Friday, September 25, 2020

SOLEDAD CHAVEZ DE CHACON: AN EARLY ROGUE

by Lisa Black

To celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, I thought I’d take a look at the lesser-known trailblazing women of politics, women who were the first to break through the barriers of their time.

Only two years after the 19th amendment was ratified so that women could vote at all, Soledad Chavez de Chacon became the first Hispanic woman elected to a statewide office. That state was New Mexico, and Soledad—“Lala” to friends and family—did not stop there. It had been only one year since NM women had a right to run for any office, at any level of government (other than within the educational system).

Soledad would not strike anyone, then or now, as especially radical—other than to be well-educated as the graduate of a high school and a business college when most young people didn’t even achieve the former. She was married with two children, bright, and accomplished in many endeavors—excellent at cooking and crochet, could play bridge and the mandolin and taught piano. Like the rest of her family she stayed active in artistic and philanthropic organizations. 

According to lore she had been baking a cake when five men, including her newspaper editor brother-in-law, stepped onto her porch. They had come to ask her to run as the Democratic candidate for secretary of state. The proper lady discussed it first with her father and her husband, then accepted. She was not alone; the Democrats also picked a woman for a different office and the Republican slate included two women as well. But the Democrats won. 

Soledad needed a good assistant secretary of state and asked her close friend Imelda Chavez, but Imelda’s husband didn’t want to make the move to Santa Fe. Soledad and other Democrats talked her own husband into taking the position. He didn’t want to, having looked forward to operating his own branch of the furniture business that employed him, but he agreed to take one for the family team. 

Soledad ran the office efficiently and effectively, winning a hearty reelection in 1924. But the real record-breaker came in the summer of 1924 when the governor left for two weeks to attend the national convention—and Soledad Chacon became the first female (acting) governor of a U.S. state. Normally it would have been the lieutenant governor, but he had died that spring. 

Soledad didn’t just warm the man’s seat. Among other duties she requisitioned the war department for funds for the state national guard, issued some public certificates, and traveled to Las Vegas with the poll books to settle a bitterly contested election of the San Miguel county sheriff. She also pardoned someone named Joseph Maloney and extradited a ne’er-do-well named Frank Ellis, otherwise known as Frank Shadows, for grand larceny. I can’t find any more information on either case, but someone calling himself Shadows surely needed scrutiny. 

But Soledad went on. In 1934 she became the first Hispanic woman elected to the state legislature from her county. There would not be another for forty-one years.

Tragically, her ground-breaking progress came to an abrupt end not by politics, but by health. Soledad Chavez de Chacon died of peritonitis in only the second year of her two-year term, one week shy of her 46th birthday. 

Undoubtedly, she would have gone much further—but even in her brief tenure she opened countless doors for those who would come after her.

Who do you think of when asked about a less-well-known trailblazer--of either gender, or occupation?

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

ROGUE FLASH: Karna Small Bodman Wins Silver Medal

TRUST BUT VERIFY was awarded the honor Saturday, September 19th at the 2020 Annual Awards Banquet of the Military Writers Society of America (MWSA), the culminating event of the 2020 MWSA Virtual Conference. MWSA is a nationwide association of authors, poets and artists whose work honors the military and country through their work.

Karna Small Bodman is the author of five award-winning international thrillers that have hit #1 in Amazon Thrillers. She spent six years serving in The White House, first as Deputy Press Secretary, later as Senior Director and Spokesman for the National Security Council where she was the highest-ranking woman on the White House staff. She also was on the air for 15 years as a TV reporter and anchor in San Francisco and Washington, DC and did political commentary for the ABC Network in New York. 


TRUST BUT VERIFY tells the story of White House Homeland Security Director, Samantha Reid, who teams up with FBI Special Agent Brett Keating as they race to unravel a brazen plot that threatens the lives of international financial leaders and stock markets worldwide. To read MWSA’s full review, click here or go to Amazon to purchase the book.

Readers, have you had a chance to read TRUST BUT VERIFY?

Monday, September 21, 2020

SMITH HENDERSON AND JON MARC SMITH GO ROGUE


Co-authors and friends going back 20 years, Smith Henderson and Jon Marc Smith originally conceived of the story MAKE THEM CRY as a screenplay while on ecstasy at Tim O’Brien’s wedding, but thankfully found that it worked better as a novel, and their writing styles and research perfectly complement each other. Smith Henderson is the author of FOURTH OF JULY CREEK and lives in Montana. Jon Marc Smith lives in San Marcos, Texas, and teaches English at Texas State University. MAKE THEM CRY, their first book together, is stylishly written and relentlessly plotted, with heart-pounding car chases and severed limbs. For fans of The Border and Jason Bourne, MAKE THEM CRY is an action-packed thriller of unimaginable stakes.

FINDING THE BEGINNING


It took us a long time to figure out that Diane Harbaugh was the protagonist of MAKE THEM CRY. In early iterations of the story, back when it was still a screenplay, she started out as a character who’d been wronged, bent on revenge. These are good qualities for secondary characters to have—they react to things, they make trouble...but they don’t drive the story. But over time, Harbaugh just evolved into the most interesting character to us. She made herself into our hero. She took over. 

But more importantly, she created a richer, more character-driven narrative. The allowances we had in a novel—which is a less strict, less restrictive form than a screenplay—let us see that hers was the most compelling story. Harbaugh had the strongest desire, the biggest problems, the hardest row to hoe. She cared the most, and she faced the biggest dramatic consequences. Once she became our way into the world of the novel, we had no choice but to scrap our old plot and start over, this time focusing (most of) the story in Harbaugh’s POV. 

But it took us a long time to figure this out. Initially Harbaugh was the chief antagonist; and this remained true when we first changed the story into a novel. But eventually we realized that we’d started in the wrong place, too late in the story. We could tell partly because Harbaugh was reacting to things that had happened in the past. (Note: if the most compelling character in your story is only reacting, then you’ve got a structural problem.) For us, the issue was the foundation of the story. The timeline was all wrong, and some of the most interesting stuff in the story had “already” occurred. So we had to go back and start where the interesting stuff was happening. Only then did we realize that Diane was the driver of the plot. 

We always wanted to make Diane as rich and interesting as possible. We didn’t want her to be a sheer villain or a hero. She’s badass and brave, yes, but she’s also complicated and desirous and broken in her broken places, the way all of us are. But once this project ceased being an action movie and turned into a crime novel, Harbaugh became the center of the drama precisely because she was the character who caused the most to happen. 

