Friday, February 28, 2020


by Chris Goff

Susan Elia MacNeal
          The Rogues are delighted to have New York Times bestselling author Susan Elia MacNeal guest blogging with us this week. Her new book featuring Churchill’s former secretary, Maggie Hope, THE KING’S JUSTICE hit the stands on February 25th and I was fortunate enough to get my hands on an advance copy. I love the Maggie Hope series. I’m a sucker for anything World War II, and this book features a kick-ass female former spy. I can’t think of a better combination.

THE KING’S JUSTICE takes place in December of 1942. As the Russian army repels German forces from Stalingrad, Maggie Hope is defusing bombs in London. But Maggie herself is an explosion waiting to happen. Traumatized by her past, she’s living dangerously, taking huge risks, and the last thing she wants is to get entangled in another crime. But when she’s called upon to look into the theft of a Stradivarius, one of the finest violins ever made, she just can’t resist. Meanwhile, there’s a serial killer on the loose in London, and investigating pits her against a new evil — and old enemies. Only Maggie can uncover the connection between the robbery, the murders, and a link to her past.

From Susan Elia MacNeal:
          What’s the difference between a mystery and a thriller? And where does the Maggie Hope series fit in?

New York Times bestselling thriller-writer David Morrell clarifies, “One crucial distinction is that traditional mysteries appeal primarily to the mind and emphasize the logical solution to a puzzle.”

James N. Frey, the author of How To Write A Damn Good Thriller and How To Write A Damn Good Mystery, explains it this way: “In the United States, mysteries are not considered to be thrillers, though they share some common elements. In a mystery, the hero has a mission to find a killer. In a thriller, the hero has a mission to foil evil. A thriller is a story of a hero who has a mission to foil evil. Not just a hero—a clever hero. Not just a mission—an ‘impossible’ mission. An ‘impossible’ mission that will put our hero into terrible trouble.”

According to the International Thriller Writers (the experts, after all), a thriller is characterized by “the sudden rush of emotions, the excitement, sense of suspense, apprehension, and exhilaration that drive the narrative, sometimes subtly with peaks and lulls, sometimes at a constant, breakneck pace.” ITW defines thrillers as a genre in which “tough, resourceful, but essentially ordinary heroes are pitted against villains determined to destroy them, their country, or the stability of the free world.” The allure of thrillers comes from not just from the mechanics of the plot, but how the story is told.

THE KING’S JUSTICE, like some of the earlier Maggie Hope novels, straddles the line between the genres. There’s a stolen Stradivarius violin (which sounds positively Sherlockian), and there’s also a serial killer leaving suitcases of bones around London, perhaps linked to a murderer from Maggie’s past. We get to know a group of people, one of whom may indeed be the new serial killer. In fact, I fully anticipate readers will be able to guess who the murderer is before Maggie does.

What I wanted to do is create what’s called “dramatic irony”—that tense, stomach-lurching sensation you get when you know who the bad guy is—but the protagonist doesn’t. I think one of the most powerful and well-known examples of a thriller using dramatic irony is Thomas Harris’s Silence of the Lamb. We all know Buffalo Bill has the Senator’s daughter, Catherine Martin, imprisoned in his basement. There’s a ticking clock for Clarice to figure it all out before Buffalo Bill kills Catherine. And so Clarice, desperate to save Catherine, pairs up with another serial killer, Hannibal Lecter. As the story progresses, we already know who the killer is—Buffalo Bill—but we learn his background and some of the events of his past that might have led, or at least influenced, his killing spree. We also get to know Clarice, as Hannibal Lecter sets up a quid pro quo with her—clues to the case for stories of her own trauma. We learn not just the who, but the why of the story. (And if she still wakes up hearing the lambs screaming.)

I wanted to write a twisty, edge-of-your-seat story—and also explore the nature of trauma. And I wanted to do this with the characters—as we go through the story and get to know all of them better, we learn not just what they did and how, but why, through the push and pull between the antagonists and Maggie.

But, ultimately, the labels “mystery” and “thriller” are only helpful for shelving books in bookstores and libraries. What matters is the reader’s participation and delight in reading—and I hope readers will enjoy the who, the what, but particularly the whys of THE KING’S JUSTICE.

The Maggie Hope series just keeps getting better and better. THE KING’S JUSTICE might just be the best entry yet. Thank you, Susan, for sharing your thoughts on the differences between thrillers and mysteries. I can’t decide if you’ve written a thrilling mystery or a mysterious thriller. I do know I can’t wait for future installments!

When you discover a new author, do you start at the first book in the series or pick up the latest release?

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

ROGUE FLASH: Coronavirus & SARS predicted by Koontz, Ludlum, & Lynds?

Trying to stop the spread of the coronavirus
by Gayle Lynds

What’s stranger than fiction?  Perhaps it’s when fiction seems to predict a major current event.

