Wednesday, December 30, 2020

HOLIDAY COOKING DISASTERS: Who hasn't had one?

by Chris Goff

This year on Thanksgiving, we celebrated the birth of our third grandchild—a very bright spot in an otherwise difficult year. Ten days before the holiday, we’d gotten a late-night phone call from a couple of kids, laughing because her water broke and they had to leave for the hospital, but the bed was wet, and the dog was a bit anxious, and they weren’t sure what to do. Fortunately, we did, and told them to leave for the hospital. Then we collected the bedding, the towels, Pickles, the dog, and the dog food, while they had a baby. Little Grady!

A couple of days later, we took Pickles home and met the tiny bean—Covid-style! Clean coverups, hand sanitizer, masks.... Thanksgiving was quickly approaching, and we’d promised to make dinner. Except, we were living in a house without a kitchen. The refrigerator was hooked up in the garage, and periodically blew the breakers. We had no stove, just a microwave set up on sawhorses in the living room. No sink! And our counter consisted of a piece of construction grade plywood laid over the top of uninstalled kitchen counters.

Not to be deterred, we donned our PPE, and in a covert Covid operation (CCO) transported all ingredients, and sneaked into their kitchen through the breezeway. (This makes for a great scene in my new book: The Spy Who Worked from Home.)

But I jest. We actually just went over to the kids' house, donned clean coverups, prepped the meal, and put it in the oven. Four hours later, we returned, carved the turkey, and ate, with Grady upstairs in his crib.

During dinner, my son-in-law had his phone propped up on the table. Thinking he was watching football, I made a snide comment as mothers-in-law are wont to do, and my daughter laughed. “Mom (drag it out sarcastically), he’s watching the baby cam.” Sure enough. Nick turned the phone around, and there was little Grady sleeping in the crib.

About that time, the baby twitched (barely!), and the phone lit up, and a warning scrolled across the screen. Movement has been detected! Apparently, off mute, Computer Lady blurts out the warnings. The temperature has dropped one-tenth of a degree!

Dang! The baby cam works better than our home security system. (Perfect for The Spy Who Worked from Home.) It's more expensive, but highly effective! Makes me wonders how I ever raised six kids to adulthood without one?!

But I digress. We're talking about holiday disasters, and I have them that go back years. It turned out, so did my fellow Rogues.

Karna Small Bodman had a similar story of remodeling.

Several years ago, I was redoing a DC house–kitchen completely torn up, fridge and microwave in the living room—and my son wanted to host a Super Bowl. What to do? So, I baked a huge batch of chicken in my next-door neighbor’s stove, made a big salad, and then fixed a whole slew of little red potatoes in the microwave because I wanted to serve “Redskins.”

Which she topped with the story of a dream date.

I went to a holiday dinner hosted by a bachelor who admitted he didn’t cook much. On the kitchen counter sat a bowl of what looked like turkey stuffing with bits of something weird in it. I asked what it was. He shrugged and said, “Well, I was looking around for things I could put in the stuffing I bought. Thinking about how my mom always added things to hers. I saw a package of microwave popcorn and mixed the kernels into the stuffing, figuring that when it got hot, they would pop. They didn’t.”

Lisa Black shared a similar theme.

My mother’s birthday was in January, so as a young newlywed I decided to host a dinner for 12 in her honor. I don’t remember the entree, but I made homemade sourdough bread—completing the long process of creating the starter, letting it ferment, moving it to the refrigerator, etc.

The day before the party, our hot water heater died. I had no qualms that my trained mechanic husband could fix it. We had to go buy one (a whole nother story) then, as he finished installing the heater, I baked my bread. To keep it warm, I wrapped the slices in a towel, placed them in a wicker basket, then put the entire thing in the still-mildly-warm oven.

The doorbell rang. People were seated. Then I opened the oven only to discover the wicker basket had not been real wicker. The plastic had melted into globules, and the small wires stuck out like barbed wire tines, only longer, and more dramatic. Luckily, the towel had protected my labor-intensive bread. Plucking out the slices, I plopped them into another container, tossed the evidence, and figured what the diners didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them. Meanwhile, I had learned a valuable lesson about the low melting point of synthetics!
 

Valerie Constantine’s story can only be labeled Comedic Horror.

