Friday, June 26, 2020

COMING OF AGE IN THE TIME OF COVID

by Chris Goff

I celebrated a birthday a few weeks back, one that marks retirement for many people. But not a writer. Right?

That's something I am. I have four training books on the shelf and eight books published novels  I've had some success, garnered some critical acclaim, won a few awards. I have yet to hit the New York Times list, but there's time.

With Covid and quarantine, we've had nothing but time. My husband is now working from home, so we have a routine. After coffee, we both head to our separate offices, then convene for lunch and dinner, and our daily walk at the end of the day. Outings have consisted of trips to the grocery store to let someone put bags in the trunk―bags that occasionally contain the items we ordered, but more often a list of what couldn't be filled.

Yet, with all that time...

I've got nothing. 

In three months of quarantine, I've written and rewritten a few chapters of a few new books. I've thought the stories through. I know where they start. I know approximately where they end. I've thought up some great plot twists, developed some interesting characters, been intrigued by some complicated, timely and interesting story ideas. And yet nothing's panned out.

I sit down at the computer, fill some pages, then slow to a grinding halt. I soon find myself rewriting a few paragraphs over and over. I spend hours crafting one or two sentences, which I eventually abandon.

I've done great work.

For other people!

For ITW, I put in hours and hours judging manuscripts in the Best Paperback Original category.

For the Colorado Book Awards, I spent hours and hours producing events and building interest in Finalist books (I got paid for this).

For SinC and MWA, I dedicated massive amounts of volunteer hours, produced webinars and videos, hosted Zoom sessions.

For Rogue Women Writers, I helped launch Rogue Reads.

I'm finding it hard to sleep.

I started soul searching.

Growing up an only child, I figured quarantine would be a piece of cake. After all, I know how to entertain myself. I have never lacked for solitary endeavors. I love to read. I love to knit (mostly baby sweaters or crazy scarfs—projects easily completed). I love making things—sewing projects, needlepoint, sculptures, cribbage boards, paintings. I do not lack for arts and crafts projects. And I have home projects out the wazoo—filling in ancestry charts, organizing photos, sifting through the massive collection of stuff you gather in 38 years of marriage.

At a time when there is nothing but time, I'm finding it hard to concentrate.

I'm making lists.

To be honest, I've always made lists. They help me prioritize, and keep me on task. I put writing at the top and then watched it slip slowly down in importance, usurped by things like FAMILY, UNFINISHED BUSINESS (work or volunteer commitments or taxes), UNFINISHED PROJECTS.

The funny thing is, the items seem to circulate. WRITING moves back to the top, followed by PROJECTS, followed by....

I'm finding things aren't getting done.

I'm giving myself permission.

I've decided that it's okay. If I don't write for a few months, I'll write again. If the projects sit uncompleted, they will be there when I want to tackle them again.

18 years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a life-changing moment. There were surgeries, missed deadlines, lost contracts, new contracts. I swore at the time my outlook on living would be different going forward, and for a time it was. I relished being alive, cherishing the days. But like most people who experience the "wake up call" heart attack, the diagnosis of a chronic illness, the loss of a loved one, time has a way of putting those moments into perspective. It might take years, but most of us slip back into complacency.

That happened to me. I began to fall back into comfortable patterns, and before I knew it, I was back on the treadmill—over-committed, over-extended and wishing I had room to focus on things that matter the most, like family and friends and breathing.

I'm giving myself time.

Part of this changing world is taking the time to reevaluate and reassess. To ask the BIG questions. What is it I want to do with the time I have left? What is it I'm on this earth do do? Where can I make a difference? What brings me joy?

COVID-19 is here to stay for a while. I've heard projections that say things won't get back to "normal" for between two and eight years. Timelines like that mean there will be a new normal. For instance, can you ever imagine blowing out the candles on a birthday cake again, and then sharing pieces of that cake with your family and friends.

I'm taking baby steps.

WRITING has recently topped the list again. I have three very different ideas. One for a Birdwatcher's Mystery novel; one for a domestic thriller set in western Colorado; and one for an international thriller that takes place in the United States. One is lighthearted and fun; one is marketable; one is difficult, complicated and would be a hard sell. Guess which one I'm leaning toward?