A few days ago a news story in The Hindustan Times, dateline Beijing, China, reminded readers that this had just happened – again.

Here’s an excerpt of the article....

WUHAN-400, ARDS: Fictional Doomsday Viruses That Mirror the Real Ones
          Amid the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak in China, Twitter users are scratching their heads to make sense of a fictional coincidence bordering on the bizarre.
         American novelist Dean Koontz wrote the novel, a thriller, “The Eyes of Darkness” in 1981 – it is about a virus called “Wuhan-400” developed by Chinese scientists at a bio laboratory in, well, Wuhan....
         A novel jointly written by Robert Ludlum and Gayle Lynds in 2000 created a disease called the “acute respiratory distress syndrome” (ARDS) in the The Hades Factor – a good three years before the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic broke out in China first, and then spread globally.....
         Eerily, the symptoms of ARDS and SARS – also actually true for Covid-19 – were similar: Cold, cough, fever and respiratory problems....

What a coincidence, yes?

Well, no.  That’s the thing about novelists ... part of our job is to create stories that can be real.  In The Hades Factor, I was fortunate to find remarkable scientists at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Washington, D.C., and at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Frederick, Maryland, who were generous with their time.

They also gave me a warning: what they were about to tell me could become all too true!

Stay safe, Rogue Readers!  Eat well, get enough sleep, and wash your hands!

Sunday, February 23, 2020


by Lisa Black          

          Though Chris mentioned Noor Inayat Khan in a previous roundup of female spies, I ran across a small display of her story this past summer in DC’s The Spy Museum. Her tale is complicated, surprising, and inspiring.
Noor Khan

          Noor Khan was the daughter of an American woman from New Mexico already schooled in Sufism (Muslim mysticism) and an Indian teacher of Sufi who had descended from a famous and influential 18th century ruler. This meant Noor had royal blood as well as a foundation in nonviolence, literature, and social responsibility.

At the beginning of World War II, Noor lived with her widowed mother in France, studying child psychology and writing poetry. As Germany invaded they fled to Britain. Noor and her brother both burned to join the war effort—to fight tyranny, but also not unaware that their bravery might help foster a greater bond between Indians and Brits. Yet they were both dedicated to nonviolence so decided to compromise by volunteering for the most dangerous assignments. Her brother went into minesweeping. Noor joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force to train as a wireless operator, but shortly, still aching to do more, volunteered to work in occupied territory. Women were already there as couriers but her wireless training and fluent French put her on the fast track to be the first woman to work inside as an operator.

Dangerous? Very. Messages couldn’t be sent for more than twenty minutes or operators risked interception by the enemy, as when they needed to move the bulky transmitter to a new location. Being caught with a transmitter had no innocent explanation. The life expectancy of a wireless operators in 1943? Six weeks.

But, back up. Why do I say an ‘unlikely’ spy? Because Noor was neither a great brain or a great athlete or a great actress. She was a little clumsy, sweet, friendly and loathe to dissemble—the idea of lying, even to an enemy, didn’t sit well with her—so that her handlers thought she might not be up to the task and considered recalling her. But they quickly learned her reluctance lay in causing any worry to her mother, not from any lack of confidence or determination. Noor had determination in spades. 
Noor—code name ‘Madeleine’—was flown to France to work under Emile Garry, alongside a man named Henri Dericourt. She maintained the communications between occupied France and the Allies for four months, until someone betrayed her to the SS. It might have been Henri. It might have been Renee Garry, the sister of French hero Emile (who would be executed at Buchenwald). Both were tried after the war, and acquitted—barely.

Noor wouldn’t talk. But, perhaps as a result of her rushed training, she kept copies of all the messages she’d sent. This allowed the SS to continue sending messages, apparently from ‘Madeleine.’ Courier Sonya Olschanezky tried to warn London—but, not sufficiently familiar with her, they disregarded her information. This led to the arrests and deaths of more agents, including Sonya. 

Noor Khan escaped from SS headquarters in Paris—twice. They classified the dreamy poet as “highly dangerous” and sent her to solitary confinement in southern Germany. She spent the next ten months alone, in chains. She still didn’t tell them anything.

Finally they gave up and sent her to Dachau with three other captured agents, so that the four women were executed the following dawn. In 1949 she was posthumously awarded the George Cross, the highest civilian honor given “for acts of the greatest heroism or for most conspicuous courage in circumstance of extreme danger.”

Noor Inayat Khan might not have been totally cut out to be a champion of the Allies, of Britain, India or Islam, but she didn’t let that so much as slow her down.

Many times we surprise ourselves as well as others. What have you done lately that you weren’t likely to do? Small, big, serious, fun?

Friday, February 21, 2020


by The Real Book Spy

In 2017, author Meg Gardiner released Unsub, the first book in what has become a fascinating and fabulous new series starring Caitlin Hendrix, who at the time was an LAPD narcotics detective working the very case that nearly did her father, a former detective who spent the bulk of his career chasing a notorious serial killer, in during her childhood.

