Friday, August 30, 2019


Cool days, brisk nights...after a long walk amid the changing leaves, warm up in the tub with your very own rubber duckie, scented candle and a stack of can't-miss thrillers guaranteed to keep you enthralled until your skin turns pruney! The Rogues are celebrating the first day of the season by gifting a basket full of books to one of our lucky 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. After that, never miss a story about
our books, our lives and our adventures!

IMPORTANT: If you've already signed up to receive the blog by email, you are now entered into the drawing.

Good luck and happy fall!!

Drawing includes:

The Bone Chamber by Robin Burcell
Blood Run by Jamie Freveletti
Castle Bravo by Karna Small Bodman
Dark Waters by Chris Goff
The Freedom Broker by K. J. Howe
The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine
Masquerade by Gayle Lynds
Suffer the Children by Lisa Black
fabric-lined wicker basket
your own Secret Safe from the Spy Museum (to hide the key to your leaf collection)
Vanilla Silk scented candle
and of course, your very own rubber duckie

Drawing will be held September 30th and winners will be contacted. Good Luck!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Slow Summer, Fast Fall: Tips to hit the ground running

by Jamie Freveletti

I enjoyed my summer. I mean I REALLY enjoyed my summer. From nights with friends at outdoor cafes, to running along the lake, to four great days at Lollapalooza and Shakespeare in the Park, I did it all. I found an outdoor fitness center and mastered the rings and parallel bars (still working on the pull ups- they're so difficult!) while in beautiful Lincoln Park and rode my bike along the lake to get there. I joined a Thursday night golf league at Chicago's public Waveland Golf course along Lake Michigan, took vocal lessons at the Old Town School of Music and danced Salsa in Millennium Park. Most of what I did was low cost or free-though the league, Lolla and the lessons were fee based, they were group activities and I thought a good value.

And interestingly enough, my writing seemed to benefit from it all. I always have ideas on what I'm going to write, premises for future books, and snippets of dialogue or action that I write down, but this summer they flowed even more, and I chalk it up to the fact that I was mixing it up in real life as well as in my fiction. 

Usually I start a season with good intentions and ideas of what I want to do and most of the time I accomplish half of my wish list because work and life seems to take over. Or I'll learn of something too late to take advantage of it. This summer I managed it all, and I put it down to one key change in my habits. I spent time with my calendar  and input each event months in advance.

It started in California. I was there to write and meet with friends and work colleagues, and I happened to pick up a book a friend recommended about The Bullet Journal Method. I realize I'm a bit late to the Bullet Journal thing, and I don't follow it closely, but I did like a lot of the ideas it gave. If you haven't read this book by Ryder Carroll, I think it's worth checking out. Not only does it give tips about how to work a planner, it also suggested putting in future plans, dreams, and a list of concrete activities.

After I read it I sat down in April with my planner and my laptop and surfed the Chicago sites for free or low cost activities in the summer. I checked the Park District website and the Shakespeare and free movies in the park. I'm lucky to live in a large city with parks and the means to offer these activities, but I also realized that merely having these things available was not enough if I didn't learn of them and incorporate them into my day to day schedule. I wrote it all down and when the time came I dutifully headed out to the event. It was all so much fun.

But now it's time to gear up for fall, so this week I'm doing the same thing-reading new books on how to stop procrastinating and checking out the sites and deciding what I want to do while the weather turns. For the procrastination end I picked up Eat That Frog! 21 great ways to stop procrastinating and get more done in less time by Brian Tracey. This, too, is an excellent and easily readable book with great tips.

This Fall and Winter I want to ice skate at Maggie Daley Park, keep up with the vocal lessons, add some more dance lessons, attend the concert with rap artist Dessa at Thalia Hall in Chicago and see the new play: The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and a follow up to their wonderful Miss Benet: Christmas at Pemberley. The play is once again at the Northlight Theater in Skokie, a suburb of Chicago. It should be great fun for the Christmas season.

I'm also teaching a class at Story Studio on How To Query Agents (I was picked up from the slush pile, so I know the pain of the process) on September 11th, and heading to Dallas for the Bouchercon Conference for mystery fans at the end of October.

And finally, I'm reading about my favorite subjects: creativity and writing. For this I'm checking out Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. I haven't started yet, so I'll report on it later, but it has wonderful reviews and takes a practical approach to the creative process. I'm looking forward to it.