And, to give myself a jump start, I've signed up for an ITW Master Class. My instructor, William Bernhardt, founder of the Red Sneaker Writers Center, just touched base, and I felt a flutter of excitement. I've taught Master Class, but right now I'm in need of a teacher. Like I said, baby steps.

How is this pandemic treating you? Are you struggling, or are you more productive than ever? Are you lonely, or spending too much time Zooming with friends and wishing for some quiet time? 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

THE PONZI SCHEME'S NOT-SO-HAPPY ANNIVERSARY

by Lisa Black

We’ve all heard of Ponzi schemes, the shorthand often (but not always) deserved. The name comes from Charles Ponzi, born in Italy in 1882, intelligent and educated (he apparently attended the university of Rome) and charming—oh, so charming. He came to America with big dreams, worked odd jobs, moved to Canada and worked in a bank. Unfortunately the bank went bankrupt and Charles, without funds, passed bad checks. Like any dutiful son he wrote his mother, but told her he was working at the jail rather than incarcerated there.

Afterwards, he came up with his first scheme, one that may sound a bit confusing to those of us who don’t do a lot of international mailing. ‘International Reply Coupons’ are coupons to cover the cost of return mail to the country of origin. These were designed by the Universal Postal Union, a grouping that has officially existed since 1874, and today is a division of the United Nations. (I’m a lifelong mail junkie, and I’d never heard of it.) Like an economic union, it establishes systems and rules so that mail can flow between countries without having to set up a separate agreement between each one. The IRCs were enclosed so that the recipient could send a reply without having to obtain foreign stamps or worry about sufficient postage. This practice only died out in the 2010s. Point is, Charles figured out he could get people in other countries to buy IRCs there and send them to him, he could exchange them for more valuable stamps, and then sell those. Doesn’t sound too exciting, but profit margins topped 400%. Charles warmed to the race in a white-hot blaze.

He could do more with more, so he recruited investors, promising them 50% profit in forty-five days, or 100% in ninety. (Of course, 12% is considered a healthy rate of return, and that’s over a year!) Did they know they were investing in mail fraud? Were they more co-conspirators than victims? It’s uncertain—the scheme sounds legal, and Ponzi most likely told them it was. The happy investors told others, and more came, and more. But Ponzi paid out those profits with funds coming in from new investors, not with funds generated from the stamps scheme, a pyramid doomed to crumble. But in the meantime, man, life was good for Charles Ponzi.

He bought a mansion in Massachusetts with air conditioning and a heated swimming pool, over-the-top luxuries in 1920. He bought a Locomobile, the finest car of its day. He reportedly made $250,000 a day. That’s over three million in 2020 dollars. A day.

Of course it couldn’t last, and it didn’t. The Boston Post (yay, investigative reporting!) heard tales of wild profits and came to check it out, spooking investors who then tried to pull their money back out. The pyramid collapsed, and on August 12 one hundred years ago, Ponzi was arrested for eighty-six counts of mail fraud. He pled, went to jail for fourteen years, and died penniless in Rio de Janeiro in 1949. The scheme’s collapse deprived his investors of $20 million (nearly $26 million today) and ruined six different banks.

He even stole credit for the scheme, though he probably didn’t mean to. Twenty years before Ponzi’s reign, New York bookkeeper William Miller promised investors 10% per week, and defrauded investors of over a million dollars. And they continue well into the new millennium with people like Bernie Madoff, Tom Petters, and Lou Pearlman, the mogul who created NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys. 

But those are the ones we know about. When I was a newlywed, my husband worked as an auto mechanic at a car dealership. One day he came home with news about an ‘investment club’ that some of his coworkers were talking about; they would ‘buy-in’ and then get their profits back as they helped recruit new investors. I still give thanks that, along with inheriting my father’s very no-nonsense attitude about money, I had happened to read a fun little book called The Perfect Crime and How to Commit It by Pamela Jekel. Each chapter is a different type of crime, and one dealt with fraud. I warned my husband off it, but some of his coworkers didn’t listen to him and lost money—not millions, but to the average working stiff, any amount hurts. You might say a book saved my bank account (and maybe my marriage!). 