A year later, in January of 2018, Gardiner released her much-anticipated follow-up, Into the Black Nowhere, which saw Caitlin make the jump to the FBI, where she joined the Bureau’s elite Behavioral Analysis Unit.

Now, book three in the series, THE DARK CORNERS OF THE NIGHT, is finally set to come out, just over two years since her second last go-around . . . making this the longest fans have had to wait between new books since Caitlin Hendrix first burst onto the scene.

Good news: It’s well worth the wait and then some. Trust me!

For her latest thriller, Gardiner brings her A-game like never before, putting Caitlin up against a deranged but calculated killer who calls himself the Midnight Man—a ruthless murderer who kills parents but leaves the children behind as young, innocent witnesses to his vile, unspeakable horrors. Opening with a thundering bang, Gardiner doesn’t let her foot off the gas pedal until the final page, and her shocking conclusion will have readers talking about this one for a long, long time.

I absolutely loved this book and hope Rogue readers will too. Before I go, a bit of advice: Read this one with the lights on . . . Meg Gardiner is scary good!

My Inspirations: Southern California Crime

Meg Gardiner
“Get behind the car,” the deputy told me. “Duck down. And don’t move.”

He unlocked the cruiser’s floor-mounted shotgun, got out, and ran toward the bank.

I was fifteen. I was getting school credit for doing a ride along with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office. Hours earlier, the deputy had assured my parents he’d watch out for me. He joked that his job was ninety percent paperwork, but promised that at the first sign of danger, he’d drop me at a safe location. Taco Bell, maybe.

The patrol had been uneventful, until his radio crackled. 211 in progress. Armed robbery. And he roared toward the Crocker-Citizens Bank, with me along.

This was Southern California—bank robbery central back then. At the Fairview Shopping Center, we raced past a busy Safeway and screeched up at the bank. Sheriff’s cars surrounded it. A uniformed sergeant stood with his back against the outside wall, shotgun raised, creeping toward the doors.

This was infinitely cooler than getting dropped at Taco Bell.

I ran behind the cruiser, crouched low, and peered over the trunk to watch the assault on the bank. My heart was pounding. The sergeant approached the doors.

And behind me, a voice said, “Meg?”

I turned. My mom stood a few feet away, pushing a Safeway shopping cart.

“What are you doing?” she said.

“I’m ducking down.” That didn’t seem to impress her. “And not moving.”

I think at that point she set a hand on her hip and glared. Yes, definitely glared. I kept on crouching, like a squirrel.

The sergeant reached the bank doors. A teller opened them and came out.

Someone had accidentally tripped the silent alarm. There was no robbery. Everyone stood down.

Except my mom. The deputy got the stink-eye, and an earful.


Readers ask where I get my ideas. What’s my inspiration for a story?

The spark for The Dark Corners of the Night came from the crimes of the Night Stalker, whose rampage cast a pall of dread across Southern California in the Eighties. I recall the fear we all felt. A home invasion killer was striking at will. It seemed like there was no way to keep him out, and nowhere to hide from him. He owned the night.

That’s the seed of fact behind the novel, in which FBI profiler Caitlin Hendrix tracks a Los Angeles killer known as the Midnight Man.

But on a more granular level, inspiration came from my experience on that ride along. Caitlin started out as a sheriff’s deputy, and in The Dark Corners of the Night, she recalls a lifechanging event early in her career: a bank robbery—during which she gets shot. The fictional robbery occurs in the Bay Area. But when I wrote the scene, I envisioned that Crocker-Citizens Bank in Santa Barbara County. And the clustered deputies, weapons out. The sharp morning sunlight that glinted from the windshields of their cruisers, the swirl of activity, the heart-pounding uncertainty, and the electric pulse of adrenaline.

When I write a novel, I do a ton of research. I’ve attended FBI and ATF seminars. I went on a ride along with the Austin police, where a guy being searched actually blurted, “These aren’t my pants.”

That’s how I get ideas: through study, experience, memory, and, sometimes, absurdity.

Because you never know what’s going to stick, and translate to the page. And you never forget your first bank robbery.

Right, Mom?

Thank you to The Real Book Spy and Meg Gardiner. Another great pick!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020


So you made those New Year's Resolutions and maybe they've taken a little bit of a slide—or disappeared altogether. Now what?

January is that time of year when a lot of us take stock and create a resolution to change and by February you may be struggling. If you're like me you sit down and write a list that goes along the lines of I'm going to... (cook more, train better, organize the house). Feeling motivated on that first week, when the schools are closed, the city is quiet, and the gifts of clothes need to find space in the closet, we dive in. Unfortunately, statistics give the grim truth;  most of us will not keep these new habits going past January.