That's it! While I'm always a little wistful as Labor Day approaches, this year I'm looking forward to fall and the opportunities it presents.

I would love to hear what you're up to and any tips or books you can recommend and for those who celebrate it:

Have a wonderful Labor Day holiday weekend!

All the best, Jamie

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Settings that Inspire Stories

. . . by Karna Small Bodman

As Dr. Seuss put it:

     The more you read
     The more that you know
     The more that you learn
     The more places you'll go

How true.  When authors conjure up ideas for stories, many also endeavor to visit their chosen  locations to immerse themselves in the local culture, meet some of the people, ask questions about their concerns and challenges, take photos and make notes to ensure they write accurate descriptions -- all things you can't find out on Google Earth.  (And sometimes these trips are considered "research" and deemed tax-deductible).

However, on the flip side, an author might visit or work in a particular location,  and much later the place itself inspires a story. This was the case when I decided to sit down and craft my own thrillers. After serving six years in The White House and having an office inside the Situation Room complex, I was inspired to write my first novel CHECKMATE about missile defense systems which were  discussed in the conference room  there many years ago (And today are deployed all over the world).

White House Situation Room
As you can see, it hardly resembles any of the Hollywood versions with their computer banks (ours were outside), flashing lights and gigantic screens.  It still was an exciting place to see and hear Top Secret discussions and plans.  I'm sure many of you have read terrific novels with scenes set in the Situation Room - and yet I wonder if those authors have "been there, done that" - or at least relied on official White House photos rather than the glamorized film versions.

My second thriller GAMBIT was written several years after I was sent on a government trip to the Far East -- Manila, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul -- where  I had the pleasure of staying at the home of our Ambassador to South Korea. I had one free afternoon and was asked if there was a particular place I'd like to visit. I suggested a trip up to the DMZ.  I boarded an Army helicopter for the very short jaunt to the border with North Korea where I was given a briefing by our CIA officer in charge and stood on this viewing platform to watch the North Korean soldiers guarding their turf and facing off against our troops.

DMZ - Demilitarized zone between N and S Korea
Besides the obvious tensions throughout the area, I was told that whenever we bring visitors to the border for briefings, which often included Members of Congress as well as civilians on "Good Will" tours, the North Korean soldiers would rush up to check out the westerners.  And the two times when the most North Koreans came to stare was when our visitors were Miss Universe and the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders!! As for the constant tensions between north and south, imagine the great stories that could be written focusing on that very area and the troops stationed there.

China turned out to be one major setting in thriller #3, FINAL FINESSE. I went on a business trip to Beijing and was amazed to experience that intriguing city.  It's easy to see how an author could come up with scary, even wild scenarios involving Chinese officials, possible corruption, plans to dominate economies or expand influence around the globe! At the same time, the visitor is usually blown away by their architecture, innovation and technology (translate some of that to "spy machines") -- fodder for many great novels - right?

Add Beijing
I have to admit that I never had the chance to travel to a key setting in book #4 CASTLE BRAVO, which was Kazakhstan.  This is where a ton of research comes in -- which means I learned a lot about a country with an incredible history traced back to the Stone Age, according to archeologists.  More "recently" Genghis Khan established his Mongol Empire there in 1206.  We tend to consider him a marauding villain, but I learned that after "setting up shop" there, he only taxed the people 1/2 a percent. Contrast that to the confiscation of the peoples' assets and agriculture by the Russians in the 1900's which created tremendous suffering, especially at the hands of Joseph Stalin when one million Kazakhs starved to death and 80% of their livestock perished. Later Russia did store much of their nuclear arsenal there, and that's where I got the idea for book four.
Almaty - Capital of Kazakhstan
 In addition to reading books and scouring the internet for information, I called our most recent Ambassador to Kazakhstan and asked for an interview. I told her I was writing a novel about that country and her instant reply was, "What fun. Let's have lunch." (I find that officials may not want to talk to a news reporter, but they will usually be happy to talk to an author.)

One more book was inspired by a location -- this time it was a picturesque place where we had a home for several years  before I wrote the recently released TRUST BUT VERIFY.  The setting is Jackson Hole, WY.  Most people think of Jackson as just a ski resort, which it certainly is....home to the mighty and gorgeous Tetons.  It is also a great summer resort where 100 people at a time can ride up the mountain on a tram to take in the sights and see all the way to Idaho.
Tram up Rendezvous Mountain, Jackson Hole

Now imagine being on board that tram when the 'bad guys" plan to blow up the control tower as you're over this particular gorge.  Thriller material indeed.