What about you? Do you know the victim of a scheme?

Friday, June 19, 2020

THE REAL BOOK SPY'S JUNE 2020 ROGUE RECOMMENDATION IS...

by The Real Book Spy

It’s hard to state just what Mike Maden has meant to the Jack Ryan universe. Years back, I broke the news on The Real Book Spy that both Mark Greaney (Jack Ryan books) and Grant Blackwood (Jack Junior books) would be moving on from the franchise—with Marc Cameron and Mike Maden replacing them, respectively. 

Now, here we are almost five years later, and Maden is gearing up to release his final contribution to Clancy’s iconic franchise, FIRING POINT.

Those paying close attention might have caught the announcement a couple of weeks ago that Without Sanction (2019) author Don Bentley would stepping in for Maden, taking over the Jack Ryan Junior books starting in 2021. While Bentley is a terrific choice, and one heck of a fine writer, there’s no question that Maden’s presence will be missed. It’s also clear that Maden will leave the franchise better off than he found it, which is really saying something.

Maden’s first Clancy thriller, Point of Contact, came out in 2017 and marked a subtle shift in the tone of the books. Whereas Blackwood found success staying true to the style often seen in traditional political/techno thrillers, Maden infused more action into the stories—which was evident from the first chapter on, when he opened his first Jack Ryan Junior book with a Brad Thor-like action sequence that set the tone for the three books to follow.

Now, with this one, Jack Junior sees his dream vacation morph into a nightmare when a suicide bomber blows up a cafĂ© moments after Jack runs into an old classmate and former lover. With her dying breath, she leaves Jack a vague clue that he can’t help but follow up on in his quest to track down the group behind the attack. As always, though, it soon becomes clean that there’s more to the story than what originally meets the eye, and it’s up to Jack Ryan Junior to put all the pieces together before it’s too late.

Consider this Maden’s mike drop of a moment, as he exits the Clancy universe with another high-flying thriller that’s not to be missed.

RESEARCHING A TOM CLANCY NOVEL

by Mike Maden

One of the questions I’m asked most often on book tours and media interviews is how I go about researching the wide variety of subjects in my novels including economics, politics and of course, military technology.

The hallmark of all great Tom Clancy novels is the depth of knowledge he displayed in his work, particularly in regard to military technology. He was so good at it that he was able to elevate the technology itself to “character” status and his ability to do this is why I argue that he single-handedly invented the modern techno-thriller genre as we now know it. Before Tom Clancy, a woman had a pistol in her hand. After Tom Clancy, she held a Glock 19 with fifteen rounds in the mag, the polymer grip slick with the sweat of her palm.

Readers marveled at the early Tom Clancy novels in particular. It appeared as if he had access to top secret information that no civilian should have. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had current or retired military personnel approach me at book signings and tell me variations of this story: “I was reading a Tom Clancy novel while on duty and was shocked to discover he was discussing a weapons system that I had only just heard about because of my TS clearance.” Tom Clancy was totally analog, and completely brilliant.

So let me sidebar here and say this: as great as a storyteller as Tom Clancy was, I think his real gift was his ability to do research. It’s not hard for me to look like I know what I’m talking about because I have the internet and search engines. But back in the day when Tom Clancy was first writing, he was hanging out at the public library, digging through card catalogs and microfiche. (If you aren’t personally familiar with those ancient artifacts, Google them.)

Because I write in the techno-thriller genre, I spend a great deal of time researching combat systems and particular weapons technologies. But techno-thrillers are ultimately about organized violence either by governments or individuals. If I’ve done my job well, the reader roots for the good guys with guns who take out the bad guys with guns. But for me, these stories are only interesting (and I’m only able to touch upon the “truth” embedded within them) when I ground the characters in their political, historical and cultural contexts. Why are the “bad guys” bad? What motivates them? Why do they think they’re the “heroes” in their own stories? My research helps me to get to these truthful moments in my fictional writing.