In writing, sometimes the entire genre and central character of a story can shift. One of our heroes—if not an influence here, exactly—is David Lynch who is constantly in the flow of his projects. He creates by trying to get out of the way of his imagination, showing up on set open to the possibility that something major might change. He has faith that he’ll find an answer to a creative problem at the right moment. His book on meditation and creativity, Catching the Big Fish, is a tremendous work on the practice of letting the work itself tell you what it wants to be. You have to strike the balance between moving forward while listening to what the story is trying to tell you. Our lives are kind of like this too, individual instances of life itself trying to find unique expressions through each of us...mistakes and all. 

Fittingly, Harbaugh isn’t a superhero, though she does possess a superpower: she flips suspects by making them cry, breaking them down emotionally to turn them into cooperators. But she’s gone too far in manipulating a cooperator and she’s done sketchy things with her boss (we’ll let you read the novel to find out what). When readers first meet Diane, her job, and possibly even her freedom, is hanging by a thread. She must take drastic action to fix things—and for a story, that’s a pretty combustible place to start.

Thank you, Smith Henderson and Jon Marc Smith! We cannot wait to read MAKE THEM CRY. Readers, have you read a book with a character similar to Diane? If so, tell us everything

Sunday, September 20, 2020

ROGUE FLASH: How Lisa Black's 'day job' informs her novels

A nice spread in Florida Weekly magazine details an interview with thriller writer Lisa Black, in which she talks about getting published, how to process a crime scene and why readers are eternally drawn to mystery stories. 

She also introduces us to a forensic mannequin named "Bob" who has the unfortunate job of demonstrating bullet trajectories. 

However, getting her first book on the stands took longer than the article states--it says she wrote six, but she wrote six before switching to forensics from secretarial work. It took another three before one caught the eye of a major publisher. 

To read more, click here: Looking For Clues

Are you a fan of forensic shows? The fictional ones or the true-crime type? 

Friday, September 18, 2020

THE REAL BOOK SPY'S SEPTEMBER 2020 RECOMMENDATION IS...

by The Real Book Spy

Mitch Rapp is back!

Those are by far my four favorite words in publishing, and this month, they’re once again true as Total Power, the latest thriller from Kyle Mills, hits bookstores.

Seven years ago, I was told by my doctor that I was dyslexic. As a child, I always knew reading and writing was much harder for me than other children. The same was true when I began my career as a sports journalist, only to lose confidence and quit my job after a single year. My doctor’s advice? “Just read. Read a lot. That’ll help.”

So, I did what any American with the full power of the world wide web at their fingertips would do. I Googled “dyslexic authors,” and decided to start there. Guess what name came up first?

You might see where this is going . . . but it was Vince Flynn.

What followed was a two-month period where I read everything Flynn ever wrote. I was hooked. Not just a fan, but a superfan. And yet, I had no idea just how much Vince Flynn and Mitch Rapp would change my life.

In 2013, Flynn—my very favorite author—passed away. A year later, it was announced that the series would continue with Kyle Mills on board to write three additional Rapp books. I can remember, quite vividly, the mix of emotions that overcame me when that announcement went out via email. I was thrilled that my favorite character was returning, but terrified that another author would be writing him. What if he was different, unrecognizable?

That fear vanished in a hurry, though, when I read The Survivor, Mills’ first contribution to the series, later that year. I was so incredibly thrilled that the Mitch Rapp on the page was the Rapp I knew and loved. Kyle Mills had done the impossible. He managed to fill the shoes of an iconic author, and in the process, elevate their series to new heights. I was stunned. Elated. And in many ways, I still am. 

Without Vince Flynn and Mitch Rapp, I never would have developed my deep love and appreciation for thrillers. It is therefore accurate to say that without Flynn, there is no Real Book Spy, if there’s no Book Spy, I’m not sitting here today writing this article for the Rogues.  

See? Mitch Rapp really did change my life. 

Oh, now is probably a good time to mention that my youngest son is named Mitchell Ryan. He’s two-years-old and we call him “baby Mitch Rapp.” Not because I’m a crazed fan (though I was determined to put Mitch and Ryan together), but because I’m so appreciative to Vince Flynn and what his characters, his universe, have done for me. What a wild ride! 

All of that brings me to Total Power

I read at least 200 books a year, and there’s nothing I look more forward to than Mitch Rapp’s return. To me, it’s like having my childhood best friend back in town for a weekend. We get to hang out, have fun, make new memories . . . and then we wait a year and do it again. 

Mills, as I said, has done an amazing job stepping in for Flynn and taking over this series. So much so, in fact, that I truly cannot imagine the franchise without him. This time around (Mills’ sixth Rapp novel to date), Rapp is called on when an enemy from within takes down America’s power grid right before Christmas, plunging the United States into a stone age-like state. 

Without electricity, people freeze to death. Others starve. The death rate soars, and within just a few weeks, it’s already the biggest catastrophe the United States has ever faced. Hope melts away, and panic—real panic—sets in as the whole world watches in horror as America crumbles. 

But America has a secret weapon. 

When the country goes dark, Mitch Rapp goes to work. And while he might not be able to restore the power on his own—Rapp sets out to find the individual behind the attack with two goals in mind: make them fix what they’ve done. Then make them pay for it. 

For my money, Total Power is the best thriller of the year, and it’s not close. Like the characters in Mills’ book, 2020 has been hard for so many of us. 

Maybe reading Mills’ book won’t inspire you to launch a website dedicated to all thing thriller, or name your kids have his characters, but I promise you this . . . dive into Total Power, and you’ll be thoroughly, helplessly entertained. 

Need an escape from 2020? Here it is. Happy reading! 

Note: If you’re a fan of Mitch Rapp, Vince Flynn, Kyle Mills, or just like talking about books, please join me as I host Kyle Mills for a virtual event this Saturday at Novel Bookstore in Memphis. Registration is free online, and open to everyone. We hope to see you there! 

Thank you to The Real Book Spy! We cannot wait to read Total Power. Readers, have you read any of the Mitch Rapp books?

Thursday, September 17, 2020

ROGUE FLASH: How Gayle Lynds broke into the spy game


She was told nobody wanted to read spy novels by women. She proved them wrong in a big way.

When you talk about barriers to entry, Gayle Lynds could write a book.

Well, she did. Several in fact.

The New York Times bestselling author remembers her struggles to get her first thriller manuscript published under her own name, even if she had the advantage of already having ghost written several novels under contract. But when she set out to write her own, she crashed into a bulwark of sex discrimination in the exclusive male spy genre—and it wasn’t just men blocking her path.