So here's a question for you: what novels have you read that have "transported" you to unique and exciting places -- where you not only learned about those settings, but enjoyed a great thriller at the same time?  We Rogues always like to share suggestions about great books with our readers.  Leave a comment below or on our Facebook (icon is at the top left of this page). And thanks for visiting us here on Rogue Women Writers.

. . . Submitted by Karna Small Bodman 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


Living in current times can feel like an episode of the Bionic Woman. Technology promises to make us “Better.  Faster.  Stronger.” Hi-tech and data-driven “life hacks” promise to save time and deliver uber-success. It’s like we’re on the verge of a technologically created utopia that will allow us to be our best selves with minimal effort. We are promised a successful career in only four hours a week, a cover model body in the same four hours. Precis of key books can be devoured in mere minutes.  

With these amazing time savings available, it’s remarkable that I can find enough meaningful tasks to keep me busy. According to the new philosophy, I should be able to do my job, become super fit, and learn to be a gourmet chef by about Friday afternoon.  

But what does this all mean for creative fields like writing or music? Are there life hacks available for us, ways to produce profound prose at a prolific rate with a minimum of effort?  Are there short cuts and software to produce bestsellers in a shorter period of time?  If we are to believe the hype, the short answer is yes! We’re offered everything from ways to write a Moorcockean thousand words an hour (no that is not a typo, it says “hour”) to algorithms that will increase our chances of creating a NYT bestseller. Are we at risk for Artificial Intelligence taking our jobs and churning out bestsellers based in microseconds or is this the dawning of a new age of milk and honey for writers where we can buy a couple of apps, study the data and dominate the market?   

The short answer is neither.

Believing that a demanding and complex task like writing a novel can be reduced to a formula, or that the essence of what makes a work of art great (or even successful) can be calculated and emulated is seductive, but misleading. While machines are sensational at counting and organizing, they aren’t unable to understand the words they are counting. For instance, when an algorithm discerns that in paragraphs where J.K. Rowling uses the word Valdemorte there are also negative adjectives, adverbs or descriptors, it only identifies those words as “negative” because a human programmer has told it so. The machine doesn’t ascribe any meaning to good or evil, other than what its programmer tells it to, so the days of a machine writing a novel are a long, long way off.

There are also huge gaps in a computer’s knowledge base that reduce the tool’s effectiveness.  For instance, when the algorithm tells us that “sex” is not a good topic for a book, this is because it has not been programmed with data from the thriving e-published erotic fiction genre. Its “diet” has been carefully selected to be NYT best sellers (itself a human curated and adjusted list, not pure data). Even when the software is fed a variety of books, those novels have already been screened and modified by human editors, once again importing significant human gatekeeper elements into a supposedly objective process.  

The music world struggles with this theory of data driven product. Many experts have attempted to break down hit songs and discern the formula for popular music. Various musical structures and lengths have been calculated and discussed. Apparently, the perfect song length is 2:42, preferably under three minutes, and definitely not over 3:30.  But like Mama Nature in Jurassic Park, music finds a way; giving us Bohemian Rhapsody at 5:55; Sympathy for the Devil at 6:18, Hotel California at 7:12, and Stairway to Heaven at 8:01.  Formulas often lead to averages, and do we really want to write an average song or book?

Data-driven writing is also, by design, backwards looking. It looks at what has been successful in the past and quantifies it. Computers offer no guidance on innovation or originality.  For example, if the bestsellers analysed were all from a time before vampire novels were popular, it would tell you that writing a vampire novel is not a good way to be successful. If the same calculation was completed after a few vampire bestsellers had dominated the market, the result would be totally different. 

While there is clear value in learning structure or understanding the market, we must be very skeptical of promises like writing “under pressure” in your bladder will make you more productive (not kidding). Instead of recommending you use the word “need” between 160-180 times in your novel, or the ratio of adjectives to verbs should be 2.5 to 1, here is a simple formula to help you with your writing:

Creativity plus craft;
Passion plus discipline;
Butt plus chair;
Fingers plus keyboard;

Happy Writing!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

CJ BOX IS AUGUST'S ROGUE RECOMMENDATION, and the lucky winners of free books are:

By now you must know that The Real Book Spy's August pick is THE BITTERROOTS by C.J. Box!