So, yes, I invest many long hours on internet searches ferreting out all kinds of information and I work very hard to get it right. But there are some facts you simply can’t get on an internet search and that’s why I also travel to as many of the places I describe in my novels as I can, including a trip to Spain (and in particular, Catalonia) for my current novel, FIRING POINT. It’s important for me to tell the best story and I can and even though I’m writing fiction, I’m also trying to tell the truth about my characters and the worlds they inhabit if for no other reason than my desire for authenticity.

While it’s never possible to become an expert in matters of history and culture in a short period of time, you can get a taste of these things. Speaking of which, I do want to assure my readers that if one of my characters in FIRING POINT indulges in a glass of tangy, bubbly cava or relishes the soft crunch of a deep fried bomba, well, let me tell you, that was the kind of authentic research I was happy to conduct…and verify…and test again, just to be sure, ya know?

Thank you to The Real Book Spy and Mike Maden. We can't wait to read Firing Point!

Friday, June 12, 2020

HEATHER YOUNG GOES ROGUE

by Chris Goff

The Rogues are thrilled to welcome Heather Young. Heather earned her law degree from the University of Virginia, and practiced law in San Francisco before beginning her writing career. She received an MFA from the Bennington College Writing Seminars, a Fellowship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and has studied at the Tin House Writers’ Workshop and the Squaw Valley Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Mill Valley, California. THE DISTANT DEAD is her second novel.

by Heather Young


I have loved mysteries and thrillers ever since I got my hands on Harriet the Spy in second grade. Before I finished high school I’d torn through all the classics: Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, Nero Wolfe; John le CarrĂ©, Robert Ludlum, Robert B. Parker. So when I wrote my first novel, The Lost Girls, it seemed natural to hang the plot around a mysterious death.

But the mystery/thriller genre wasn’t my only literary passion. I also gorged on fantasy and sci-fi--The Lord of the Rings, Dune, anything by Ursula K. LeGuin or Neil Gaiman. I admire authors like Erika Swyler and Kate Atkinson who bring elements of this genre into their literary novels with deft assurance. I’d never thought I had the skill or imagination to do that, but while writing my second novel, The Distant Dead, I decided to try it.

It didn’t work. My early drafts had supernatural elements that I thought were really nifty but that my editor, gently and over several months, persuaded me to take out. Unlike the reincarnation premise of Atkinson’s Life After Life or the magical book in Swyler’s The Book of Speculation, they felt gimmicky. Worse—and this was what finally convinced me they had to go—I realized these elements were a crutch that kept me from doing the hard work of showing, rather than telling, what characters were thinking and feeling. (There were telepathic powers involved—talk about cheating!). So, despite my best efforts, The Distant Dead doesn’t have magic, or supernatural talents, or visits from the titular dead people. Well, okay, maybe it does have that last one, just a little bit.

But I did pay tribute to my love for speculative fiction in other ways.

One of my main characters is an eleven-year-old boy named Sal. Sal isn’t the mind-reader I originally imagined him to be, but he is deeply empathic; a quiet, watchful boy whose ability to read people is so acute that he thinks of it as an actual superpower. He’s also an imaginative child who loves graphic novels about angels and demons and monsters. He fills notebook after notebook with his own illustrated stories about two warring archangels, estranged brothers who lead the armies of Heaven and Hell. As Sal falls deeper under the spell of his favorite teacher, the man whose death drives the book’s mystery plot, these imaginary characters come to represent the moral weight of the secrets he is forced to carry, and their long-running contest becomes a battle over the true meaning of honor.

Sal also buys a copy of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book at his middle school book fair. For Sal, a fatherless boy whose mother has just died, this book speaks straight to his heart. It’s about a young orphan who finds shelter among the ghosts in an old cemetery, kindly spirits who protect him from the evil forces who killed his family. They also grant him the “powers of the graveyard,” which enable him to see the dead and move unnoticed among the living. Soon Sal imagines that he, too, might be able to talk to the dead if he tries hard enough. Like any kid who reads Harry Potter or The Once and Future King under the covers when they’re supposed to be sleeping, he longs to be the hero of his own story. But in Sal’s case, his vivid imagination, empathy, and desire to be a savior lead him to make a decision that has fatal consequences for the only person left on earth that he truly cares about.

