT is to recover, identify and maintain the dead. Last month I spent two days at its annual training, learning to make order amidst the chaos of a cataclysmic event.
Me (far left) and some of the admitting crew [Source: FEMORS Facebook page]
The process begins as National Guard troops map the area and record exactly where they located which body or body part, what quadrant, who found it, and who transported it to the emergency mortuary, where I will be working. The remains are signed over to a ‘tracker,’ who will stay with that body throughout the entire process without a break for food, water or restrooms. This sounds extreme, but the deceased would arrive as spotty floods rather than a steady trickle, and we found it surprisingly easy to get mixed up.
Their first stop is the admitting station, where all available information as well as the tracker’s name is recorded. Next, Triage will decide where those remains need to go—Radiology, Pathology, Photography/personal effects, DNA, Fingerprints and/or Odontology. Pathology is basically autopsy, or an external autopsy examination. Photography takes photos of not only the remains but clothing, jewelry, IDs, all of which will be sealed up and secured in a locked vault. Fingerprinting will scan the prints for comparison to available databases. Radiology will x-ray, Odontology will examine and document the teeth, DNA will collect samples for rapid DNA analysis if that is necessary or regular DNA analysis down the road. Developed for the battlefield, rapid DNA can produce (at great expense) a profile in an hour and a half.
The outside (simulated) disaster scene
If, say, only a severed hand is recovered, then it does not need to go to Odontology but will go to Fingerprints, and so on.
When all sections needed have been completed and signed off, then the tracker wheels the body back to the morgue. The morgue workers examine the paperwork and take possession of the body and the tracker delivers the paperwork to admitting for one last triple-check. At this point the tracker is released and can take a break if they need to, and the paperwork is sent over to the VIC.
Unlike the morgue, the Victim Identification Center looks more like a makeshift office with its rows of data entry terminals. Family members, calling or coming to see if their loved one might be among the victims are interviewed elsewhere; their descriptions of gender, race, tattoos, body abnormalities, clothes and jewelry worn is uploaded into a database—which is then compared to the information sent over from the morgue. Matches can be confirmed by photographs, fingerprints, dental records or, if necessary, DNA.
The morgue and its units
Of course glitches occur, usually electronic issues such computer systems not meshing. There were also three evaluators for the state walking around, to be sure grant money had been spent wisely. They would ask questions but we ‘players’ weren’t supposed to chitchat with them otherwise. The goal is always to improve the system, and each person is asked to contribute to a list of suggestions for next time. Security is tight—some real cadavers had been donated for our use, so unofficial photographing was strictly forbidden. But most of the remains were mannequins…which, I discovered, are freakin’ heavy. 
It’s a grueling couple of days of an unrelenting pace inside a vacant gymnasium with no air conditioning (remember the F stands for Florida)—and it’s all just training. I can’t imagine doing all of it with perhaps limited supplies from roads out of commission, no cell towers, and no hotel pool to cool off in afterwards. But it has to be done, and we’re the people qualified, and proud, to do it.
Have you ever been inside a mass disaster?

Friday, May 3, 2019


What an exciting month April was! The Rogues and the great Real Book Spy joined forces -- and readers are going to win! New intel about books into movies, how settings help iconic thrillers become, well, iconic, and what's a Rogue to do when she really truly almost-desperately wants a puppy? These and other grand escapades await when you click on the following highlights from April's blogs and news....

Big announcement! We're in cahoots with THE REAL BOOK SPY! Every month in a Rogue blog, he'll reveal a brand-new thriller that's got a particularly riveting Rogue element -- and readers who share the clues leading up to it can win a copy. Can you guess what the first book will be?

More big news! We're celebrating our THIRD BIRTHDAY in May with a giveaway of a lot of great books & loot!


Rogue Jamie Freveletti dives into reading classic novels like Three Days of the Condor, Charade, and Pride and Prejudice and watching the movies made from them in What a Good Story Teaches Us.

Rogue Robin Burcell has puppy fever and needs serious help to decide whether to get one. She even made a top ten list of why she definitely, positively should not get a pup. Truth in advertising: the list sort of devolves. Will she or won't she?

Speaking of lists... Most of us make them: to-do lists, grocery lists, bucket lists. Rogue Chris Goff shares her five thing she swore she'd never do. Since then she's thought of a few more things. She may need a do-over.  Note from editor: "do-over" is a terrible pun.  But funny.

Rogue S. Lee Manning offers a primer on Passover for non-Jews, to be taken with a grain of salt and a generous slathering of horseradish.

Rogue Lisa Black revisits her favorite locale, Key West, and writes a riveting ode to its charms.  All of us want to go now!

And speaking of locales, KJ Howe shows us how terrific settings can crank up your thriller beyond a 10 -- to a high-flying 11.

Netflix is on an "acquisition binge!" Rogue Karna Small Bodman reports on it and the many books being adapted for film now.   What a great opportunity for authors. Check out what's coming: here

Wishing all of you a fine May ... from all of us at Rogue Writers!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019



And the winner is...kaykendalltx


The Rogues are celebrating 3 great years of blogging by giving away a treasuretrove of our autographed books plus other writerly loot to one of our Loyal Rogue Followers.

To enter: TYPE YOUR EMAIL in the box on the sidebar so you can receive our blog, then VERIFY your signup when you receive your opt-in email.  

From then on, you'll never miss any of our stories about our lives and adventures.

IMPORTANT:  If you've ALREADY signed up to receive the blog by email, YOU ARE NOW ENTERED into the drawing.

Good Luck and welcome aboard! JOIN THE CELEBRATION.

Drawing includes:

Rogue Women coffee mug
Rogue Women baseball cap
Campbell's Soup can with a secret compartment from the Spy Museum
Plus These Autographed Thrillers....
That Darkness by Lisa Black
Check Mate by Karna Small Bodman
Gambit by Karna Small Bodman
Face of a Killer by Robin Burcell
The Gray Ghost by Clive Cussler & Robin Burcell
Blood Run by Jamie Freveletti
Dark Waters by Chris Goff
Red Sky by Chris Goff
The Freedom Broker by KJ Howe
Skyjack by KJ Howe
Masquerade by Gayle Lynds
The Assassins by Gayle Lynds