Four lucky Rogue Readers are set to receive a copy to add to their libraries. 

The first copy goes to Neil Schoolnick, who guessed CJ Box right off the bat. Unless we discover he had insider information, a guess that quick deserves special recognition. A big shout out to Neil, who clearly is a big C.J. Box fan!

Our thanks to everyone who commented, shared and/or Tweeted out clues for this month's Rogue Recommendation. By random drawing, the three other lucky recipients of a copy of The Bitterroots are:

Best Mysteries
Derek Luedtke

Kahled Talib

If the four listed would please contact the Rogues at roguewomenwriters [at}, we need your snail mail address to put the books in the mail. 

Starting September 15th, watch for new clues for The Real Book Spy's September Rogue Recommendation, coming Friday, September 20th. We have no doubts you'll want to get your name in the mix for a FREE copy of the book!

Again, CONGRATULATIONS to the book winners!

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Real Book Spy's August ROGUE RECOMMENDATION is....

He might be best known for creating America’s most beloved game warden, but if you aren’t reading C.J. Box’s non-Joe Pickett books, you’re missing out in a big way.

Maintaining his three-books-every-two-years publishing schedule, Box follows up his critically acclaimed 19th Pickett novel Wolf Pack, which came out back in March, with the highly-anticipated next entry in his Cassie Dewell series, The Bitterroots.

Taking place after the events of Paradise Valley (2017), Box’s latest follows former police officer Cassie Dewell, who left North Dakota and has since set up shop in Bozeman, Montana, as she attempts to help out an attorney friend named Rachel Mitchell—who asks Cassie to poke around and see if her client is actually guilty. 

As the story unfolds, Cassie discovers that the client in question, Blake Kleinsasser, stands accused of raping his fifteen-year-old niece, Franny Porche. The evidence is overwhelming too, including the presence of Blake’s DNA, and his own admission that he was so drunk that night that he has no idea what actually happened. Still, Cassie investigates, and what she finds is a dark web of power, correction, and deceit connected to the Kleinsasser family . . . and the more questions she asks, the more trouble she finds herself in.

When it comes to character development, C.J. Box is second to none. Over the course of his career as a novelist, he’s brought his characters along unlike anyone else. Fans of the Pickett series know that well, but he’s used that same touch of brilliance to flesh out Cassie over the last few years as well, quickly turning her into one of the genre’s best female protagonists. While the overall tone of this is series is a shade darker than what fans of his other series may expect, Box has actually done some of his best writing (see his Edgar winning book Blue Heaven) outside of Joe Pickett franchise, and The Bitterroots is some of his finest work yet

by C.J. Box 

of Cassie Dewell, who is the protagonist of my newest novel The Bitterroots, first appeared in The Highway back in 2013. It was an inauspicious beginning: 

        Lewis and Clark County Montana Sheriff’s Department Investigator Cassandra Dewell winced when a pair of headlights broke over a rise onto a long treeless bench in the foothills of the Big Belt Mountains north of Helena. She was on the worst assignment of her nascent career, and she hoped it would be a failure. If she was successful, her partner – a dark legend and her mentor named Cody Hoyt – would likely lose his job and go to prison.
        When the headlights appeared she was eating from a small box of chocolate-covered cake donuts, playing that stupid game she played with herself. One every hour, just to “keep her energy up.” It had been three hours and the box of twelve was gone.

SINCE THAT time and that book, Cassie has gone on to take over the Chief Investigator position at the Bakkan County Sheriff’s Department in Badlands (2015), lost that job in horrendous circumstances in Paradise Valley (2017), and has now launched her own private investigation firm in Montana in The Bitterroots.

I never sat out to write an additional series to accompany the Joe Pickett novels, much less a series of books featuring an overweight widower and single mom at the center. How it happened is a mystery in itself. My original thought was to write a collection of novels that were loosely connected by one or two recurring characters. Not so much a series as a number of dark stand-alone novels that passed a baton from one book to the next via familiar characters and themes. As you probably know, Back of Beyond (2013) begat The Highway which begat Badlands which begat Paradise Valley.

It’s known as The Highway Quartet.

And now we have a new novel once again featuring Cassie.

So who is Cassie Dewell?