While The Distant Dead wound up being a different book than the one I started, in that weird, alchemic way of most writing it turned out to be exactly the book I wanted it to be. It’s grounded not in fantasy but in the real world, with all its grit and odd moments of joy. It rests on characters whose motives are illuminated not by a superpower but by the complexity of their actions. The solution to its mystery is not magical but tragically human. And, above all else, it’s a bittersweet, heartfelt love letter to all those kids who smuggle flashlights into their bedrooms and imagine that they, too, could pull a sword from a stone or wave a magic wand. Kids like the one I once was.

Thank you for blogging with us today, Heather! We can't wait to read your latest book THE DISTANT DEAD

Monday, June 8, 2020

JOSEPH BADAL GOES ROGUE

by Karna Small Bodman

I'm delighted to welcome bestselling author Joseph Badal as our guest blogger. I first met Joe at Thrillerfest some years ago and learned that he first served as a commissioned officer in the US Army in highly classified positions, then he worked in the banking and financial services industries for nearly four decades. Joe has utilized this impressive background as inspiration for his 16 suspense novels, including several stand-alone thrillers along with his series. Here he tells us about his exciting new novel which will be out on June 20.


by Joseph Badal


Payback is my 16th novel and my 4th standalone. I find writing a standalone story in between books in my three series to be liberating. Taking a break from my series forces me to take a different creative path, with new characters and innovative plot lines.

When I started Payback, I wanted to include several elements that I felt would be entertaining for the reader. First, I wanted to present a protagonist who was as close to real life as possible. Someone that the average reader would be able to relate to. My characters, unlike those in many thrillers, do not leap tall buildings in a single bound nor do they rush headlong into dangerous situations. Bruno Pedace has avoided conflict and confrontation his entire life. I wanted the reader to be sympathetic toward Bruno but, at the same time, wanted him to stand up for himself.

The second element I wanted to inject in the story was a strong female character who had overcome a difficult background and who would befriend Bruno. Janet Jenkins is that character. She is a strong, caring individual who becomes an inspiration for Bruno. Bruno and Janet become good friends and, at the end, the reader is left with the hope that they will become more than that.

The third element I put in Payback is an historical connection to the irresponsible behavior of the investment banking community during the Capital Markets Meltdown that occurred in 2007-2009. I wanted the reader to understand how the economic upheaval that affected almost everyone came about, without getting too deeply into the weeds and turning the book into a financial thriller alone. The antagonist in this novel is an investment banker, Sy Rosen, who is a sinister character who will do anything to preserve his power and to grow his wealth.

Payback is a thriller about everyday people who are confronted with evil and must decide how to react. Do they run? Do they stand up and combat evil? There is a common theme that runs through all my books: the triumph of good over evil. Payback is perhaps the penultimate example of that good versus evil battle.

We’re sure you will enjoy Payback as much as author David Morrell who described it as “Another thrill ride . . . relentless from start to finish. Badal just gets better and better.” Join us for Rogue Reads on June 15, 2020 to hear Joseph Badal read from this book, For more info click here.

Friday, June 5, 2020

LAURIE R. KING GOES ROGUE

by Karna Small Bodman

We are delighted to welcome guest blogger, Laurie R. King – the New York Times bestselling author of the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series.

Author Lee Child describes this series as “the most sustained feat of imagination in mystery fiction today.” In the newest installment, Riviera Gold, Mary and Sherlock turn the Riviera upside down to crack their most captivating case yet.

In addition to this series of fourteen mysteries, Laurie has penned a number of other bestselling stories as you can see here.

Now, Laurie tells us about her writing style, daily routine and other personal details.


1. Which is harder: writing the first or last sentence? The last, definitely. The first sentence is usually a thing that has been living in the recesses of my mind for the weeks—months—while I was waiting to start the book. Not that the first sentence doesn’t change, or become the first line in chapter two or three, but there’s usually such a relief at being allowed at last to start the book, I hit the ground with my feet already in motion. The last sentence, on the other hand, is so incredibly important, that final taste the reader will have before the book closes, that sentence that needs to wrap it all up and tie the knot and encourage the reader to sit for a moment in satisfaction AND make them look forward to the next book—I mean, so much rides on that last sentence, the only thing that gets anything written that day is the nagging deadline and the reassurance that it’s not carved in stone.