These Greek Christmas cookies are called Kourambiedes and everyone in our family looks forward to them at the holidays. Making them is labor intensive with all of the mixing done by hand until the dough is ready to be shaped into these sort-of crescents. Every year I “helped” my mother make these special treats that always came out perfect. One year, however, when we began to shape the cookies, we were puzzled to see tiny red dots throughout the dough. My mother shrugged and continued to bake them anyway. After all, they would be covered with confectioner’s sugar to make them pure white. It wasn’t until later that she noticed the little chips in her red fingernail polish. Her polish had rubbed off into the dough! Moral of the story: Nail polish in small doses is safe to ingest!

Of course, judging by the pictures Lynne Constantine shared, nail polish in the cookies doesn't do much for one's fashion sense.

An abundance of stories. 

There was the time Wes stuffed the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner for 21 people, put the bird in the oven, then checked it two hours later to discover he’d forgotten to turn on the oven.

And the time I was tasked with cooking a roast for Thanksgiving at my mother-in-law’s. My sister-in-law arrived and immediately turned down the oven. When I noticed, I turned it back up. Kay immediately turned it back down. Up, down. Up, down. Needless to say, dinner was delayed while the roast finished cooking and Kay and I sat in timeout.

Then there was the Christmas Eve we drove the 1914 Model T (top up) to dinner. My father-in-law had suffered a series of strokes and couldn’t talk at that point, but when offered a ride in the Model T, his face lit up. After dinner, we stepped outside to find it was snowing. Hard! We foundered on the side of the road about a half mile from the farmhouse. Wes and I waded through the deepening snow—Wes for the tractor, me for the car. It created a few tense moments with my mother-in-law and our kids, but Dad just chucked and laughed. He refused a car ride and insisted on staying in the Model T as it was towed back to the barn. Best Christmas Eve ever!

This year, with the threat of Covid-19, many of us are celebrating alone. Still, the Rogues hope you've had a chance to make some fun memories this holiday season. We wish you the merriest!

Do you have any favorite holiday disaster stories?

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS

by Lisa Black

Opening to the first page of a book always has that same delicious thrill of anticipation as when the theater lights dim and the curtain begins to rise from the stage. Will I be delighted? Will I be amazed? What is going to happen?

But as wonderful as beginnings are, every book is really about its ending. There, we expect the story to come full circle, we expect that the things that have happened to be used in a relevant manner, we expect to be satisfied.

Writers who plot, like me—as opposed to writers who are [fly by the seat of your] pants-ers—know how the book will begin and how it will end. The difficult part is figuring out how to get from one to the other.

I am prompted to this theme because this cursed, dratted year of 2020 is ending, something that everyone has been wishing for and commenting on for eight or ten months now. Like many others, my year has largely sucked: my husband was out of work for seven months, I lost a brother and a cousin (non-Covid-related reasons), I spent over a year on a book that was rejected, and I watched helplessly as others endured much greater misery and much more overwhelming trials. I could have lost much more, and didn’t. And now 2020 is ending! Yay!

Except we all know better than to think simply turning a calendar page will make everything reset to ‘Normal’—or even ‘Better.’ Illness, injustice, stress and anxiety can’t just be tossed out with the used calendar.

But maybe this is why we like books. In a book, the author controls the ending. They can make sure the clues logically add up to one person’s irrefutable guilt, that the hero learns lessons en route that will serve them well in the final confrontation with the villain, that the reader will not be left wondering how Norman got his hands on the museum’s antique knife later found in his ex-wife’s body or why Josie suddenly understood Ukrainian when in the Kabul safe house. And woe to them if the author fails. Rules can be broken, twists can and should be unexpected, readers can be a little miffed that the protagonist didn’t get the cute guy at the end, but they should always feel that the story is now complete.

Yes, there have been endings that skirted the cliff. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, as brilliant as Agatha Christie’s book was, did leave many a reader sputtering “But was that really fair?”

And full disclosure, if I dare: I sputtered myself at the ending of Pet Sematary. Unless I’m badly misremembering, the text touched on ancient Indian burial grounds, dreams, and some sort of giant who roamed the earth after dark. As a horror novel it’s absolutely fabulous, but if I can just say one little thing: if Dean R. Koontz had written it, he would have tied all those things together in a kind of explanation, a la Phantoms or Twilight Eyes. It might have been far-fetched, but it would have been something

Her, by Harriet Lane, I found a fabulously written, utterly engrossing book, in which the ending made me want to throw it across the room. I loved Gone Girl…but it’s ending? Super frustrating. 