Yet there isn’t a hint of cynicism or anger in her voice when she talks about her history leading up to becoming one of the most popular spy novelists in the world. It started with Masquerade, proclaimed not only a thriller classic, but Publisher’s Weekly ranked it the eighth best spy novel ever written....

To read more, click here: "Gayle Lynds: My First Thriller," by Rick Pullen, CrimeReads, September 17, 2020

Are spy novels your cup of cyanide, too, Rogue readers? Please confess!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

HUMOR IN CHALLENGING TIMES

by Karna Small Bodman 


A fellow member of the Author’s Guild suggested we create a thread of “Author Humor” to break up the monotony of always dealing with serious subjects of late. It is certainly true that authors are serious about doing excellent research, describing accurate locations, creating compelling characters and deciding how it all fits into a particular genre.  In the midst of these challenging times, the question is: can authors also have a sense of humor? The New Yorker magazine is famous for its cartoons and has included many that fit right into this scenario.

Authors are also serious about portraying emotions, and yet deciding how to “show, not tell” what a character is thinking, feeling, and reacting to a particular situation is the key to penning different types of novels from psychological thrillers to romantic comedies. How to incorporate emotions was also suggested in another great cartoon from that magazine.



Yes, taking the time to laugh at ourselves is always a good way to break up the serious writing tasks at hand, and when that Guild member asked authors to submit some bits of humor, here are a few contributions they made to that online thread:

“Why don’t ants get sick? Because they have little anty-bodies.”

“I own the chewed pencil that Shakespeare used to write his famous works. He used to chew on it so much that I can’t tell whether it’s 2B or not 2B.” 

“A prisoner goes to the jail’s library to borrow a book.  The librarian says, ‘We don’t have this book, but we have its author’.”

“Definition of a writer: one who slaves in complete solitude…for the sake of communication.”

“A truck loaded with thousands of copies of Roget’s Thesaurus crashed yesterday losing its entire load. Witnesses said they were stunned, startled, aghast, taken aback, stupefied, confused, shocked, rattled, dazed, surprised, dumbfounded, perplexed, and speechless.”

If you would like to check some of the books that include a great deal of humor, let me tell you about a few of new novels written by New York Times bestselling authors.


The first is by a friend and neighbor, Janet Evanovich who began her writing career penning romance novels for, as she describes in her bio she was initially paid a whopping $2,000. After several years, she got a great idea to create a story about Stephanie Plum, a girl from New Jersey who is unemployed, desperate, and finally takes a job as a bounty hunter in Cousin Vinnie’s bail bonds office. The first in the series, One for the Money, was made into a feature film starring Katherine Heigl. The latest in her world-wide bestselling series is #27, Fortune and Glory which is available for pre-order and described as “The adventure of a lifetime.” 

Another author who uses humor in his terrific New York Times bestselling novels is Fredrik Backman, the author of A Man Called Ove. His new novel, Anxious People was released just last week. It is about: 
A “crime that never took place,” and is described by Publishers Weekly as “A witty, light-hearted romp” The Amazon Reviewer writes, "Backman is a funny, charming storyteller . . . there are twists and surprises, and beneath it all, there is  deep sense of warmth and empathy." (Things we could all use right about now -- right?)

One last talented writer who is truly a master-of-humor is Christopher Buckley. Often dubbed “America’s greatest living political satirist,” his books have been translated into 16 languages, and he has lectured in 70 cities around the world -- which means he has brought his special brand of hilarity to
millions of readers in far-flung countries. Buckley’s latest contribution to today’s somewhat “crazy scene” is Make Russia Great Again.                                                                
                           
Yes, these are indeed challenging times for all of us – authors, readers, families, friends. And yet, in the midst of this “serious atmosphere” perhaps you’ll agree that at times humor can be the best medicine.

Do you have a funny line or humous book you’d like to share with all of us? Please leave it in a comment here. Meanwhile, stay safe and thanks for joining us here on Rogue Women Writers. 

Friday, September 11, 2020

10 RULES FOR WRITING A BEST-SELLING THRILLER

by Gayle Lynds

Ever wonder why so many suspense novels and thrillers top the best-seller lists and have millions of readers? 

When I first started writing, I thought about that a lot. I knew I personally loved characters with whom I wanted to spend a lot of time, and stories that kept getting better and more intriguing as I turned the pages.

After a while, I began to see that most of the books with the greatest number readers and sales had those qualities not just for me, but for a lot of people. How was that achieved, I wondered? 

Here’s what I’ve learned....

RULE #1. It’s no secret — the greatest thrillers are not only pulse-pounding page-turners, they’re vested with the excitement of characters who breathe life on the page. If there are any rules, three-dimensional characters is the first one.

Heroes and heroines come in all sizes and shapes, and they don’t have to be superhuman. They can start as ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances. As the story unfolds, they find unknown courage and strength and ultimately risk a great deal to act. 

Many of us don’t see those qualities in ourselves, but the truth is that for some people, rising out of bed every day to face what seems to them a cold and unfriendly world is an act of bravery. A character like that could be enthralling as he or she steps forward to face a dangerous situation and resolve it.

RULE #2. At the same time, whether you’re writing about spies and politicians, as I do, or lawyers, scientists, or floral designers, the second rule is for you, the author, to be captivated by your subject. If you’re not, how can you expect your reader to be? There’s nothing duller than a novel about espionage when the author has no real interest in intelligence, or about art thieves when the writer has no emotional connection to art.

But if you’re curious about how a spymaster convinces an “asset” to work for him even though it’s against the asset’s best interests, or how a thief can identify a real Georgia O’Keeffe from a fake one, then you’re embarking on what could be a mesmerizing adventure — and readers will be excited to join you.

RULE #3. Among the traits that top thrillers share is a “high concept.” Unfortunately, that’s a term tarnished by Hollywood’s misunderstanding of it. A high concept is simply a wonderful, catchy idea that appeals to the imagination.

For instance: A young man returns home from college to find his uncle has killed his father and married his mother. I’m sure you recognize the famous story — William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Shakespeare was the king of high concept.

RULE #4. Another commonality you’ll want to consider is high stakes. If you’ve attended novel-writing classes, you’ve no doubt heard endlessly the admonition, “You must have conflict!” Indeed. But not just any conflict. Thrillers are writ large, with big ideas, and ultimately big characters. So the conflict must be both personal for the hero and heroine, and large, too — for a group.