This year I decided to delve into the science of change. How do we form new habits and what does it take to change old ones? I've read lots of advice over the years, but this article from Psychology Today by behavioral scientist Susan Weinschenk Phd gave a list of concrete ways to keep these resolutions moving forward. And what I loved about it is that it notes the power of the stories we tell ourselves. As writers we know what power stories have, so it was great to read that science supports their importance as well.

First, start small:  

The first step, apparently, is to start small. People tend to write "Exercise more" which is a large category and could mean anything. Scientists say that we need to write something more along the lines of small change. For example, if you don't exercise at all perhaps write "Walk to the bus and take stairs up two flights."   

Second, tie the new habit to an existing one:

The theory is that you've already may tons of habits during the course of your life so of course you can start a new one. Makes sense, right? But habits don't come out of thin air, so tying the new one to something established will help. 

I think this is brilliance. Last year I wanted to change my training schedule, which was geared toward running, to incorporate more weight training. I made the resolution and joined a gym near my house. The problem was, I'm not all that interested in weight training and indoor training, so I rarely went. And when I did go, I ended up running on a treadmill rather than weight training. 

One day I was running on a track in a new park and came across an outdoor gym. I stopped and tried to "walk" on my hands across the parallel bars, do the dips, tried to do a chin up on the chin up bar (no chance, not even one!) swing on the monkey bars, etc. All of these exercises incorporated lifting my body weight. It was surprisingly difficult. Really, really difficult. After that first attempt I made a point to run that track every other day and to stop to try again. Within three months (long, I know) I was able to work the entire body weight circuit and I noticed a change in my upper body strength. While the pull up is still a challenge, I'm planing on keeping at it until I can do at least two or three in a row. I actually look forward to the days I run to the outdoor gym. A bonus: I cancelled my gym membership and saved that monthly fee. I now realize that by tying the new habit to my existing running schedule was the key. 

Third, take note and change your self story: 

This is a fascinating idea. According to the article, we all have a self story that we think defines us and this story drives a lot of our behavior. In fact, we will subconsciously do things to support this story, even if what we do is ultimately bad for us. Changing an existing story, even if the change is beneficial, creates unease. Rather than feel this, we default back to the familiar, bad habit. Scientists suggest that we first write down our self story and then create another that matches the new changes we wish to make. 

So if your story is "I'm not an athlete, other people are," we subconsciously keep this front and center. However, if you want to try an athletic endeavor, then you will have to rewrite a self story that says, "In the past I wasn't an athlete, but I never really tried it for long and now I'll give it a year."

In short, stories are powerful, but changing them to fit the new you, or the you that you aspire to be is possible and beneficial. This suggestion seems too easy to be true, but if science says it works I'm willing to give it a try! 

I hope your resolution stuck, but if they didn't, maybe science will help. And if you have anymore tips to keep those resolutions going, please leave them in the comments. I would love to hear them!

May your 2020 and beyond be happy, healthy and filled with joy.

Best, Jamie Freveletti

FEBRUARY'S ROGUE RECOMMENDATION CLUE and the chance to win a free book!

CLUE: "This former lawyer hails from TX, loves cowboy boots, and has an affinity for serial killers."

A quick recap for those of you scratching your heads. 

In May of 2019, Rogue Women Writers and The Real Book Spy formed a lethal alliance dedicated to bringing you a monthly ROGUE RECOMMENDATION.

What's that mean? 

On the third Friday of every month, the Rogues team up with The Real Book Spy to bring you a  reading recommendation, highlighting a thriller that sizzles with entertainment, breaks boundaries or in some way stands out as "Rogue." Written in the unique voice of The Real Book Spy, recommendations may include, among other things: author interviews, author blogs, reviews and photos.

This is your chance to win more than just bragging rights! 

Do you like to win books? If so, there are three ways to enter into the drawing!

1. Post a comment below and you'll be entered into a drawing for a copy of The Real Book Spy's FEBRUARY ROGUE RECOMMENDATION

2. Visit our FB page and share the clue with friends and fellow thriller buffs.

3. Tweet out the clue on Twitter. 

Game on!

Sunday, February 16, 2020


by Karna Small Bodman

Enjoying the romantic Valentine chocolates received last week while reading a thriller, I reflected on a question I’ve heard asked at many writers’ workshops and conferences: Should we weave a romantic relationship into our thrillers, or “play it straight?”

It turns out that of all the genre fiction, the most popular IS “Suspense/Thriller” with over twenty million of these novels sold per year. However, a close second is “Romance,” which has grown into a “1.5 billion-dollar industry.” A few months ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that THE most watched TV channel during the Holiday Season was Hallmark with its romantic stories featuring inspiration, a relationship plus a happy ending.

So, is there a way to gain even more readers by combining the two? I recall that when my first thriller, CHECKMATE was released, I wrote about a young scientist paired with an officer on The White House National Security Council staff who work together to track down villains while falling in love. I did receive (just) one email from a reader who said I should not have included a love scene because “it slowed down the action.”