2. What's your favorite word? One word? I couldn’t begin to choose one. But I love words that are so specific, you can’t use them more than once or twice in a novel. Miasma. Gusto. Languid. Dubious. Fraught. 

3. Where do you like to write? I have a very nice study, the size of a two-car garage because that’s what it was, with a dark purple carpet and shelves on all the walls. A study that is currently filled with workout equipment since the other three people in the house, including one who teaches workout classes, need some place to exercise. So I’m writing in a corner of the bedroom. Although it’s a very nice corner of the bedroom, and there’s nobody lifting weights or running the treadmill in it.

4. What do you do when you need to take a break from writing? Depends on what you mean by a break. I’m always writing something—if not a first draft, then a rewrite; if not a novel, then a short story or essay or (ahem) Q&A. They’re all on keyboards, true, but they all seem to draw from a different part of the brain. Longer-term, I don’t write much when I’m traveling, unless it’s a long trip and I have a deadline. Travel might be exhausting, but it definitely renews the writing sections of the brain.

5. If you could have lived in a different time period, what would that be? If I could take along modern medical and dental practices? I think I’d have found a good niche as an abbess in one of the more progressive Medieval convents. Though preferably not during a time of plague…

6. What's your favorite drink? What time of day is it? Well, over a 24-hour period, the drink whose cups outnumber all others is tea: black in the morning, herbal in the evening. 

7. When you were ten years old, what did you want to be when you grew up? Because I’d never met a writer, it didn’t occur to me that actual people wrote the books I took down from the library shelves. Instead, I assumed I’d be a teacher, an attitude that persisted through grad school when I began to realize that with small kids and a husband looking longingly at retirement, I wasn’t going to spend seven years on a PhD in order to teach at university level. So I sat down to write a story, thinking that perhaps I could tell some stories… and I could.

8. Do you have a literary hero? A teacher, mentor, family member, author who has inspired you to write stories? I think that would be a group, rather than one individual: the Golden Age women of crime, who told the stories they wanted, and it turned out the reading world wanted them too. Ladies like Sayers and Tey and Allingham and Christie, who ended up patting the boy writers on the head and gently setting them aside. 

9. Describe your very first car. A 1954 Chevy. This was 1973 or 4. I’d traded my sister for a guitar, since she was off to Africa and couldn’t drive there, and I was living with someone and couldn’t inflict my guitar-playing and folk-singing on him. We called the car Proud Beauty—black, round, smelled of horsehair and long years of being parked in the sun. I drove her for years until someone else fell in love with her and I upgraded…to a 1939 Chevy. That one had a handle you pushed down to open a vent that blew onto your feet: thirties air conditioning.

10. Do you write what you know or what you want to know? What I know is boring. Where I’ve been is interesting—but even then, a setting isn’t in itself an exciting story. So what I aim for is something that fascinates me, because I know that the fascination will show up in the writing. Of course, that means I have to take care with research, and make sure I don’t describe a place or event in a way that betrays my ignorance. (And one thing that always makes me ridiculously happy is when someone who knows a place or thing writes to say that I got it right. Yay, research!)

11. Is there anything you’d like to tell us – maybe about your upcoming book? Or is there a question we’ve forgotten to ask or that you wished we’d asked? Does there seem to be a theme in these replies? Proud Beauty, Golden Age crime writers, and monastic abbesses? Yes, the next book is in a series, but is focused on an under-appreciated member of the Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes world: Mrs. Hudson. Old ladies like her (and, I have to admit, me) can be invisible, unimportant—and slyly subversive.

Thank you, Laurie, for being our guest. We all look forward to reading your new mystery which will be released on June 9.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

ROGUE WOMEN MAY ROUNDUP!

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

Do you ever daydream about fantasy houses that you'd love to live in? Rogue Lisa Black shares her top three.