In a thriller about art thieves, the high stakes could be a shipment of paintings that will bring down a city government if the leaders are revealed to have been profiting from it. Or perhaps an illegal arms shipment is about to secretly arrive at a dock in a troubled city and shift the balance in favor of terrorists. That’s a frightening thought, isn’t it? Conflict!

RULE #5. Thrillers also tend to be written in multiple viewpoint. In other words, through the eyes of each major character, almost as if you’re creating a separate novel about each. In your plot, the stories intersect at dramatic moments.

Multiple viewpoint gives a sense of sprawl, of momentousness, and it’s a tool to involve the reader deeply, because readers make an emotional commitment to characters when they’re inside the character’s mind, thinking and feeling along with the character.

Once you become skilled at multiple viewpoint, you’ll discover that when two characters have a confrontation, the reader will be invested in both. And when that happens, the reader is riveted, unconsciously rooting for both — even if one is the villain.

RULE #6. In all books, from so-called literary to the lowest of pulp novels, the character of the villain, the villain’s ultimate goal, and the lengths to which the villain will go to achieve it, drive your plot. 

In other words, your villain puts your hero and a group in growing jeopardy — financial, moral, environmental, or some such — and the hero must respond each step of the way.

A tip.... If you don’t respect your villain, neither will your reader, and your hero will lose an opportunity to grow believably. Too often I read manuscripts in which the author unwittingly uses details that weaken the villain or even poke fun at him or her. Don’t let your villain act like a fool or be stupid. Make your villain smart, a more-than-worthy opponent — and not only will your hero thank you, you’ll be able to create a much stronger plot.

RULE #7. Thrillers are known for their exotic settings. All of us like to travel in our minds to other worlds, other experiences, and have an adventure. Thrillers by their nature guarantee that, and it’s one of the reasons readers love them. Still, you don’t have to place your novel in Timbuktu or Paris or ancient Constantinople, although you certainly may.

You can create an exotic atmosphere in what appears to be an ordinary setting — a zoo, a newspaper, a morgue, a hotel, a ghost town, a palace. Part of your job is to make that environment fresh, to give details that open your readers’ eyes so they feel the spine-tingling excitement of being on a journey of discovery. 

Rule #8. Make your settings work for you. Use them to explore character and enhance suspense. For instance, if a villain is chasing and shooting at a character through a dark forest, the potential victim isn’t going to view the forest as lovely. 

Instead, the victim will see shadows as worrisome, forbidding, and the noise of a squirrel rustling away as a warning that the hunter is closing in.

Rule #9. Perhaps the most critical tool in your thriller arsenal is suspense. I keep two words clipped to my bulletin board — “jeopardy” and “menace.” Simply put, your hero and heroine must be in jeopardy, and your villain must provide menace. But never use heavy-handed techniques such as “Had I but known….” Readers are far too sophisticated these days, thank goodness.

You're learning to build suspense throughout your novel. You'll feed it with your descriptions and choice of settings and the resulting atmosphere that reflects a character’s mood. Suspense increases as multiple viewpoints argue about what’s happening and what they can or can’t do. Suspense peaks periodically as more and more of the high stakes are revealed. Suspense becomes riveting as the villains and heroes become more deeply invested in succeeding. 

By the book’s end, the suspense is intrinsic as both the antagonist and protagonist go head-to-head in the novel’s climax.

RULE #10. The idea that thrillers are empty-headed chase books is antiquated. Yes, there are always weak and even bad books in all fields, and the thriller genre is no exception. But at the same time there are also literary and important novels in all fields, too, including in ours.

Don’t be satisfied by a superficial story or mediocre writing. Learn your craft. A good book takes time to write, particularly in the beginning of your career. Another way to look at it ... if writing well is important to you, invest all the time, attention, respect, and care you would in a great love affair.

AND FINALLY.... As you grow as a writer, the tools I’ve talked about here will become more and more natural to you, and you’ll need to focus less and less on them individually. That’s not to say that writing thrillers — or writing any book — is undemanding.

It’s true we can analyze and dissect endlessly, trying to understand precisely what goes into a thrilling suspense tale, and most of us will keep doing that our entire careers. Why? Because we always want to grow, to be better. That makes writing even more satisfying — and fun.

Are you writing a novel, dear Reader? Or contemplating one? Please tell us how it’s going!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

BRIAN ANDREWS GOES ROGUE


Brian is a US Navy veteran, nuclear engineer, and former submarine officer. He holds degrees from Vanderbilt and Cornell Universities and is a Park Leadership Fellow. Brian co-authors the Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon best-selling TIER ONE military thriller series with Jeffrey Wilson under the co-author brand Andrews & Wilson. Starting 2021, he and Jeff will be taking over duties writing the W.E.B Griffin Presidential Agent Series. His latest novel, COLLATERAL, is available now wherever books are sold. 


COLLABORATION AND CARRYING THE TORCH


When I was a submarine officer in the US Navy, collaboration and teamwork was a prerequisite for operational success. No one person can command and operate a multi-billion dollar, nuclear powered, underwater, machine of war all by him or herself. In the civilian world, trying to build and run a successful business by yourself is equally daunting. I can’t name a single Fortune 500 company with only one employee. Which is why, as a veteran and former business owner, when I decided to throw my hat into the thriller novelist ring, I automatically gravitated to the idea of co-authoring. For me, it was a natural fit to want to collaborate with a partner—someone whom I could share the workload, brainstorm, and also swap motivational duties. Because let’s be honest, writing novels can be a very lonely business. After writing my first two novels by myself, I realized it was time for a change.

Enter Jeff Wilson, stage left. 

Like me, Jeff is a US Navy veteran. Like me, Jeff was a published author but also somebody who appreciated and understood the power of teamwork and collaboration. We met as ITW debut authors at Thrillerfest seven years ago and became fast friends. After mulling the logistics of co-authoring for bit, we came up with a plan and started collaborating on our first novel. That novel was TIER ONE, a military thriller that tells the story of a decorated Navy SEAL and his story of transformation and retribution after terrorists deal the United States special operations a horrifying blow. TIER ONE was released by Thomas & Mercer in September of 2016 and became an Amazon bestseller. Fast forward to the present and Jeff & I have collaborated on a dozen novels since TIER ONE’s release—a feat we never imagined possible five years ago. As a testament to the effectiveness and efficiency of our model, we are now writing three thriller series (TIER ONESONS OF VALOR, and THE SHEPHERDS). 