Of course, different readers have different ideas about pacing, and a number of authors have found great ways to combine these two most popular types of stories, now called “Romantic Thrillers.” One of the best in the business is prolific author, Nora Roberts who has penned 215 novels in both the strictly romance category under that name and romantic thrillers using the pen name J.D. Robb. Booklist writes that her recently released Golden in Death has a plot that “seamlessly fuses danger, propulsive pacing and a sexy partnership between a tough-as-nails heroine and a man of mystery.” These books have consistently hit The New York Times bestseller lists as soon as they are published.

An author of 71 bestselling novels with 80 million copies in print world-wide, and translated into 34 languages, is Sandra Brown, who has also successfully combined suspense with budding relationships. Her recent release, Seeing Red, is described by the Associated Press this way: “Brown’s story mixes thrills with mystery and a spicy sex scene or two . . . it is one of Brown’s best books in years.”

One more great female author, Linda Howard, has been penning clever romantic thrillers for decades. Her story, Mr. Perfect, pairs a woman with an attractive under-cover cop. They work together when lives of her friends are threatened. A summary of this novel indicates that it “combines rapid fire, often humorous dialogue with scenes where the two are about to steam up the windows and burn up the sheets.”

While we have been focusing here on novels combining thrillers with romance, looking back we see examples of wonderful, intriguing movies that would also be dubbed “Romantic Thrillers.” A master of this type of film, of course, was Alfred Hitchcock with the memorable Vertigo and Notorious. Finally, the all-time favorite classic produced back in 1941 featuring the relationship between Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca, is still being shown today.

Now, what do YOU think? Should writers include a romantic involvement in mysteries and thrillers? If so, what are some of your favorite stories with this combination of elements?

Friday, February 14, 2020


Meg Gardiner
by Lisa Black

           Bestselling author Meg Gardiner's fifteen thrillers have been translated into twenty languages. She graduated from Stanford Law, became a wife and mother to three, and won an Edgar. Oh yes, and is a three time Jeopardy! champ. Today, we ply her with Rogue questions!! 

Rogues: Which is harder as you approach writing a new novel: writing the first or last sentence?

Meg: Definitely the first sentence. It’s the doorway to the novel. The first sentence has to hint at the world that lies beyond, and entice readers across the threshold into the story. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a few little words.

Rogues: What's your favorite word?

Meg: Inspiration. Because it’s a rare and wonderful thing, and when I capture it, I’m thrilled.

Rogues: Where do you like to write?

Meg: The spare bedroom that I’ve claimed as an office. The windows overlook a spread of oak trees where red-shouldered hawks swoop and perch. I’ve also taught myself to write on airplanes. Strapping myself into a seat that’s hurtling across the sky at nearly 600 mph provides a wonderful work environment... because I can’t escape it. At least, not without causing a scene at 35,000 feet. I have to sit still and actually write.

Rogues: What do you do when you need to take a break from writing?

Meg: I hike, go to concerts (I live in Austin!) and send memes to my kids. Oh, who am I kidding? I read.

Rogues: If you could have lived in a different time period, what would it be?

Meg: WWII. I wish I could have worked at Bletchley Park.

Rogues: What's your favorite drink?

Meg: Coffee. AND LOTS OF IT.

Rogues: When you were ten years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Meg: A writer. From Day One.

Rogues: Do you have a literary hero? A teacher, mentor, family member, author who has inspired you to write your novels? 

Meg: My parents. They told me I could do whatever I set my mind to, and be whatever I wanted to be. They believed in me.

Rogues: Describe your very first car.

Meg: A ’66 Mustang my parents bought used, and let me drive to high school. Sky blue with a straight six engine. My baby.

Rogues: Do you write what you know or what you want to know?

Meg: What I want to know.

Rogues: This has been fun!

Meg: Thanks for inviting me to visit the blog. I hope you’ll look for my new novel, THE DARK CORNERS OF THE NIGHT.

Find out more about Meg's books at:

What is your favorite Meg Gardiner novel?

Wednesday, February 12, 2020


by K.J. Howe

Valentine’s day holds a special place in our hearts. A holiday set aside to celebrate love in all of its forms—romantic, filial, parental, for pets, teachers, and anyone else you might want to include. It’s also an excuse to wear red, buy presents, and eat tons of chocolate. What more could one ask for? But inquiring minds want to dig a bit deeper. Just who was this Saint Valentine and where did this tradition originate?

Interestingly, we can’t be sure which Saint Valentine the day is named after or what the real origin of this holiday was:

The name Valentine was very popular in late antiquity (its root found in the Latin “valens” meaning worthy, strong or powerful) and no less than 14 recognized saints share that name from the period, seven of whom who died on February 14th. Scholars have narrowed the field down to three Saint Valentines who are the most likely candidates behind the holiday. The confusion has existed for over 1500 years because when the feast of Saint Valentine was first established by Pope Gelasius I in 496, he included Saint Valentine among those “whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are only know to God.”