Hannibal, by Thomas Harris. Maybe, IMHO, somebody couldn’t figure out how to end the book. Maybe somebody fell too much in love with his own characters. Maybe I’m just too pedestrian and can’t think outside the box. We may never know. 

My friend Britin Haller absolutely loved Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips “…until the end. And I hate to say that because it truly was one of the greatest books I’ve ever read.”

We could even complain about Gone With the Wind. WTF? Two and a half hours and she and Rhett break up?

The Collector by John Fowles. It certainly wasn’t what I expected, but I can’t say I’m happy about it.


But as there have been happier New Year’s Eves, there are so many wonderfully satisfying endings in books. Anything by Ellery Queen or John Dickson Carr, in which all fifty-three separate clues are assembled in their proper order. Lord of the Rings leaves us with a nostalgic but fuzzy happiness as all the characters trundle off to their respective lives, exactly where they want to be. Pride and Prejudice, of course, proves that good things will eventually come to those who are true to oneself. A Christmas Carol, in which the character has completed an exhausting journey to become exactly the man he should be. The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King. Room by Emma Donoghue. 

Best of all, I think, are when endings completely take you by surprise but, after a moment’s thought, you see they make total sense. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott. The Bone Collector by Jeffrey Deaver. 

And that’s my New Year’s wish for everyone: that in 2021, we get to write our own, highly nourishing ending to each and every day. 

What about you? No spoilers, but what book has the most (or least) satisfying ending?

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

BITES AND BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS

by Karna Small Bodman

How will we all celebrate Christmas this year while staying safe and praying for the best? We Rogues have some ideas to share with you: holiday recipes to enjoy along with a few gifts for family and friends.

For a lovely breakfast treat Jenny Milchman offers this recipe for her Raspberry Sour Cream Muffins: 
  • Preheat oven to 375 and line a 12 cup muffin tin
  • In 1st bowl, combine zest of one orange and ¾ cup sugar, ½ cup melted butter, 1 cup sour cream, 2 beaten eggs
  • In 2nd bowl, mix 1 ½ cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt
  • In 3rd bowl, dust 1 ½ cups raspberries with 2      teaspoons flour, reserve a few for the tops of the muffins
  • Combine ingredients, fold in berries, fill muffin tin, top with reserved berries, sprinkle with sugar, bake 18-22 minutes….enjoy!
Liv Constantine suggests a book described as a moving account of an author’s relationship with her grandmother, Nobody Will Tell You This But Me by Beth Kalb. Well known author Jodi Picoult says, “I have not been as profoundly moved by a book in years.” This story recounts both family lore and family secrets spanning four generations. 

The New York Times Book Review writes, “I delighted in Bobby’s joy. I cried twice.” And the host of Good Morning America said, “Told in her hilarious grandmother’s voice, this memoire chronicles a family’s story.”

Liv also contributes a recipe for hors d’oevres, Pomegranate Pistachio Crostini:
  • Preheat oven to 400
  • Arrange 36 slices of French bread baguette on ungreased baking sheet, brush tops with butter, bake 4-6 minutes then cool
Mix and spread over the toasted bread:
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter 
  • 4 ounces softened cream cheese 
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • ½ cup finely chopped pistachios
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate candy bar, grated.
Serve, of course, with your favorite cocktail or wine.

Carla Neggers suggests a lovely book, The National Trust Book of Afternoon Tea which is chock full of recipes that go perfectly with a cup of tea – a nice gift for someone who enjoys the quintessential British ritual. You’ll find recipes for sandwiches, tarts, cakes, scones, preserves along with everything you need to know to brew the perfect pot of tea. 

And here is Carla’s suggestion of a simple topping to add to mashed or baked potatoes, melt atop baked salmon or spoon onto grilled burgers.  