Both readers and other authors are often curious about co-authoring and how we make it work. One of the most common questions concerns division of labor and mechanics of our method. I think curiosity is the main driver, but people are also interested to know if we’ve discovered the “secret ingredient” to cooking up a great novel in the co-authoring kitchen. In the immortal words of the Kung Fu Panda: “there is no secret ingredient.” 

Sorry. 

That said, we are very open and forthcoming when it comes to talking about our process. We write using the Three-Act Structure. We brainstorm each Act sequentially and we write them in order. We divide up writing duties by chapter and POV. Every Andrews & Wilson novel is written in the third person with multi-POVs, and we are very disciplined in having only one POV per chapter.

The next most popular question we get is who writes which characters? Many readers assume, for example, that one of us writes all the John Dempsey chapters and the other writes all the Elizabeth Grimes chapters in the TIER ONE books, and that we just blend them together. That’s not the case, however. We rotate character POVs so that both authors get a chance to spend time in every character’s head. 

The invariable follow-up question becomes “then how do you get a consistent voice throughout the novel?” The answer to that is a single word: EDITING. In our method, both authors make multiple passes with permission to change any and all prose as deemed necessary. By the conclusion of the developmental editing phase, every sentence in the book has been “rewritten” by both authors—the end result being a singular voice, not Brian Andrews, not Jeff Wilson, but Andrews & Wilson.

If I was forced to name a secret ingredient to our partnership (even though I stand by my previous “there is no secret ingredient” statement) it would be trust. Co-authoring will not and cannot work without trust—which I think is one of the key reasons we were recently asked by industry legend Tom Colgan, to pen the next novel in the late, great W.E.B Griffin’s PRESIDENTIAL AGENT series for Putnam. As one of the pioneers in the military thriller genre, Colgan has been trusted by both the Clancy and Ludlum estates to manage their iconic legacies and hand pick authors to carry the proverbial torch onward. 

In picking Andrews & Wilson for the Presidential Agent series, our collaborative model undoubtedly factored into the decision because William E Butterworth III was no stranger to the co-authoring model. In his case, he collaborated with his son, William E Butterworth IV on the very series we will be taking the mantle on. Which brings me back full circle to the beginning—a new partnership, a new collaboration, and an unknown destination…but a whole lotta trust for the Griffin estate and Penguin Random House to hand us the keys such a vaunted series. 

If you enjoyed this blogpost, you can find more of Brian’s thoughts and writing advice at Career Authors where he is both a principle and regular contributor. You can find links to all his books at www.andrews-wilson.com or follow him on Twitter: @lexicalforge and his Amazon Author Page to stay informed about all his new releases. 

Thank you, Brian Andrews! Readers, if you had to write books with another person, who would you choose?

Friday, September 4, 2020

ROGUE WOMEN AUGUST ROUNDUP!


Here's what we Rogues talked about, researched, and revealed in August...

Summer under the cloud of COVID--Rogue Chris Goff discussed her silver linings. 
 
What happens when children and grandchildren move in for an unexpected four months this summer? Gayle Lynds reveals fun doing goat yoga, lake swimming, & much more in her surprising Covid Summer.

Karna Small Bodman wondered why we turn to our dogs for moral support during such challenging times. 

Lisa Black warned us of the dark side of online romances. 

Hank Phillipi Ryan's The First to Lie was The Real Book Spy's August recommendation, with tips for working as an undercover journalist!

And a #RogueFlash brought us news of two new releases from Rogue writers: The Silent Conspiracy by L.C. Shaw, and Every Kind of Wicked by Lisa Black. 

ZJ Czupor explains the origin of the phrase the butler did it! and its history with mystery writer icon Mary Roberts Rinehart. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

MYSTERY MINUTE GOES ROGUE

ZJ Czupor is an award-winning writer. His current novel, Cut Right Through Me, is seeking representation. He is vice president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and writes a monthly column, “The Mystery Minute.” He also co-chairs Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s annual literary competition. In 1990, he and his wife co-founded The InterPro Group, one of Denver’s leading marketing and public relations firms. They are proud to be owned by two beautiful, and way too smart, rescue collies.

by ZJ Czupor

The Butler Did It

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s (1859–1930) “The Musgrave Ritual” an 1893 detective story from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, a butler plays an important plot point. While not the central villain, the butler in this tale, however, is found dead beside the Musgrave family treasure. So begins the appearance of butler’s in mystery novels.

In 1921, the British novelist Herbert George Jenkins (1876-1923), in his novel The Strange Case of Mr. Challoner, mentions a criminal butler.

Five years later (1926), in Agatha Christie’s (1890–1976) novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, suspicion falls on a man named Parker, who was Ackroyd’s butler. Parker, of course, had a criminal past.

But the phrase, “The butler did it” is most commonly attributed to Pittsburgh native Mary Roberts Rinehart (1876-1958)—known as the “American Agatha Christie.” Interestingly, she preceded Christie by fourteen years and was one of the most successful American mystery writers of the early 20th century.

Mary was a popular writer who authored more than fifty novels, many of which were best sellers. She also was a prolific playwright. At one point, three of her plays ran simultaneously on Broadway. 

The impetus that set Mary to writing was the need for money. The stock market crash of 1901 hurt her and her husband financially. They lost all their savings putting them $12,000 in debt, or about $347,000 in today’s dollars. She had been a nurse, a doctor’s wife, and mother to three sons. She took up writing to earn income. In 1908, at the age of 31, she published her first novel, The Circular Staircase, which sold 1.25 million copies.

Two of her sons, Stanley Jr. and Ted, co-founded Farrar & Rinehart publishing company in New York in 1929.

In 1930, her novel The Door was published in which (spoiler alert) the butler did it. However, the words “the butler did it” do not appear in the book. 

Say what?

It wasn’t until her novel was adapted into a musical comedy called, The Butler Did It, Singing,” that the phrase was attributed to Mary.

The play’s plot features Miss Maple, a wealthy widow, who invites a group of mystery writers to an isolated house where they must impersonate their fictional detectives. She places scary items around including a hairy face at the window and the threat of an escaped lunatic. Trouble breaks out when a dead body appears on the sitting room carpet. The dead body wasn’t planned.

Over time, the trope became so popular it was considered a cliché and often satirized. For example, in 1933, Damon Runyon (1880–1946) published the satirical story, “What, No Butler?”

Mary was also the first writer to use the device where the story’s narrator is the “once naïve but now older and wiser woman.” 

