Wednesday, October 30, 2019


by K.J. Howe

Writing can be a lonely calling. And there are roller coaster ups and downs in the publishing business. But it's all worth it when you get together with your tribe, as we are this week at Bouchercon 50!  And to make this event even more special, I get to meet some very special young people this week . . .

Kunle and I in Sharjah

Last year at the Sharjah International Book Festival, I had the pleasure of meeting Kunle Kasumu from Channels TV in Nigeria, a reporter with an expertise in books.  He kindly invited me for an interview, and I was impressed by his sense of humour, deep knowledge of the thriller genre, and insightful questions. I also learned about the program he had created to give Nigerian students with a penchant for writing access to the wider world of literature.

Kunle and Channels TV run a national essay contest for Nigerian students who are interested in expressing themselves through the written word. The winners embark on an educational trip to a different country each year, culminating in them attending a major writing conference to meet their literary idols and experience a different country.  Last year, the destination was the United Arab Emirates at the Sharjah Book Festival, which hosts over two million attendees from all over the world.

Carol Puckett, the Chair of Bouchercon Dallas, saw my pictures of Kunle and the students on Facebook--and Carol being the wonderfully kind person she is--wanted to give other students the chance to come to Texas. Kunle, Carol, and I worked together to make Dallas, Texas their destination for 2019 with a final deep dive into the world of literature to take place at Bouchercon. The three students have been enjoying the United States for two weeks (including the rare chance to experience a live Texas tornado) and are excited to exchange ideas with the writers and attendees at Bouchercon this week.

Carol with the students in Dallas

If anything is bringing you down right now, never forget that writing can bring people together in the most human and uplifting of ways.  And if you see Kunle and his team of future bestsellers at the event, please introduce yourself and say hello. You will be glad that you did.

The Rogue Women will also be storming Dallas this year with a panel at Bouchercon on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. sharing all of their insights, wit, and wisdom about the crazy world that is rogue thriller writing. And Meg Gardiner is our panel master!!!! You don't want to miss that.

Outside of the conference (but close by), you might want to take in the panel at Half Price books on Saturday at 2 p.m. where myself, Mark Greaney, Jack Carr, Nick Petrie, A..J. Tata, Brad Taylor, and Marc Cameron will be discussing the latests and greatest in the world of action thrillers and signing books for enthusiast fans. Our new Nigerian friends will be there, and I'm counting the minutes until I meet them all!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Katherine Neville Goes Rogue -- on Research

I am delighted to welcome a good friend and incredible author, Katherine Neville, to our site today.  Katherine is an internationally acclaimed bestselling author of several incredible novels that have been described by Publishers Weekly  as "astonishing fantasy-adventures." And they are indeed. All of her stories are set in the most intriguing and exotic locales, from the tops of mountains to the dunes on the Sahara -- places she has visited and lived in over the past many years and which have inspired her to do extensive research for a series of great stories. In fact, she believes research is the key to so much of life - as she explains below. 

Katherine photographs her settings

"Life is Research" - Katherine Neville

My most frequently-asked question, from students, interviewers, and fellow writers alike, is, "How do you do your research?"

Anyone who has ever read even a smidgen of my writing knows that I've really "done my homework." (Well, it isn't exactly homework. That makes it sound so tedious.) It's a fascination that I share with my readers from ages 9 to 90: Curiosity. When I'm curious, I become obsessive until I discover the answer. The answer doesn't always have to appear in the book. But the knowledge, the feeling, is still there beneath the surface, like the "7/8 of the iceberg" that Hemingway was always talking about.

I was curious to know what the famous French revolutionary, Jean Paul Marat, was about to eat for dinner, when he was stabbed to death in his bathtub by Charlotte Corday (included in the first novel The Eight);
I was curious about how one could fly a bush plane from the Aleutian islands of Alaska to Russian Kamchatka without being discovered on radar (thus came inspiration for The Fire);

I was curious to figure out how to forge a billion dollars in "bearer bonds"--prior to digital image processing--using only a Hasselblad and a printing press (A Calculated Risk);

 and curious to know how Hitler's astrologer, his priest (who edited Mein Kampf), and his "motivational speaking coach" all died mysterious deaths at around the same time (The Magic Circle). And so on.

Curiosity may have killed a few proverbial cats, but the results of my researches into little-known esoteric trivia have fascinated millions and millions of readers all over the world (for more than thirty years, in forty languages.)