Simply mix together: 
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Chill for 2 hours to blend the flavors (and you can freeze it for a month)

Lisa Black contributes a quick treat you can make and give as a luscious gift, what she calls her Foolproof Fudge:
  • Melt a 12 oz. bag of chocolate chips (semi sweet or milk chocolate) with
  • A 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
  • Remove from heat, stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Put in a wax-paper lined pan, cool completely before cutting.
I’d like to suggest you top off your holiday meal with a cup of cappuccino. You don’t need to have a fancy coffee/cappuccino machine. Just brew a cup of coffee, then top it with foamed milk from this frother which makes a great Christmas gift as well. You  simply pour a small bit of milk in this frother (that sits on a stand that's plugged in) -- push a button and in about 20 seconds you have froth you spoon on top of your coffee.  To clean it, just rinse it out (don't put it in the dishwasher though). 

One final recommendation of a book for a Christmas gift is Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict. I so enjoyed this story about a (fictitious) Irish maid hired to serve in one of Pittsburgh’s grandest households. She hides the secret of her past while learning about the business tycoon’s investments, and, in the process, inspires Andrew Carnegie to eventually devote his vast fortune to the creation of libraries across the nation. Readers and authors are forever grateful to this man for his contribution to education and enjoyment for all. 

Now, do you have a favorite holiday recipe or gift idea you would like to share? Please leave a comment and tell us. Thanks for visiting us here on Rogue Women Writers and a very Merry (and safe) Christmas to you!

Friday, December 11, 2020

HYGGE AND THE ART OF THE READING NOOK

by Carla Neggers

Winters are long, cold and dark in northern New England where I live, but they’re made not just bearable but enjoyable with the Danish art of hygge. It’s a concept—an intentional way of life, really—that’s gained international popularity. Pronounced “hue-guh,” hygge isn’t a word that translates easily into English. “In essence,” says Visit Denmark, “hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people.”

A great place to incorporate hygge into our lives is a reading nook. I can and do read anytime, anywhere, but I love my reading nook experience. 

Here are a few hygge ideas for your own reading nook:

Candles

Nothing creates hygge like candles. A lot of candles. These days there are flameless versions that are (almost) as atmospheric but I’ve never tried them. I like to light candles and tuck in by the fire with a book. Pillar candles are my favorite but on particularly short winter days, I’ll often float a votive candle in my small Simon Pearce bowl. It doesn’t have to be dark to light candles. Or cold. A friend lights candles on her South Florida patio. 

Socks

Cold feet do not make for a cozy reading nook experience. Slip those toes into your favorite socks. I love my one pair of ultra-soft cashmere knee-socks. They’re a bit frayed but that adds to their hygge charms. There are all kinds of fun socks on the market perfect for enhancing your reading-nook experience. 

A comfy shawl or throw 

Snuggling under a soft, comfy shawl or throw with a book is definitely one of the good things in life! I curl up with a handmade Irish shawl. It reminds me of picking out with my husband at a favorite shop on the southwest Irish coast, run by a woman who’s become a friend, adding to its hygge qualities. But I love my ragged fleece throws, too. Key is comfort and cocooning. We want to read, not fuss with a shawl or throw, right?

A hot drink 

Hot mulled cider, hot mulled wine, hot chocolate or hot tea enhance an afternoon or evening curled up in our reading nook. It’s a great time to grab that pottery mug you love but don’t use often enough. Making reading time an experience is what it’s about. Check out my hot mulled cider recipe below.

An absorbing book 

Candles lit, fire crackling, hot beverage at our side and socks and throw keeping us warm and cozy, we’re ready to dive into an absorbing book. Savor the characters, the descriptions, the sense of place, the plot twists, the writing. It’s an opportunity to discover or rediscover such authors as P.D. James, Elizabeth George, JRR Tolkien, Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child, Ken Follett and many of the writers interviewed and recommended here, or finally dive into that thick biography on your TBR pile. 

Here’s my recipe for hot mulled cider:

2 quarts fresh apple cider

2–3 cinnamon sticks

1 teaspoon whole cloves

½ teaspoon whole allspice

¼ small orange

Dash of grated nutmeg 

¼ cup brown sugar (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20–30 minutes. Strain spices and serve. You can combine the spices into a cheesecloth to create a bag and simmer with the cider. You can also heat the mulled cider in a slow cooker. 

Hygge works whether you’re in a warm or cold climate or season. Here are some tips for warm-weather hygge: www.hyggelife.com/blogs/news/hygge-in-the-summer

What’s your favorite spot to read? What says hygge to you? Are you trying anything new this winter? Let us know!