As time passed, tradition merged at least two of the three Saint Valentines into a single mythological figure who forms the basis of modern traditions. By the time the Middle Ages rolled around, Saint Valentine was a Christian persecuted for his faith and interrogated by the Emperor Claudius II in person. When Claudius tried to convince Valentine to accept paganism to save his life, Valentine responded by trying to convert Claudius to Christianity to save his soul. We all know how that attempt worked out, but even after his execution had been ordered, Valentine performed a miracle by curing Julia—daughter of his jailor Asterius—of her blindness. In turn, Asterius and his forty-six-member household converted to Christianity.

The legend developed and later the story included Saint Valentine writing a final note to Julia the night before his execution which he signed “Your Valentine,” the origin of how Valentine’s cards are signed today. Further expansion of his story included the tale that this historic cupid performed secret Christian weddings for Roman soldiers who had been forbidden to marry. At the weddings, he would cut out heart shapes from parchment paper and give them to the newlyweds to remind them of their vows and commitments.

Like several other parts of modern folklore, the first recorded association of St. Valentine’s Day comes to us from Geoffrey Chaucer, who in 1382 wrote:
"For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make."
Chaucer insinuated that he was only expressing a well-established tradition, but it remains our earliest association of the date with romantic notions. The idea of birds choosing their mates on February 14th was quickly emulated by several other authors, and by the year 1400, the date was enshrined in the “Charter of the Court of Love” as a day that was celebrated with a feast, amorous song and poetry competitions, jousting, and dancing. The attending ladies would hear and rule on disputes from various lovers. Whether these celebrations actually took place is debatable, but they sure made for entertaining reading.

From the 1400’s onwards, Valentine’s Day gained momentum, appearing in private letters and even earning a reference in Shakespeare’s Hamlet:
To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes,
And dupp'd the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.
— William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5
Valentine’s Day has become a powerful meme, accepted across many cultures and religious denominations. St. Valentine remains on the official church calendar for the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox, and several other denominations. And while the real explosion in the modern world started in English-speaking countries (lead by the UK), it has become a ubiquitous celebration. Singaporeans, Chinese, and South Koreans now spend the most money on Valentine’s gifts!

It has also become an economic force, with approximately $19.6 billion dollars spent on an average year just in the United States—and about $1.8 billion of that is spent on candy alone, and $650 million is spent on gifts for pets. In fact, cat owners spend about 20% more on Valentine’s gifts for their kittens than dog owners spend on their animals. Fascinating…

Valentine’s Day epitomizes the amazing power of a positive idea. From a fairly obscure Christian feast day, the idea has spread across the globe, touching many cultures and billions of lives. A clear demonstration of the power of love. Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!

Who will be your Valentine this year?

Sunday, February 9, 2020


Marie Benedict
by Karna Small Bodman

          We are delighted to welcome New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction, Marie Benedict, to be our guest blogger. I heard Marie talk about her terrific books when she spoke to the Naples, FL Friends of the Library series last week (which attracts over 700 attendees!!) and was happy to chat with her there about how I have enjoyed reading her stories about remarkable (and "under appreciated") women. One of my favorite books of hers was THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM about Hedy Lamarr. Two other winners were CARNEGIE'S MAID and THE OTHER EINSTEIN about the first Mrs. Albert Einstein. Marie has a brand new release LADY CLEMENTINE.Now the author gives us the background and inspiration for this very interesting novel:

From Marie Benedict:
          When you picture the leadership of Great Britain during the hardships and challenges of World War II, do you think of Winston Churchill in those iconic photographs? Do you imagine the ubiquitous cigar, the Homburg hat, the famous speeches, and the “V” for victory sign? Do you usually envision him alone, or perhaps, in the rare photograph, with Roosevelt or Stalin? Would it surprise you to know that the lens on those famous images of Winston during the war — and long before it as well — should be broadened to include his wife, Clementine?

Winston Churchill
If the photographs of Winston were altered to accurately reflect the role that Clementine Churchill played throughout their lives — not only in World War I and World War II, but all the critical years in between — we would see her sharing the broad mantle of leadership alongside her husband, because their society would not allow her to assume her own political power. We would witness her campaigning alongside Winston for Parliament over many decades and serving as a senior government official’s wife like no other, as the spouse of the Home Secretary, Lord Admiral, and of course, the Prime Minister — all the while vetting and editing his speeches, discussing policies and strategies, influencing governmental leaders towards their shared goals, and helping him deal with the difficult landscape of colleagues and staff.