There's just one little hitch. Knowing When to Stop!

True confession: I am an Information Junkie. I try to do all my research "on the ground," in little-known, far-flung locales.
Katherine in Tunisia
Or poring through rare books on obscure topics, of the sort I've collected since I was really young. I try never to do research online unless absolutely necessary. The moment I type in an online query, "it" always begins google-lassoing me, dragging me through a series of hyperlinks, and then "it" winds up asking me: "Would you like to order this book from Amazon?" For those of us who are dataholics, doing our research on the web would be like an alcoholic living between an all-night bar and an all-night liquor store.

My former neighbor, Martin Cruz Smith, and his wife, Em, once told me that the research phase was "Bill's" (that's his name) favorite part of writing each of his novels. When I asked Bill why, he said, "Because when you're doing the research, everything is still potential. You can go in any direction. The world is open. Once you start putting words on paper, the book starts to become concrete, the characters, the plot... you're committed."

That's it! Commitment! As soon as I (the 'Author-ity' of my own novel) have committed myself to the characters and their story, I am hidebound to take off my 'brilliant researcher' hat and follow the first rule of Fiction, which we all ought to know: "When in doubt, leave it out."

Case in point: A few years ago, I was one of three authors--with the wonderful Daniel Stashower and David Baldacci--who'd been invited to launch a new Sirius XM radio show "
Author Café." (The brainchild of Maggie Smith and Kim Alexander, co-producers of the late Sirius Book Channel.) We three authors chatted extemporaneously for a few hours about the art, the craft, and the vocation of being full-time, successfully published writers. When the topic of research came up, I stated, in my most "Author-itarian" voice:

              "It is a well-known and accepted rule of fiction that--regardless how interesting your research may be to you, personally--NOTHING should appear in the book unless it serves to develop the character or advance the plot!"

Check out the full interview here

In the recording studio, David and Daniel were smiling and nodding their agreement. But I could  see the ironically-raised eyebrows of my two fellow authors who knew me, and my eccentric work ethic, very well. So I had to admit:

              "Having said that, I confess that I am the Queen of self-indulgence, and I'll go to any lengths to try to shoehorn in some research that I've found fascinating--in the confident hope that my readers will find it so, too!" (Or some such total rubbish.)

I am a reader, you are a reader. We are all readers. We readers don't relish wading through a plot that looks like someone's academic tutorial, or wallowing in some writer's pontificating drivel. We want to be captivated by a wonderful story. We are writers ourselves, because we were longtime readers. And we want to read more of what we have been missing. In my case, I became a writer because I couldn't find enough of the swashbuckling, adventure/quest novels that I loved: Rafael Sabatini, Lord Byron, Alexandre Dumas, Robert Louis Stevenson, adventures in exotic lands and on the high seas.

So each morning, before I sit at my desk (surrounded by 700 "current" research books, and far too many research articles--and a few computers) I have to remind myself of this mission:

              1. Nothing should appear in the book except to develop character or advance plot;

              2. When in Doubt, Leave it Out;

              3. It's the Story! 

              Amen. (Well...except if it's something really interesting!)

 K Neville

Thanks, Katherine, for your great insights and advice. Now, for our readers here - Is there an exotic location you would like to travel to do your own "research" for a story? Leave a comment and thanks for visiting us here on Rogue Women Writers.

             .  . . Karna Small Bodman

Friday, October 25, 2019

Kimberly Belle Goes Rogue: Writing the Book of Your Heart

By: Liv Constantine

I have a sticky taped to the wall by my desk that reads The book you have to write vs. you have to write a book. A daily reminder of what I’ve come there to do, to write the story of my heart rather than churn out a book just because I have a looming deadline. Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between the two. The pressure of time restraints, of advance earn-outs, of past failures and successes…they all can mess with your mojo. But remember those early days before agents and contracts, when you were telling the story for no one but yourself? That is the feeling I look for when brainstorming my next story—one that I have to tell or otherwise I will explode.

Sometimes these books of my heart flow out of me quickly and with relatively ease, and sometimes they take more finessing. Three Days Missing was a fourteen-month slog from first word to last edits, and I don’t want to tell you how many times I rewrote The Ones We Trust but suffice it to say a lot. And now, ten months into my next book, Stranger in the Lake, and I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. I’ve finally drilled down to the heart of the story, figured out what the heck I’ve been trying to say.