IN THE HIGHWAY, I thought of her character as a means to an end. She was there to investigate and observe the mercurial Cody Hoyt from the point-of-view of someone I hoped readers could empathize with. Cassie was a normal person who worked hard, struggled with her status within the all-male department, and tried to maintain a work/life balance while also rearing her son Ben. She was to be Cody Hoyt’s straight-arrow sidekick who both admired and loathed him at times. Readers would observe Cody’s world and outlook through Cassie’s eyes.

Then, in the writing of The Highway (my creepiest book), something happened that surprised me: I found myself really, really liking her. So much so that in my mind and affections she overtook Cody Hoyt as a personality and as a character.

Halfway through the novel she is forced to take over the investigation alone. I won’t discuss what happens to Cody other than to say it’s quite a shock to many readers.

Cassie Dewell, although unsure of her footing or instincts at first, steps up to the job. And more than that: she asserts herself in ways even she never thought possible. I found myself loving the character. And I was thrilled to find out from readers that they did, too.

I don’t think it’s out-of-bounds to say that male authors often find it a challenge to write credible female characters. (Perhaps I should say that women readers rightly scoff at how some male authors depict women). I was nervous about that as well.

When the draft manuscript for The Highway was complete I gave it to my wife Laurie, who is my first reader and my greatest editor-slash-critic. She was disturbed by the character of The Lizard King (a long-haul trucker who is a serial killer) but she loved Cassie. Then I sent it to my second-readers, who are my three adult daughters. Then to my agent Ann Rittenberg. Then to my editor at St. Martins Minotaur, Jennifer Enderlin.

Everyone had notes on the novel, and all of them were terrific. But the thing that didn’t happen was akin to the Sherlock Homes adage about the dog that didn’t bark. All of the females in my life liked Cassie Dewell as much as I did and no one said that they didn’t find her realistic and credible.

Which has turned out to be one of the things I’m most proud of.

IN THE BITTERROOTS, Cassie opens a new chapter to her life when she opens her own private investigations firm in Montana. The Lizard King is no more, but he haunts her in ways that make her doubt her own sanity at times. But she’s Cassie and she soldiers on. When she’s asked to investigate the brutal rape of an underage girl by her own uncle, Cassie is plunged into the world of Montana’s most dysfunctional ranch family.

In her career, she’s experienced the darkest forms of deceit and depravity. But she’s never faced anything quite like the Kleinsasser Family of Lochsa County, Montana.

Let’s say a little prayer for Cassie Dewell as she gets into her car to drive north to investigate the crime…

August 1, 2019
Saratoga, Wyoming

Wednesday, August 14, 2019


Here I am in a patch of beautiful forest ferns, surrounded by towering oaks, birches, maples, & pines. 
By Gayle Lynds

The writer's mind can be a wondrous thing – methodical and whiz-bang creative, able to leap from tall idea into exciting research and a day of writing that may leave one exhausted but also high.  Oh, and let us not forget the joy of analyzing a manuscript, both one’s own or someone else’s.  And then there’s brainstorming about stories, plots, characters – one of my all-time fave things to do.

I will always love brainstorming until my very last breath. 
A mysterious granite pedestal

But as you may recall, I had a head injury on the Fourth of July that resulted in a concussion. My worst moment after that was when I couldn't remember even how to print the letters of the alphabet. 

Now that six weeks have passed, I'm much better but my brain still tires quickly.  You never knew that could happen, right?  The doctor warned me to get rid of stress (good luck with that) and not to think – yes, don't think.

Alas, she's right – if I push my little gray cells too long, I get a roaring headache.

But at the same time, I'm back to writing and seeing friends.  I'm just one of 3 million Americans who suffer concussions every year – and I'm healing a lot faster than expected.  I’m writing this blog.  I’ve done the shopping.  I’m working on my new book.  And I sleep well almost every night.

To what do I attribute my fast improvement?  In a phrase, “forest bathing,” or shinrin yoku in Japanese, which basically means going into the woods or another green space and appreciating one’s time there.

It's making a huge difference in my recovery.  I'll explain shortly.
Porcupine high in beech tree

Yes, I write fiction, but the healing benefits of forest bathing have good science behind it.

Controlled studies of people who spent regular amounts of time in forests showed lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol, as well as reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol, risk of type II diabetes, risk of coronary heart disease, and incidence of death from heart disease and all-cause mortality. 

