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


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


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


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 . 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


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!

Monday, August 3, 2020


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

ZJ Czupor told us about the mother of the American detective story, Anna Katherine Green, first published in 1878.

The Real Book Spy recommended the latest by Brad Thor, and how his art often imitates life imitating art.

Lisa Black researched the truth about those suspicious friend requests, forming a picture of the person behind the picture you see.

These five June releases for your to-be-read shelf were recommended by Liv Constantine, and why they are must-reads.

Karna Bodman wants us to support our local bookstores, especially during the pandemic, by sharing independent bookstore success stories.

And we had a super fun night at our second Rogue Reads, featuring authors Ace Atkins, Karen Robards, Chris Hauty and Jon Land. The authors talked about their books, answered questions, and shared their favorite recipes!