In 1920, she created a super-criminal character called The Bat—in a play that was a smash hit on Broadway. The story combined elements of mystery and comedy and featured a masked criminal whose calling card was a black paper bat that he tacked to doors. Life Magazine claimed more than ten million people saw the play and it grossed more than $9 million. The novel of the same name is cited by Bob Kane (1915–1998) as one of his inspirations for the famous DC Comics superhero we know as “Batman.”

Her novel The Bat was released in 1933 by RCA Victor as one of the earliest talking book recordings.

Mary’s style had a lot in common with the hardboiled school of detective fiction and is part of the American school of scientific detection. Her most memorable tales combined murder, love, ingenuity, and humor in a distinct style. The New York Times said, “She helped the mystery story grow up.”

After Mary published her last novel, A Light in the Window (1954), she was crowned with a Mystery Writers of America Special Award. 

After her husband’s death, Mary almost was the victim of a murder attempt on her life. Her long-time servant and chef Blas Reyes, a Filipino, was distressed he couldn’t go home. He first tried shooting Mary, but the pistol wouldn’t fire. He then tried slashing her with kitchen knives but was stopped in time by her gardener and chauffeur. Authorities considered it an act of insanity. The next day Reyes committed suicide in his jail cell. 

Mary died at 82 in New York City. She and her husband are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. At the time of her death—1958—her novels had sold over ten million copies. 

Thank you for this enlightening piece about Mary Roberts Rinehart, ZJ! Readers, do you have a favorite mystery book that includes a suspicious butler? 

Friday, August 28, 2020

Rogue Flash - August 2020

 

We have not one but two new Rogues books to tell you about! 

You know our Lynne Constantine as one half of the writing team Liv Constantine, as a former business exec who loves to scuba dive, but she also writes as L.C. Shaw. Her book The Network introduced us to Jack Logan, former bodyguard turned reporter, who stumbles onto an organization dedicated to unleasing unspeakable evils onto the planet--and Lynne will release its sequel The Silent Conspiracy on September 15th!

          It’s been almost two years since investigative reporter, Jack Logan, and television producer, Taylor Parks brought down the Institute—the secret facility responsible for indoctrinating a generation of America’s political and media power players. Their lives are just getting back to normal, and Jack and Taylor have settled into married life with their young son, Evan. The man who’d threatened their lives—Damon Crosse, is dead, and his evil plan for society thwarted.

         But soon a series of bizarre murder/suicides capture Jack’s attention. When he begins to piece together the seemingly unrelated incidents, a disturbing pattern emerges. Could someone be intentionally causing people to become homicidal? Meanwhile, Taylor is producing a story about a class action suit against a national insurance company that has reached the Supreme Court.

         As Jack and Taylor start to suspect that their stories are connected, they realize there is something far more insidious at play that could not only directly threaten them—but the very future of the country.

PS: Lynne will be interviewed by former Rogue K.J. Howe in an event through Murder on the Beach bookstore on September 19 at 2 pm!
                                                                                                                                                                           

      Rogue Lisa Black's latest is available now! In Every Kind of Wicked, life and death have
brought Maggie Gardiner full circle, back to the Erie Street Cemetery where she first entered Jack Renner’s orbit. Eight months ago, she learned what Jack would do in the name of justice. Even more daunting, she discovered how far she would go to cover his tracks. Now a young man sprawls atop a snowy grave, his heart shredded by a single wound. A key card in the victim’s wallet leads to the local university’s student housing—and to a grieving girlfriend with an unsettling agenda.

              Maggie’s struggle to appease her conscience is complicated by her ex-husband, Rick, who’s convinced that Jack is connected to a series of vigilante killings. Also a homicide detective, Rick investigates what seems like a routine overdose on Cleveland’s West Side; but here, too, the appearance belies a deeper truth.

              Rick’s case and Jack’s merge onto the trail of a shadowy, pill-pushing physician who is everywhere and nowhere at once, while Maggie and Jack uncover a massive financial shakedown hiding in plain sight. And when Rick’s bloody fingerprint is found at another murder scene, Maggie’s world comes undone in a violent, irreversible torrent of events.

PS: Lisa will be the featured speaker at the online Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America on September 10th. Non-members are able to attend. Click the link for more info.

 
Hope to see you at Rogue Reads on September 14th!!!
Details will be coming soon. 


Friday, August 21, 2020

THE REAL BOOK SPY'S AUGUST 2020 RECOMMENDATION IS...


There might be a sixth Agatha Award in Hank Phillippi Ryan’s near future, thanks to her latest work—a brilliant standalone novel called The First to Lie.

A big fan of Ryan’s work, I was blown away with her latest offering, which might honestly be her best thriller to date. Think Joseph Finder’s Paranoia mixed with the style and character-development of Sandra Brown, and you’ve got The First to Lie. Here, Ryan writes about a journalist named Elle Berensen who chases a story about a major pharmaceutical company who may or may not be hiding the fact that one of their popular drugs can make women barren.

Elle, who wants to go about investigating the company the right way, is surrounded by those who have other plans—including her assistant, Meg. But that’s not all. A drug rep and a security guard are just two of many other characters who have roles to play, all of them with different motives and end goals, leading to an incredible final act that’s as suspenseful as anything else hitting bookstores this year.

In a lot of ways, the less you know about this one the better, and trust me . . . once you dive in and start reading, there is no stopping.

Hang on tight, and happy reading!
 

You’re not doing anything illegal. It’s all for the greater good. 

But it’s still terrifying to go undercover with a hidden camera—becauseyou might get caught! After 43 years as a reporter, I’ve learned three rules for making sure I’m successful.

The rules work. Our undercover stories have changed laws and changed lives. We closed a cult church, changed the rules for Massachusetts doctors, shut down a puppy mill, proved gender discrimination in car sales (I know, but when you catch it undercover it’s still shocking), caught appliance repair people breaking appliances in order to charge homeowners to fix them, and revealed sex offenders posing as psychologists who “specialize” in treating sexual assault victims.

All for the good, right? But nevertheless, there’s no escaping that in doing something to keep people honest—I have to lie. I was not, as I portrayed myself, a woman trying to get pregnant. Or a person trying to buy a car. Or a person with a broken furnace. Or a sexual assault victim. I lied.

When we decide to go undercover, it’s because there’s no way else to get the story. If I told the appliance repair guy that I was Hank Phillippi Ryan from Channel 7, do you think he would have behaved the same way? If I had told the doctor I was me, and not a woman trying to get pregnant, would he have lied to me about his massive malpractice losses? Of course not. Sometimes the only way for a reporter to get the real story--is to pretend they are not a reporter.