Want to fight about it?  Another study found significantly decreased levels of hostility and depression, too.  

I’m truly lucky.  We live in a large forest of wildlife, plants, bushes, and trees.  The photos on this page are some of my favorites from it.  My research shows that the phytochemicals trees emit and that we breathe are known to be healing, but I don’t ponder any of the benefits when I’m inside the magical kingdom of the woods.

Wild blackberries - delicious!
The rich aromas of earth, cedars, and blooming wild flowers transport me.  Tall ferns swish against my legs as I walk.  As sunlight slants down through the canopy of leaves, I pause to see what new is being illuminated.  My jaw unlocks.  My breathing responds not to stress, but to normal physical exertion.  I smile and smile.

Want to live longer and happier?  Bathing in the forest could improve your health, too.

And the good news is that if one spends one's working day inside an office without even a window, one can also benefit from pseudo forest bathing.  Put a photo on your desk or a calendar on your wall that shows an outdoor scene – mountains, a lake, the ocean, flowers, and especially trees, trees, trees.  Gaze at it whenever you change tasks.  Drink in the beauty.

Every chance you get, go for a walk on a sidewalk where trees are growing alongside it.  Better yet, stop at a park, sit on a bench, close your eyes, and breathe.  Then open your eyes and feast on the glorious sight of Mother Nature around you. 

Of course, forest bathing isn't all I'm doing to heal.  Being in a good marriage and having good friends matter.  Eating well, sleeping, napping, moderate exercise, an old cat who loves to cuddle, and the occasional aspirin also make a difference.  And whenever I can, I go into the forest.

What about you, Rogue readers – what are your go-to healing regimens?

Tuesday, August 13, 2019


This author was a tourism guide for the state where he/she lives!

The Real Book Spy is set to release his August Rogue Recommendation on August 16th.

This month we're giving away 3 copies, courtesy of a Big 5 publisher. (Oops, bonus clue.)

How can you win? All you need to do is share, comment or tweet the clues!

In case you missed them, here are the first two clues!

After struggling with their agent for several years, this author took their manuscript to a regional writers' conference only to learn that their agent had died. A young editor at the conference took the manuscript home, pitched it to their publisher and the rest is history.

This author does a lot of hands-on research—plus he/she looks great in a hat!

Anyone brave enough to hazard a guess?

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Rogues' Reveal Their Go-To Writing Snacks

by Gayle Lynds
K.J. Howe's Sacher Torte, for research of course!

What do we authors snack on while creating adventure, danger, and, yes, violence?  So far, I’ve found no one chomping nails or bullet casings.  For instance, Franz Kafka, who wrote the dystopian crime novel The Trial, drank milk, milk, milk.  Settling an upset stomach because of his upsetting subject matter? 

Truman Capote, author of the brilliant and brutal In Cold Blood, had a routine of coffee at 11:00 a.m., mint tea at noon, sherry at 2:00 p.m., and martinis at 4:00 p.m.  Terribly civilized, and methinks by the end of his writing day he easily could’ve felt he really, really needed medicinal alcohol.  On the other end of the literary spectrum is Emily Dickinson who baked bread between writing poems.  Can’t you smell the delicious aroma of yeasty bread – giving rise to all sorts of ideas and insights?
Jamie Freveletti's French Press = Great Coffee.

So what about you, dear fellow Rogues?  What is your go-to snack while you write?  Do you love the taste?  Are you looking for inspiration or procrastination?  And why choose it?

K.J. Howe: Okay, we've all heard of method acting, where the actor goes fully into character while performing in a play or acting in a film. I'm a big believer in "method eating"! Because I write international thrillers, I like to immerse myself in the culinary delights of the country I'm writing about. For example, in SKYJACK, part of the story took place in Salzburg, Austria, so imagine my sacrifice in having to delve into the world famous Sacher Torte to make sure that I was in the right milieu. I've also sampled the cuisine of Greece, South Africa, Turkey, and a host of other locales. Wherever your imagination can go, your appetite can follow!

Chris Goff's favorite Swedish bowl holds pistachio nuts today.
Jamie Freveletti:  My drink of choice while writing is coffee. Which also happens to be my drink of choice all the time. Even when marching around the recent Lollapalooza music fest here in Chicago I located and found some coffee sold in a can by High Brew. After years of trying different brewing methods, I've settled on the French Press for now. Someone recently raved about the glass siphon method. At first I was confused, but once I saw the contraption, I recognized it as something my great grandmother used to use to make her coffee! Siphon makers are really expensive, so I'm on a mission to find one of the older ones at a flea market or garage sale just to see if I like the method. In the meantime, it's a French press for me!