Clementine Churchill
And these tasks are only the ones she performed with Winston. Behind the scenes, she are undertook many projects of her own design — such as ensuring the safety of air raid shelters for the British people during the Blitz, advocating for roles for women in the war effort, and raising millions of dollars in aid for the wounded people of Russia — not to mention the vast array of responsibilities she assumed on Winston’s behalf, such as caring for their family and home and tending to his demanding schedule, and for his safety, such as accompanying him on his tours of Blitz sites so he wouldn’t act rashly, as was his wont, and get in harm’s way.

So why do we always envision Winston alone during the critical periods in modern history? Because he certainly wasn’t. Can we attribute it to limited historical preconceptions about the nature of women’s abilities? If so, even though we cannot travel back in time and alter the photographic record to ensure that it accurately reflects Clementine’s role, we need to begin affirmatively write women back into the historical narrative where they’ve been all along, hidden in plain sight.

Now what women in history do you feel were never given the credit for their accomplishments?                                                                                   

Friday, February 7, 2020


Can you believe it's February already? Here's what we Rogues talked about, researched, and revealed in January as we opened 2020....

Gayle Lynds reveals 5 secrets to be successful AND happy in the new decade here

Physical exercise is good for our bodies, but it's also a mega-boost for our minds. K.J. Howe talks sports and the 7 Benefits of Finding Your Game.

Nine things we didn't know about Lee Goldberg, New York Times bestselling author of LOST HILLS. Get the scoop as one of our favorite authors basks In the Rogue Limelight.

For writers looking for great ways to begin a novel, create chapter endings and put together intriguing and "satisfying" endings -- Karna Small Bodman has tips for you here.

Have questions about publishing? Literary Agent Barbara Poelle might just answer them in her new book FUNNY YOU SHOULD ASK, an extension of her wildly popular Writers' Digest column of the same name. 

Technically correct isn't always correct--at least in Lisa Black's book--which she talks about here

Rogue Flash: Brit female authors have blown the "old boys" club cover, while here in the U.S., women like the Rogues are doing the same. Read all about it in Gayle Lynds in the London Guardian.

Chris Hauty, January 2020's Rogue Recommendation, is a debut author old enough to be a member of AARP. A screenwriter and a poet, this is a new political thriller you won't want to miss.

Rogue Robin Burcell gives the 5 tips she wished she knew as a beginning novelist, but they're good for anyone who writes. Be sure to check the comments for other tips!

Ever wonder where authors get their ideas. You're going to want to follow in her footsteps as our own Lisa Black Goes (More) Rogue: In the Limelight.

10 Tips from top thriller writers - some great advice from those at the top of their game.

Andrew Grant goes Rogue and shares tales of the his tour while In the Rogue Limelight.