Rule one for going undercover—you truly must believe you are who you say you are. With almost every cell in your brain, you have to—exactly as in method acting—subsume your real self into the person you are portraying. You can only save one tiny sliver of your mind for the real you. The real you—the interloper reporter who needs to get exactly the right shots, talk to exactly the right person, make sure the camera is rolling and recording.

And that’s one of the elements of my new book THE FIRST TO LIE—the lure of that fake persona. What in you decided that being your undercover character was more desirable and more beneficial than being who you really are? I wondered—what if becoming someone else could get you what you want? And the book began to take shape.

Another secret? Your quarry does not expect you to be wearing a hidden camera. When I have one rolling in my purse, or have a “button cam” in my jacket (with the lens looking exactly like a button, the wire snaked inside my shirt, and the guts of a camera in a fanny pack around my waist), I know it’s there with every ounce of my being. 

But I keep my telling myself—my subject does not suspect the camera exists. They are not looking at my purse. They are not looking at my shirt. The camera is hidden. So you have to remember: you can’t fidget with it, or fuss with it, or adjust it. Before you enter the room, make one last check. Make sure it’s rolling and recording. And, of course, hidden. Then forget about it. Take a deep breath—and go.

And in writing THE FIRST TO LIE, I realized that these days, hidden cameras do not have to be hidden! There’s nothingmore common than someone carrying a cell phone. Simply (and brazenly) holding a cell phone, taking pictures just like everyone else is, draws absolutely no attention. The key then is to hide the fact that you are using it! Don’t brazenly point it at your subject. Pretend you are taking a photo of something else. Or act like you are using it as a phone. And when no one notices: roll. 

Real life sidebar: I once went into a skeevy auto body shop, accompanied by a photographer who had the hidden camera. I had told him to keep it out of sight. 

The plan was that I would go in first, to distract and talk to the proprietor, and then the photographer would come in, as if her were a separate customer, to shoot what was going on. Apparently the cameraman did not understand the concept of “hidden” camera. 

He’d tucked it under a clipboard he was carrying. Which meant, of course, that it was completely hidden—but only from him. The autobody shop proprietor, however, could instantly see it. When the photog walked in, the first thing the guy behind the counter said was: What are you doing with that camera? At that point, I had to hide the fact that I even knew him! I turned, all upset, and said “Hey, what’re you doing with that camera? I do not want to be photographed!” The photographer skedaddled, and, I have to say, we did not work together again.

The final secret? Remember you’re not doing anything illegal. In Massachusetts, you cannot record someone’s audio without permission, so all of my hidden camera work has been silent. But taking silent video is perfectly within your rights. If you get caught, they can yell at you, or throw you out—but that’s about it.

In my reporting life, the ethical questions are constant. We ask: when the stakes are the greater good, is it acceptable to mislead someone to get to the truth? It depends on who’s being harmed—and who’s being helped.

In THE FIRST TO LIE, one fictional character asks: “When the stakes are life and death, what do a few lies matter?” The answer is exactly the same as in reality—is the good guy the liar? Or the bad guy?

And in real life and in fiction, the key is the result. When you get that outrageous estimate for your broken-not-broken furnace, or video of your not-a-real-psychologist pretending he’s taking care of you, or tape an often-sued doctor shaking his head “no” when you ask him whether he’s had a history of malpractice losses. Just as in fiction—when the good guys win and the bad guys get what’s coming to them? Then you know it’s worth it.

Thank you to The Real Book Spy and Hank Phillippi Ryan! Readers, have you ever gone undercover? If so, were you scared your true identity would be revealed? If not, do you think you have the guts to do so? 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

THE DARK SIDE OF ONLINE ROMANCE

by Lisa Black

The numbers of romance scams are overwhelming, but stories rarely go into the details of exactly who the victims are and what motivates them. One well-reported case is that of 56 year old Renee Holland of Pennsylvania, who began an online correspondence with a buff soldier named “Michael Chris.” Michael was off disarming bombs in Afghanistan. He was happy to have someone back in the states to talk to, about war, about life, about his sick daughter in California. 

In cash terms, this scam was low-key and minor. Michael took his time. He spent months digitally chatting with Renee until he asked for money—small amounts, at first. iTunes cards to top off his cell phone, beer money to celebrate his birthday, medicine for his daughter. Then she sent him five thousand dollars—all the cash she and her husband had stashed—to fly home to Philadelphia. She waited at the airport. Michael didn’t show.

Because, of course, the photos posted on Facebook were actually those of a Marine named Daniel, who has spent years trying to remove his stolen and clipped photos from internet profiles. He has had relationships ruined and his family screening phone calls for him because of contacts by broken-hearted women wondering why he has ghosted them. There were over 65 fake profiles on Facebook using his photos. 

A The New York Times reporter doing a story on romance scams talked with Renee and then located, with difficulty, the put-upon Daniel. He tracked Renee’s true correspondent to southern Nigeria, most likely an Orji James Ogbonnaya. The money had been filtered—which is common—through an American accomplice, another victim of a romance scam pressured into functioning as a conspirator. Fake addresses, multiple phones, no real names all keep the Yahoo Boys (so-called for the internet site popular when these scams originated 20 years ago). Of course these scams are not limited to one place, they can also stem from Russia, Ukraine, India, Bangladesh, and so on. Nor are they limited to lonely, middle-aged women—the victims are bright, intelligent people who run the gamut of gender, age, race, and nationality.

When Michael didn’t show at the airport, Renee went to the store, bought sleeping pills and vodka and swallowed it all. She woke up in a hospital, her husband nearby. He was understanding, at first, having been Army Airborne himself. They tried to keep going. They moved to Florida, trying for a fresh start.
It’s a credit to the United States that we think so much of our soldiers. Presenting a military identity automatically confers respect, appreciation, and a desire to support, and that’s a wonderful thing about us. But it also turns the well-meaning into easy targets of those whose poverty has robbed them of conscience. A New York Times search on Facebook for the top three American generals produced over 120 impersonators. I know, I think I was friended by a few.

Renee’s Michael didn’t give up, with profuse apologies and complicated excuses. Between the strain of making amends to her husband and caring for an elderly, live-in father, Renee had only Michael for a sympathetic ear. 

They kept in touch.
And she wound up sending him another twenty-plus thousand dollars, charging most of it.

There is progress being made. Social media platforms are meeting with advocates to improve methods of reporting and removing fake profiles, and a bill is currently before the House to prohibit the creation of fake profiles and fraudulent messages, and another to require social media platforms to remove such accounts. Domestic and overseas scammers have been charged and prosecuted.