Over the course of my career, I’ve spent a lot of time stressing about why some stories are more of a struggle than others. Is it because they’re less compelling? Did I take a wrong turn somewhere, choose the wrong POV? Or is it worse—is this the dreaded I-have-to-tell-a-story story? Should I just chuck it and start over?

But each time, I found the answer was no. There was something in these plots that just wouldn’t let me go. A character that had come alive in my head, or a twist that was too good to shelve. I kept writing, kept digging and finessing and layering until finally, finally—the story that all those months ago I had imagined it to be emerged. The story-I-have-to-tell story.

But I’m not going to lie; getting there sucked. Here are a few things I learned along the way.

Remember why you’re writing.

I mean this at both the macro and micro levels. Keep in mind why you began down this writerly path in the first place, and hold tight to that breathless, tingly feeling when you first came up with the book’s premise. What is it that compels you to write it? What are the elements, characters or hook or plot points, that won’t let you go? Write them on a sticky and look at them every day. These are the things that will keep you typing when it feels so much easier to shove your laptop in a drawer.

Embrace the suck.

Even the books that come relatively easy have had their difficult moments. A plot hole I didn’t foresee during the drafting phase, or a timeline issue that takes weeks to unwind. And now, six books in, I’ve become convinced that struggle is part of the process. Some stories are bigger and sprawlier than others. Some need more time to cook in your mind and on the page. Every book feels like its own particular journey, one that comes with a sizeable dose of frustration and performance anxiety, and maybe that’s okay. It means we’re taking on new challenges, learning new skills. If writing were easy, everybody would do it.

Find your tribe. Love them hard.

Success in this industry can sometimes feel as elusive as fairy wings and pixie dust. The publishing industry is hard, and it’s erratic, and it’s nuts, and it’s a place where the best book doesn’t always win. Market trends, unfair reviews, marketing and publicity that doesn’t catch on. So much of what happens once we send a book out into the world is out of our control. What makes a story soar or flop isn’t always predictable.

But one thing we can control is to surround ourselves with people like us, fellow authors and industry professionals who understand. Treat these people not like competition but as a refuge. Use them as sounding boards and brainstorm buddies and accountability partners. Ask them questions, get their advice, let them talk you off the ledge. Take comfort in knowing we are all in this same crazy, rocky boat together, rowing for the same shoreline, cheering each other on. This job is so much more fun and fulfilling with friends.

Stop doubting. Just write.

This one’s the hardest and the easiest at the same time. Let go of the doubt, the insecurities, the comparisons to other authors who are doing better/earning more/getting bigger deals, and just do what you know how to do: write. Trust the process, even when the process is muddling through more shitty drafts than you’d care to admit. Get off Twitter, where writers go to brag about 10,000-a-day word counts or seven-figure movie deals, and focus on the story. Your story, the story of your heart. Some days you will produce nothing but tears and frustration, but other days will end in words. Good words! Fixable words. As Margaret Atwood once said, if we waited for perfection, we would never write a word.

So write and then write some more until one day, that story you just have to tell? 
It’s here, and it’s awesome.

Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of five novels, including her latest domestic suspense, Dear Wife (June 2019). Her third novel, The Marriage Lie, was a semifinalist in the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery & Thriller, and a #1 e-book bestseller in the UK and Italy. She’s sold rights to her books in a dozen languages as well as film and television options. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam. Her latest book is DEAR WIFE.

Keep up with Kimberly on Facebook (, Twitter (@KimberlySBelle), Instagram (@KimberlySBelle) or via her website at

Tuesday, October 22, 2019


Drum roll please...

John Connolly's Book of Bones.

Now 17 books into his New York Timesbestselling series, John Connolly is still going strong. His latest Charlie Parker thriller, A Book of Bones, is one of my absolute favorites in the franchise, and some of Connolly's finest work to date. 

One of the things I love about this series is how it's grown over time. When readers were first introduced to Charlie in the 1999 novel Every Dead Thing, Parker was a tormented soul in search of answers following the gruesome unsolved murders of his wife and daughter. Now, all these years later, Connolly's lead is much more at peace and has even found a way to communicate with his daughter. The tone and feel of the series has shifted a bit (becoming more supernatural), all intentional, no doubt, and looking back it's easy to see how Connolly has grown as a writer with each book. 