Karna Small Bodman's cap has lift!
Chris Goff:  I alternate between Good & Plentys and pistachio nuts. As you can see from the picture, the bowl sits right above my mouse pad, close to my cup of coffee. Though, truth be told, I'm almost more obsessed with having the right mug and some treats in my Swedish bowl than I am with the actual contents.

Karna Small Bodman: The thing is, I NEVER snack between meals. However, in the morning I am inspired to write AFTER I've had my caffeine fix – actually a daily cappuccino made by spooning frothed skim milk on top of my (large) cup of coffee.  Writing after lunch means I've had my "daily" piece of chocolate for dessert. I figure, if a dessert doesn't involve chocolate,  "It's not worth the calories" – and yes, I used that line in my last novel, TRUST BUT VERIFY.
Valerie Constantine takes her a.m. coffee hi-test.

Valerie Constantine: I drink coffee when I write, starting with hi-test in the morning and graduating to decaf later on.  My coffee never looks as beautiful as the cappuccino in the photo, but I thought the flower was too pretty to pass up.  I’d much rather be munching on cashews or pretzels!

Robin Burcell:  I love Cheez-it crackers. I used to buy them by the big box (two pack) and also the 30 snack pack size from Costco. I had to stop buying them when I started using them for meal replacement while on deadline many books ago. (Still trying to lose that weight!) Now I try not to keep "snacking snacks" around. I do, however, pick up the occasional Justin's Peanut Butter Cups, dark chocolate, of course. (I prefer them over Reese's, because they don't add sugar to the peanut butter. The catch, though, is no preservatives, so you have to get them fresh. Sometimes the older ones, or those exposed to heat/cold cycles, can dry the peanut butter.)
Robin Burcell fills her freezer with these.

And in the summer, dark chocolate frozen banana slices. Dole makes the best ones, but they're a bit pricey.  Costco carries Chok’s Organic in the summer, and the price is very reasonable. We fill the freezer in the summer. One pack is 4 slices and 100 calories, so I don't feel too guilty. The only thing that keeps me from chowing down on the whole box (thank goodness) is that I prefer them slightly thawed. That 10–15 minutes I let them sit is enough to keep me from constantly getting up and grabbing another pack!

Lisa Black: 
     What I dream of snacking on: cheese and crackers and wine, preferably on a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean. But both wine and the Mediterranean would seriously impede productivity.
Lisa Black's final go-to is tea and chocolates.
     What I'd like to snack on: Fritos (original flavor). But they're too many carbs.
     What I usually snack on: hot tea with some sort of chocolate piece accompanying. Not really less carbs but something I always have on hand.

Lynne Constantine:  I'd love to snack on Hershey kisses but that would be a disaster considering how many hours I write ... so instead I drink lots of Jack Reacher coffee in my favorite mug.

Gayle Lynds: My go-to is popcorn, which I pop myself.  In the early stages of a spy thriller, I'll eat the popcorn plain, but after a few weeks of writing, I feel driven to add salt.  By the time I finish a book, I'm eating a huge bowl of it a couple of times a day, laden with not only freshly ground Pure Himalayan Ancient Sea Salt (you know it's the best) but also much-too-much melted butter.  Yum.
Never underestimate Jack Reacher OR Lynne Constantine!

 I rationalized the craziness of my excess by thinking all that chewing sparks my dendrites and neurons and makes me smarter.  I'm so smitten (addicted?) that I named a software program I invented in one of my novels, POPCORN.  And no, there's no photo here of a bowl (very large) of my popcorn.  I’d have to pop some.  Then I'd eat it.  All of it.  All.  Bad idea, bad idea.

So dear Rogue Readers ... what’s your favorite snack?  We’re starving (er, eager) to know!

Friday, August 9, 2019


This author does a lot of hands-on research—plus he/she looks great in a hat!

On August 16th, The Real Book Spy will reveal his August Rogue Recommendation. And watch for Clue #3 on August 13th.

Each time we have given away recommended books. Six all total! This month we have a couple extra books to give away, courtesy of a Big 5 publisher. (Oops, bonus clue.)