Wednesday, February 5, 2020


by Gayle Lynds

My husband, John, still dreams of jogging.  Oh, for healthy knees!  Then there’s my friend who’s upset because the book she’s been reading went AWOL last week.  Where is the darn thing?  And all of us lose keys, forget people’s names, or miss appointments.  It’s the human condition.
John's Steinway - isn't she a beauty?
          Still, wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to go back sometimes and regain a piece of the past?  With that in mind, here's my problem:  I can no longer play the piano, and I miss it terribly.  There was a time I played Chopin and Mozart, Gershwin and boogie-woogie, as well as copious blues and rock ‘n’ roll.  I memorized easily, and I composed. 
          There’s an old photo of me reaching over my playpen to touch the keys of my family’s decrepit piano.  For me, the only instrument was always the piano.  Finally, when I was eight years old, my parents saved enough to buy an “upright grand.”  Dad put it in a back room, and it was all mine.  It had a glorious big sound and could hold a tune.  Wow, some parents!  Nirvana!
          Mom said she knew I was angry when I’d bang out Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp Minor as if the armies of Hannibal were invading across the Missouri River.  (We lived in Iowa.)  She knew I was in love when I gave a particularly sappy rendition of Debussy’s Claire de Lune or Love Me Tender – Elvis Presley, remember?
          Then life happened in the form of deaths, poverty, and responsibilities.  Hormones figured in there, too.  All right, I admit it:  Boys were delicious to look at – but I was too timid to return their smiles.
          So I dove deep into reading where I could inhale the exotic scent of frangipani and gape at a behemoth Soviet tank.  The crazy excitement of genius fascinated me, and I puzzled at the emotional desert of sociopathy.  Books taught me everything from grammar to how to kiss, and I reveled in living vicariously many lives, each more interesting, more adventurous, and more brave than my own.
          After a while, my love of books overwhelmed my love of music.  By college, I’d stopped playing piano but was too busy, too unaware, to notice.
          Today I sit on my husband’s piano bench, soaking in the beauty of his baby grand.  I love to hear him play.  Now he’s away for a few hours, so I get out some of my old music and choose Star Dust, words by Mitchell Parish, music by Hoagy Carmichael.  I open it to the first page and study the music — my music, my old sheet music.  Yes, I still have a lot of it.  I haven’t been able to make myself throw it away. 
          But then my heart sinks.  I stare at the notes and realize I don’t know what they mean.  I’m not sure even where Middle C is on the stanza — or on the keyboard.  I remember being able to look at music and feel it between my ears and in the center of my ribcage.  I’m stunned at what I’ve lost.  Like my mother’s kiss, I’ve lost the anger, joy, fear, shyness, incompetence, triumph, grief ... that once rolled easily from my fingers....
"Gloriously satisfying!" – L.A. Times
           A few years ago I wrote a psychological suspense thriller called MOSAIC about a character named Julia Austrian, a blind concert pianist.  With her Steinway, Julia travels internationally, soloing on the planet’s great stages.  She loves everything about her life – the music, the bouquets, the reviews, the camaraderie.  When interviewed, she always says that being blind is an advantage to a pianist.  In the music, she lives.
          But the truth is, she aches to see again, just as I now ache to play music.  Until she was eighteen years old, she’d had normal eyesight.  Imagine this coincidence – I was eighteen when I stopped playing. 
          The novel is also about a presidential election and a large powerful family, of which Julia is a member.  None of them knows her secret – Julia has psychological blindness, Conversion Disorder.  Simplified, it’s bad PTSD.  But with the right trauma therapy, she may be able to see again. 
          Working on the novel forced me to face my old sheet music – and a deepening sense of loss because if I couldn’t hear the music just by looking at the notes, how could I possibly create a world-class pianist like Julia Austrian? 
          I must remember, go back in time, the writer in me tells myself.... The little rear room where I played.  The sacrifice of my parents.  My joy today in writing novels.  It's the same joy I once had in making music....
          So I stare at my blank computer screen, summon the memories, and write:  “She was all of the music's compelling emotions, all of its grand poetry, all of its myths.  Whether the concert was good or bad no longer mattered.” 
          Ah, yes, Liszt is her choice.  “Snowscape” — the √Čtudes, no. 12.  “She could imagine the snowflakes drifting down everywhere, shrouding the world in white, entombing humans and wild creatures and nature’s monuments to God, while the wind sighed and moaned.” 
          Julia plays on my page, and both of us can feel it.  Through her, I find the rhythm.  At the end of the book, she regains her sight, and I regain an important piece of my history.  She uncovers a corrupt espionage situation, and I recover a love I thought I’d lost.  She fights her way through a novel of suspense to a happy ending, and I have mine.  Through the book, I regain an important piece of my past.

Is there something you lost that you'd like to regain ... or perhaps already have?  Please tell!

Sunday, February 2, 2020


by Chris Goff

In 1961, in a downstairs room in Evergreen, Colorado, a dad perched on the side of a bunk bed reading Pinocchio to a six year-old little girl. Originally a collection of stories, printed in serial form as La Storia di un burattino in one of Italy's weekly children's magazines, the book, Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi, was first published in 1883. It's about the mischievous adventures of an animated marionette and his father, a poor woodcarver named Geppetto.

The dad I referenced was mine, and he read that book to me chapter by chapter, every night at bedtime. When we finished, we read Mother West Wind How Stories and Danny Meadow Mouse by Thomas Burgess, both published in 1915. And he loved to read me poems from Silver Pennies: A Collection of Modern Poems for Boys and Girls, published in 1925 by Blanche Jennings Thompson. He knew my absolute favorite by heart. It was "The Elf and the Dormouse" by Oliver Herford, about how umbrellas were invented.

The years moved on until we more often sat in opposite chairs in the living room reading to ourselves, but my dad was the one who taught me the value of a great story. He was the one who instilled in me my love of books and reading.

Years later, I watched my children's delight as my husband read them Rikki Tikki Tavi by Rudyard Kipling as I joined in the nightly bedtime story ritual.

It's no wonder I love the idea of World Read Aloud Day.

In 2007, literacy expert Pam Allyn visited Kibera, an area of extreme poverty in Nairobi, Kenya. Realizing the desire the children had to read, write and share their stories, she also saw how life's circumstances had placed barriers in their way triggering an underlying belief:
        "Literacy is not a gift given just to some lucky ones, it is a foundational human right that brings joy, economic independence, gender equity and a pathway out of poverty."
Inspired, she came back to the United States and mobilized a group of friends and leaders to join her in founding LitWorld. It's all about sharing stories, building community and cultivating a love of reading and writing. It's designed to encourage creative expression and build literacy skills.

Now celebrated in 173 countries and counting, World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults to celebrate the power of words.

This year, World Read Aloud Day is February 5th. So, let's take action! Let's show the world that everyone has the right to read. Let's all celebrate the day by grabbing a book, finding an audience and reading out loud. And when you're done, share your favorite read-aloud moments on social media with #WorldReadAloudDay, and be sure to tag @Scholastic, @LitWorldSays and three friends so they can join, too.

Who inspired you to read? Please, share a favorite memory of reading aloud.