This time around, Parker and his gang are facing off yet again with Quayle, an English attorney who some believe is immortal. The two first met up in last year's The Woman in the Woods, but now, Connolly takes their battle to another level. Parker has already stopped Quayle from ending the world, but with another sinister plot in the works, not to mention some deadly activity in Amsterdam linked to a crazy new religion, Charlie once again has his work cut out for him. 

Coming in at a whopping 688 pages, John Connolly's latest reads much faster than its considerable bulk might suggest, and by the end, readers will be begging for the next volume, presumably due out in the fall of 2020. Settle in and get ready to stay put . . . once you start this one, it's impossible to stop.

Happy reading!

Sunday, October 20, 2019


by Chris Goff

Years ago, Smithsonian Magazine published an article by Tom Vanderbilt entitled "The CIA's Most Highly-Trained Spies Weren't Even Human." It's worth sharing.

During World War II, a psychologist named B.F. Skinner received defense funding to research a pigeon-based homing device for missiles. While Operation Pigeon was never deployed,  the project inspired two of his graduate students. After leaving Skinner's program, the husband and wife opened up the I.Q. Zoo, a tourist attraction and animal training facility in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The facility quickly became the go-to training ground for zoos, theme parks and Hollywood performance animals. 

In 1965, after bringing in Bob Bailey, another Skinner aficionado and the first director of training for the Navy’s pioneering dolphin program, a new branch of the business was born. It was the height of the Cold War, and suddenly various government agencies, such as the CIA, the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground, and Limited Warfare Laboratories were seeking their help to train animals as spies. Using animals in intelligence has a long history, and if you asked Bob Bailey, he would tell you, “We never found an animal we could not train.” 

Now, despite the cadre of Artificial Intelligence weapons available for Intel gathering, I can think of nothing better than a raven, dolphin or cat doubling as a super sleuth. Interested in reading more? Here's the link to the article in Smithsonian Magazine, or you can peruse an even more recent report by the BBC

Just curious, have you ever felt like someone was watching you, but no one was there?

Friday, October 18, 2019

October's Rogue Recommendation Clue #2

October Rogue Recommendation
Here's clue # 2 for October's 
#RogueRecommendation from THE REAL BOOK SPY: 

This internationally bestselling author worked in Maine, and also in the mailroom of a big dept. store. 

Retweet, share on Facebook, or make a guess in the comments below (or all the above) to be entered into the drawing to win this fantastic thriller! Good luck!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019


by Gayle Lynds

This morning I looked away from my email and told my husband, “I’m in spam hell.”  A tiny exaggeration, but perhaps you know what I mean.  Enough already!
For several years I’ve had a terrific spam catcher that removed all of the worst attempts to infect my online life.  I was protected.  But then a couple of weeks ago I started getting phone calls from friends and colleagues asking whether I’d received emails they’d sent. 

Oh, dear.  No, I hadn’t!

Worried, I visited my spam filter.  Turns out, it’d gotten too enthusiastic and was trapping not only spam but also emails from perfectly respectable folks and organizations. 
So now every morning I force myself to open my spam catcher’s 24-hour intake.  It’s crammed with details like when the email arrived, the sender’s supposed identity, and why the email’s been quarantined.  As I read the information, my eyes swim with nonsense words and weird come-ons and long numbers with lots of hyphens. 

Part of the struggle is that although most of it’s junk, my brain can’t seem to resist trying to make sense of it.

As a result, I read all of it slowly to catch legitimate emails so I can “whitelist” the senders and route their notes into my inbox.  When I first started this routine, I was impatient and irritated.  Lately, amazingly, I’m finding it interesting.

For instance, a decade ago spam was mostly about Viagra, Cialis, pornography, and invitations to hook up.  Now it’s more clearly about money and data – mine and yours, which the spammer is trying to trick us into revealing through phishing, spoofing, outright thievery, and assorted other crimes.  (I’m going to give you some suggestions about how to handle these problems in a moment.)

Buyer beware!  Here are some of the “gems” I’ve discovered in my spam filter.