How can you win? All you need to do is share, comment or tweet the clues!


After struggling with their agent for several years, this author took their manuscript to a regional writers' conference only to learn that their agent had died. A young editor at the conference took the manuscript home, pitched it to their publisher and the rest is history.

Anyone brave enough to hazard a guess?

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Shakespeare Adored Rogue Women

by Liv Constantine

Before suffragettes and feminism and Me Too, a man in the small market town of Stratford in England was creating strong female characters that rebelled against the limitations imposed upon them by men and society. They are most valuable studies in character development for the modern writer.

Women like Lady Macbeth, Rosalind (As You Like It) and Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing) might be the first ones that come to mind when we talk about strong Shakespeare women, but there are others who are every bit as empowered and independent. Here are some of those women and the traits that made then rogue.

Paulina (The Winter’s Tale)

Paulina is from the aristocracy of Sicily and a friend to King Leontes wife Hermione who is pregnant when the play opens. The King becomes irrationally paranoid, believing his wife is unfaithful and has her jailed. Paulina steps in to care for the new baby and console her friend, but also to admonish the king. For this act of defiance, Paulina could be put to death, but despite this, she continues to confront the king when he defames Hermoine. She stands firm in her beliefs with courage and fights for justice against a mighty power that could destroy her.

Imogen (Cymbeline)

Imogen is the master of her own fate. Her father, King Cymbeline of Britain, insists that she marry his new Queen’s vile son. Imogen refuses and secretly weds the man she loves, a man of low birth, defying her father and his evil wife. False accusations are flung against her, all of which she fights and defeats. In the end, she forgives those who have wronged her, proving that forgiveness often takes courage and strength that is rare.

Portia (The Merchant of Venice)

Portia is an impressively clever woman who is self-driven and empowered. An only child, she has to manage the very wealthy estate her father has left to her—a position left only to men in those times. When the Duke of Venice requires a judge to try the case Shylock brings against the debtor Antonio, Portia enters disguised as a famous male judge. She shows extraordinary ingenuity in her legal arguments as she delivers her judgment, tragic though it is. Those present don’t know the “judge” is a woman. Portia proves that even when confronted by people more powerful than you, brains and self-confidence will ultimately win the day.

Viola (Twelfth Night)

Viola is shipwrecked and has lost her twin brother at sea. When she finds herself on the beach at Ilyria, she refuses to play the role of a helpless woman and instead disguises herself as a man. She gains employment in the household of the Duke and as a “man” (re-named Cesario) and gains a freedom of speech that would be inconceivable for a woman. She expresses thoughts forbidden to her by society and becomes a more fully realized woman. Despite being raised by protective men who made all her decisions, her cunning and adaptability illustrate her innate strength. In the end, through her clever manipulations, she gets what she wants­­––marriage with the Duke.

Desdemona (Othello)

Desdemona exhibits her inner strength at the very beginning of the play, when her father asks the Duke of Venice to stop her marriage to Othello. She has fallen in love with a black man, the Moor, and she convinces the Duke to support the marriage in a brilliant speech. She comes across as an independent woman, sure of herself and her intentions, something that required tremendous strength and courage when confronted by a room full of powerful men. She asserts herself throughout the play, asking Othello to keep her informed of military plans. As his mistreatment of her increases, she holds firm, refusing to lie, even though her
faithfulness to truth is what ultimately results in her death.

Cleopatra (Antony and Cleopatra)

The difference here is that Cleopatra is one of Shakespeare’s strong women who was a real person, however, his portrayal of her is the epitome of female power and strength. Cleopatra defies description, he says, and yet he chronicles the first time Antony meets her with a description that is both gripping and breathtaking. Her barge is “like a burnished throne/Burned upon the water.” Her magnetism is so incredibly powerful that all the citizens of Egypt rush to the banks of the Nile as her barge arrives. She is portrayed not only as a superbly desirable woman but also as a ruler firmly in control of her domain and revered by her subjects. She is a woman of intelligence, quick wit, and political acuity. She can be “all woman” to a man while still ruling a great nation and not hiding her intellect. She can possess the strength, intelligence, and power that make her a “man” while maintaining the glorious qualities that make her quintessentially woman.

What do we see in all these women that can inform our own fictional characters? They are true to what they believe; they fight back when injustice takes place, they push the boundaries and believe in themselves.

Who are some of your favorite Shakespeare women?