But it will all come too late for Renee Holland. Two days before Christmas, 2018, her husband shot and killed her, then her father, then himself.

Do you know anyone who’s become a victim of a scam?

Friday, August 14, 2020

THE VERY BEST COMPANIONS

by Karna Small Bodman

As we have been “hunkere

d down” for so many months, here’s a question for you: besides families, of course, who has turned out to be a most comforting companion to millions of people, especially those living alone? The answer is dogs! Even before the pandemic, we loved living with our two Labradoodles, “Gambit” (a friend suggested we name him after the title of one of my novels) and “Cammy” (the heroine in that story). They have indeed been our saviors, especially now.  

However, if you wanted to adopt one of these dogs who happen to be hypo-allergenic and don’t shed, they are in such demand that when a friend asked where she could find one, I checked with several shelters as well as breeders. They all said they had NO puppies available now, but they do keep a wait list for their next litters. Once a puppy is adopted though, seeing the joy on a child’s face is worth the wait. This image below is from our friends at DanMarLabradoodles.com . By the way, the owner will personally deliver a new pup most anywhere in the country (She drove both of ours from SC to FL).

Just recently, news outlets have been reporting the huge demand for dogs. The New York Times featured a story about a shelter in New York, Animal Haven which regularly receives 40-50 applicants interested in any particular dog shown on their website. The director says, “We have been able to place some of our more challenging animals that people weren’t looking at before. I think there is a loneliness. The love of an animal can help you through these difficult times.”

Just the other day, The Wall Street Journal had a front-page article about how some companies, are even giving out “pet perks” to their employees working from home as a way to encourage pet adoptions. The firms evidently realize having a pet will make a stay-at-home worker more content. For example, Zogics, a cleaning supply company in Massachusetts, offers new pet owners a $200 pet store gift card, discounted pet insurance and a lifetime supply of pet shampoo. A Cloud-based design platform Ceros that used to allow employees to bring dogs to the office, is now doing virtual dog Zoom meetings.

Our local Naples Daily News reports that having a dog gives these difficult days a certain structure because owners now take their dogs on long walks, which is good for everyone. One mother explained that their dog sits with her daughter, keeping her company during school-at-home hours. Our son managed to adopt an adorable Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix (pictured left) who loves to stay close to their daughters when they are taking courses online.

In a large survey, 54% said having a pet “gave their lives a sense of purpose.” By the same token, a Doctor of Behavioral Sciences says, “Dogs crave your companionship and look at you as if to say, ‘Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in the last five minutes.’ And no one else in your family looks at you that way.”

Many terrific authors have written books featuring dogs not only as companions but heroes. Remember the bestselling book, THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN  by Garth Stein? It was made into a major film starring Kevin Costner and was described by well-known author Jodie Picoult as “The Perfect book for anyone who knows that some of our best friends walk beside us on four legs; that compassion isn’t only for humans; and that the relationship between two souls . . . meant for each other never really comes to an end.”

A new release from New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz, Devoted, is an epic thriller that features an amazing dog “Kipp.” The Associated Press comments, “Canine or human, it is hard to find a more lovable character in fiction than Kipp. Devoted has every mark of a classic.”

Finally, if you would like to adopt a dog to be your best companion, do check out the Humane Society’s Shelters as well as organizations such as Pet Finder. Best of luck. 

Now do leave a comment and tell us about your own experiences with pets during these challenging times, and thanks for visiting us here at Rogue Women Writers.

Friday, August 7, 2020

ONE WRITER'S COVID-19 SUMMER


Grandson leaping into cool, cool water.

As a writer, I’ve always looked for underlying themes, for insights and significance.  But I have a concussion, and that means life has been simplified for me several times.  

At first I resisted what felt like a retreat from a less fulsome way to live.  Then I got a reprieve in early March:  I was blessed with ideas that captivated me, and not only that, they fitted together into stories I wanted to write. 

Then I fell again and hit my skull.  I reeled.  Ideas vanished.  And at the same time, my daughter and her family escaped from Brooklyn to stay with us here in Maine in hopes New York would be safe in a couple of weeks to return.

Life was simplified again, but in a new way.  I became the in-house teacher for my 9-year-old grandson while his mom and dad teleconferenced their jobs.  

Being in charge of a bright, wiggly child wasn’t exactly writing a book, but it required a talent for fiction (pretending I was smarter than he) and creativity (finding ways to make the schoolwork enticing) and energy (Omg, I got so exhausted and frustrated with the craziness of a non-user-friendly educational system!). 

Still, he and I persevered, and we learned a lot without any concept of themes, insights, or deep significance.  P.S., we had a lot of fun, too.

Soon after school ended, and the boy immersed himself in other activities, I began having clear memories of what it was like to write a novel.  

I read through my research boxes, I made notes on my yellow pads, and I went to sleep lobbying for characters, scenes, whole paragraphs of exciting narration to awaken me.  It’s a delicious feeling to call upon one’s dreams, satisfying an old and welcome thirst for storytelling.

Now it’s five months since all hell broke loose with the pandemic. 

My daughter’s family will leave soon to move back home.  So my son and his family took Covid-19 tests, passed, and drove their packed car nine hours straight from self-isolation in Washington D.C. to vacation with all of us.  Wow.

They needed this trip, and we needed to see them.  We are all together, three families, all sharing our home and yard and forest.  The breezes are sweeter, the sky bluer, the coffee better by far.  We go to goat yoga, to isolated lakes, to secret beaches.  

Books are stacked on bedroom floors.  We argue and debate and have long discussions.  We take turns cooking.  We eat out on the porch.  We make s'mores at the fire pit.  The robin who owns our backyard sings to us all through the dinner hour.  What could be better?

We’re having a summer in Maine.  It’s different, but the same as earlier summers, too. 

Missing other members of our family makes me thrill even more to the busyness, the almost-normalcy of those who are visiting.  I've posted some of my photos on this page.  Right now it seems incomprehensible that we’re in the grips of a pandemic that has changed us and our worlds forever.

It’s summer.  In Maine.  But it’s not.  It’s Covid-19 summer, and a shiver of worry underlies everything.  

Still, I wouldn’t give up this summer for anything.  I watch, listen, and absorb.  I’m filled with joy that they are alive and healthy, and that John and I are here to witness them.

Pandemic be damned — I’ve learned a new depth of gratitude.

What about you, dear Rogue Reader? We'd love to hear what your summer has been like. Please leave a comment and tell!