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

MYSTERY MINUTE GOES ROGUE

by Z.J. Czupor

Just the Facts Ma'am: The Story of Badge 714

Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

That famous opening line belongs to Dragnet, one of the most popular and influential police procedural dramas in radio and television history. 

Jack Randolph Webb (1920-1982) wrote, produced, directed, and starred as Sergeant Joe Friday in the hit radio and TV series, which ran, at intervals, from 1949 to 2004. The show was touted for its realism about the dangers and heroism of law enforcement. Sgt. Friday wore badge number 714.

Dragnet's realism came about because Webb spent long hours on the ground conducting research in squad rooms, squad cars, and drinking coffee with detectives. He said he learned his first police rule, which is "the solution of a crime is the work of many hands and many minds."

Webb got the idea for Dragnet from the 1948 film He Walked by Night in which he played a small role as a crime-lab technician. His vision was to perform a service by showing policemen as low-key working-class heroes. The title "dragnet" refers to a coordinated system used to capture criminals and suspects.

The Popularity of Dragnet

Dragnet originated on NBC radio from 1949 to 1957. In 1951, the series moved to TV (NBC), where shows ran simultaneously on radio and television using the same script devices with many of the same actors. An estimated 38 million viewers tuned in each week. 

Jack Webb starred as Sgt. Joe Friday on TV from 1951-59 and again from 1967-70.

In 1989-90, The New Dragnet starred Jeff Osterhage as Det. Vic Daniels, while the 2003-04 version, L.A Dragnet, featured Ed O’Neill as Lt. Joe Friday. Both series were produced by Webb.

Dragnet appeared around the world with translations in German, French, Spanish, and Japanese. In retrospect, the episodes are still entertaining but feel campy with wooden acting styles. Plus, some of the police procedures appear outdated and trial outcomes would be vastly different from today. However, at the peak of its popularity, fans often visited LAPD headquarters wanting to speak to Sgt. Friday. The official response given at the front desk was, "Sorry, it's Joe's day off."

Dragnet was parodied numerous times in films, TV, and cartoons. Fortunately, Webb wasn’t above the parody himself. In 1968, he appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in a sketch called the "Copper Clapper Caper." As the poker-faced Joe Friday, he interviews the equally deadpan victim of a robbery at a school-bell factory (the victim played by Carson). The details of the crime started with the alliterative "k" consonant sound, such as "Claude Cooper, the kleptomaniac from Cleveland." 

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Supposedly, Sgt. Joe Friday's hardcore character often spoke the phrase, "Just the facts, ma'am," but he never said that. It was misattributed after comedian Stan Freberg (1926-2015) recorded a parody album, "St. George and the Dragonet," in 1953. But Freberg didn't say that either. Actually, Friday said, "All we want are the facts, ma'am," whenever he interviewed women during a police investigation. Freberg's satire, meanwhile, changed the line to "I just want to get the facts, ma'am."

In 1958, Webb authored The Badge (Prentice-Hall), which included chapters of untold true crime cases from Los Angeles in the 1940s and 50s. The book was reissued (Da Capo Press, 2005) with a foreword by James Ellroy, author of LA Confidential* (1990), who wrote, "The Badge takes readers on a spine chilling tour through the dark, shadowy world of Los Angeles crime."

Badge Number 714

When Dragnet went into syndication, it was renamed "Badge 714." There are multiple explanations plus myths for how the number came to be. For one, Webb was a fan of Babe Ruth who hit 714 home runs in his baseball career. For another, the number is said to represent his mother’s birthday (July 14).

However, Army Major Laurie Cooke Harding, daughter to Dragnet advisor and LAPD Sgt. Dan Cooke, wrote how her father and Webb were close, that he originated some script concepts, and acted as technical director for several episodes. Badge 714 belonged to Cooke when he arranged for its use in the series. After Cooke’s death, LAPD retired the badge which his widow then donated to the LAPD Police Academy’s Museum. Cooke retired as a lieutenant after serving thirty-five years on the force. He died in 1999 at the age of 72. 

Webb's Personal Life and Death

Webb's Jewish father abandon the family before Webb was born leaving him to be raised Roman Catholic by his mother who was Irish and Native American. He suffered from acute asthma from the age of six into adulthood but smoked three packs of cigarettes a day. He began his career as a radio disc jockey, then advanced to film actor, writer, director, and producer. As a jazz fan, he collected over 6,000 albums. He married singer and actress Julie London. They had two daughters. After they divorced, Webb married three more times. In 1982, he died of a heart attack at the age of 62.