● “Ohh, are you an ancient god?...” 
    Seriously?  Yes, the above is the subject line of my first spam of the day.  My peevish response: “No, you nincompoop, I’m a modern goddess!”  You’ll notice the sender has my attention.  What would happen if I actually opened the email and responded to whatever further temptations lay within?
    Analysis: phishing.  A "phishing" email lures you into divulging your login credentials — your username and password — through convincing emails and links to web pages. These phishing emails and fake websites can resemble legitimate credit authorities like Citibank, eBay, or PayPal.  Spam emails frighten, entice, or aggravate you into clicking on a link that delivers you to the phony web page so that you’ll enter your ID and password.  If an email seems suspicious to you, do NOT trust it.  Delete it!   —

● “Men Drugs Shop”
    I’m confused ... Does this mean men are being drugged, or are men offering to drug me?  But the title has made me pause.  And perhaps do more.... 
    Be sure to look at the domain of the URL address in any questionable email. Is it sending you to a legitimate domain owned by a legitimate institution? A lot of times the URL is not to the official site domain. When in doubt, phone the institution to verify the email’s authenticity.  Don’t click  on it. Being skeptical could save you a lot of money, time, and

    This is a family-friendly blog.  I cannot reply to this obvious come-on with what I’m really thinking.
    A common ruse is an urgent need to "confirm your identity." The message will even offer you a story of how your account has been attacked by hackers to trick you into divulging your confidential information.

● “Investment Company”
    At first glance, this looked legitimate, but then I saw the return address:  Molding Women for Good?????  And you’re sending this to me, who knows how to assassinate bad guys in at least 100 different ways?  YOU ARE A BAD GUY.  Duh.
    Avoiding Phishing Scams.  Check the legitimacy of a link to a supposedly secure site by making certain its URL address begins with https:// (note the "s" after http). Phishing fakes will often just have http:// (no “s”).

● “Donation of $2,500,000.00"
    I always drool a bit at the notion of getting a financial windfall.  I’m human (weak?) that way, but when it comes to handing out my social security number, giving someone co-signing power on a banking account, or sending $10,000 in earnest money to the “lawyer” representing some person or place that promises to give me more money than the budget of an entire American village, I sense I’m about to be had.
    In every variation, the scammer is promising obscenely large payments. This money transfer con game is too good to be true, yet people still fall for it.  The scammers will use your emotions and willingness to help others, against you. They will promise you a large cut of their business or family fortune. In exchange they ask you to cover endless “legal” and other “fees” that they claim must be paid to the people who can release the fictional fortune.  The more you pay, the more they will scam out of you. You will never see any of the promised money because there isn’t any. This scam isn't even new; its variant dates back to 1920s when it was known as "The Spanish Prisoner" con.  To save yourself, delete the email.  Now!  —

In an effort to squeeze this lemon of a situation into writerly gold, here’s information aimed at making your online life safer and more pleasant, with thanks to

If  you receive an email that you think may be a scam:
     Forward it to the FTC at
    Forward it to the abuse desk of the sender's ISP.
    Also, if the email appears to be impersonating a bank or other company or organization, forward the message to the actual organization.

If you think you may have responded to an email that may be a scam:
     File a report with the Federal Trade Commission at
    Report it to your state Attorney General, using contact information at
    Then visit the FTC's identity theft website at While you can't completely control whether you will become a victim of identity theft, you can take some steps to minimize your risk.

What about you, dear Rogue Reader ... Have you had any noteworthy spams lately?  Been caught by one?  Please tell! 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

October's Rogue Recommendation Clue #1

October's Rogue Recommendation by THE REAL BOOK SPY is fantastic!

Here's your first clue:

This internationally bestselling author used to work as a journalist and a bartender before he started writing novels. 

Leave a comment to have your name entered in the drawing for this month's free book! Good luck!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Great First Lines

A great first line can be the difference between choosing to read a book or put it back on the shelf. The Rogues share their favorite first lines from beloved books. See if you can match the line with the book cover. Then tell us your favorite first line. 

"It is cold at 6:40 in the morning of a March day in Paris, and seems even colder when a man is about to be executed by firing squad." 

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

"It was a hell of a night to throw away a baby." 

“James Bond, with two double Bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami airport and thought about life and death.”

“I was ten years old when I first saw Penmarric and twenty years old when I first saw Janna Roslyn, but my reaction to both was identical.”

Chris GOFF
“The Germans were almost completely deceived—only Hitler guessed right, and he hesitated to back his hunch—AJP Taylor, English History 1914-1945.”

"In the year of our lord, 1355, three days after the Feast of the Epiphany, God put in my mind that I must write a book." 

“Mr. Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the morning, save for those not infrequent occasions when he was out all night, was seated at the breakfast table.” 

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Have your own favorite first line from a novel you've read? Please share it with us in the comments below.