This whole thing got started four years ago. The Rogues think back. What were they reading, researching and writing?

Scott Turow shares the insider scoop on the process of writing his fantastic legal thrillers.

Piper Reynard steps off the pages of THE WIFE STALKER, just released, to share some health and wellness advice.

Rogue Gayle Lynds is The Real Book Spy's May Rogue Recommendation for her book THE ASSASSINS. Imagine this: you're finally coming home, only to find someone who looks just like you, living your life, in your flat. Then imagine the imposter dead.

Who among us has lived through a pandemic? Okay, so technically HIV/Aids (2005-20012), "HongKong Flu" (1968) and "Asian Flu" (1956-58) all qualify. But how many have us has ever been quarantined? Chris has some ideas on how to survive. Check out Pandemic 101.

Monday, June 1, 2020

THE APPEAL OF AUDIO BOOKS

by Karna Small Bodman

Many of us are still hunkered down working from home, while others are slowly getting back to their jobs. For those returning, instead of using crowded public transportation, some are driving to work when they can. It turns out that for both the at-home crowd, along with the commuting crowd, the appeal of audio books is on the rise. What better “companion” to have at home or on the road than a great novel narrated by a professional actor or actress. Who are they, and who are the best in the business?

Narrator Scott Brick
One of the most successful narrators is Scott Brick, a talented actor and screenwriter with credits in film, television, stage and radio who has narrated over 800 audiobooks for authors including Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Michael Crichton, David Baldacci and Nelson DeMille.

As for DeMille’s books, I got “hooked” on this author and narrator way back when one of his early and most successful novels, Charm School, was published. Scott Brick is particularly adept at using accents for different characters. You can listen to an example of how he does it by clicking “Audio Sample” under the cover art here

Scott Brick also narrated a number of books by John Grisham. But this author does employ other narrators from time to time. His new thriller Camino Winds is voiced by Michael Beck, an actor best known for his roles in “The Warriors, Xanadu, Megaforce among others. Camino Winds is currently #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and is available for download from Audible and in a CD format. Listen to the opening of the story – again by clicking under the cover art where it says “Audio Sample” here.
Narrator Julia Whelan

Several novels by the Rogues are available in audio formats. For example, Liv Constantine’s brand-new book, The Wife Stalker, is read by professional narrator Julia Whelan who became enchanted with books when she listened to her parents reading bedtime stories. She entered the audio field after graduating from college where there weren’t many voices to record new books. In an interview, Julia says she “loves the luxury of listening to audio books on long drives." (I admit I always have an audio book in the car and turn it on even during short drives). 

Rogue Gayle Lynds has written many wonderful thrillers available in audio versions. One of the best, The Book of Spies, was voiced by Kate Reading. We used to hear men narrating thrillers, but now, as you can see, many terrific women are in the “game.” When Brilliance Audio recently released three of my thrillers in these Audible or CD formats, I couldn’t wait to listen to the actresses they chose (I had no input in those decisions). Karen Peakes did the narration of my most recent thriller, Trust but Verify, but they used another woman, Julie McKay to voice both Checkmate and Gambit, which I thought was terrific since Julie is also a musician and has sung professionally in French, German, Italian and Spanish. So, you can imagine she would be great when it comes to using accents. Check out the audio sample of Gambit here.

I’ve often been asked if I ever narrated one of my own books. It turns out that I was invited to read a few chapters of my first book, Checkmate, for an organization (where I served on the board for 11 years), Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (now renamed Learning Ally). Their volunteers record books in studios all over the country for the use of students with certain disabilities. It was started after WWII so soldiers blinded in the war could take advantage of the GI Bill for their education. Walter Cronkite was one of their first volunteer readers.

When I read my chapters, I have to say it was hard sitting in a studio for hours on end, trying not to make mistakes, cough, or mispronounce a name or place. That experience left me in awe of the terrific professional narrators mentioned above. If you’d like to hear how the professional narrated Checkmate, check it out here.

Now, how about you? Do you enjoy audio books? What are some of your favorites? Let us know so we can share recommendations with all our readers. And thanks for joining us here on Rogue Women Writers.