When Webb died, LAPD provided an honor guard with a 17-gun salute, a rarity for a non-policeman. LAPD named an auditorium in his honor while city offices lowered flags to half-staff. Jack Webb was buried with a replica LAPD badge bearing the rank of sergeant and the number 714. 
________________________________________

*In the movie version of LA Confidential (1997), the Brett Chase character (played by Matt McCoy) is based on Jack Webb. In the movie, Chase is the star of a TV show, "Badge of Honor," like Dragnet.

Thank you, Z.J. Czupor! We love your Mystery Minute columns. Readers, are you fans of police procedurals like Dragnet

Monday, December 7, 2020

ROGUE WOMEN NOVEMBER ROUNDUP!


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

Always a fan of kickass women, Lisa Black gives us the highlights of the life and legacy of Margaret Chase Smith in Beyond the Glass Ceiling.

The winner of the Rogue Fall Basket Giveaway
was 
Rena Koontz, a self-proclaimed Rogue devotee and author of seven romantic suspense novels!

ZJ Czupor told us about the origin of the term 'red herring' and its use in many Agatha Christie tales in this month's Mystery Minute.  

Who doesn't love adorable pet pics? Liv Constantine gave us the skinny (and the visuals) on Writers and Their Pets

A Rogue Flash let audiobook fans know that The First Shot, Liv Constantine's prequel to The Last Mrs. Parrish, has been released on Audible.

Jenny Milchman provided us with a great guide to Write a Thriller in 8 Easy Steps

The Real Book Spy's November Rogue Recommendation was Janet Evanovich's Fortune and Glory, the 27th book in the Stephanie Plum series. 

And, last but not least, a Rogue Flash spread the news that Karna Small Bodman was interviewed about her White House insider expertise and her latest book, Trust But Verify

Thursday, December 3, 2020

DIANE CAPRI GOES ROGUE: The Queen’s Gambit & The Hunt for Jack Reacher

by Gayle Lynds: What a thrill to introduce Rogue friend Diane Capri, who shot onto the New York Times bestseller list with her exciting novels, including her innovative thrillers starring the immortal Jack Reacher of Lee Child fame. She’s written ten in her Reacher series! A snowbird and recovering lawyer, Diane divides her time between Florida and Michigan. Fortunately for us, she’s hard at work on her next novel.

by Diane Capri

Have you watched The Queen’s Gambit? The Netflix original series is based on the novel by Walter Tevis and it’s stellar. We’re all abuzz about the orphan prodigy and her quest to become the world’s best chess player. Who knew chess could be so exciting?

Beth Harmon triumphs over adversity – and does it with style.

Therein lies the genius of this series for me.

If you haven’t seen The Queen’s Gambit, be warned that mild spoilers are coming up next.

From the first scenes, Beth’s story had me hooked. When she survives the car accident that killed her mother, Beth is sent to an orphanage. She demonstrates her strengths immediately, makes her place, and develops her own lifelong family.

The janitor is mildly shocked when Beth asks him to teach her how to play chess. Chess, he thinks, is not a suitable game for a young girl. Beth insists.

She knows her strengths and she goes after what she wants.

To his credit, the janitor is not jealous or dismissive. Quite the contrary. He respects and nourishes Beth’s desire to master the game, and she makes the most of her opportunity. Beth isn’t afraid to tackle the hard stuff.

As a teen, Beth is finally adopted. It’s a rough transition, but she doesn’t give up.

She redoubles her efforts to conquer the chess world, one match at a time. Beth’s competitive spirit literally saves her family from financial ruin.

In the 1960s, chess was very much a man’s game. Beth handles sex discrimination with panache. She vanquishes opponents match after match. In the process, she slays many of her own demons as well.

In short, the message is: women are skilled and courageous winners.

Some may find the story too unrealistic or too dark, but it’s also immensely entertaining and thoroughly hopeful. By the end, we feel that Beth Harmon will always triumph, in chess and in life.

What does any of this have to do with my Hunt for Jack Reacher thrillers, you may be wondering. My bestselling and award-winning series is a spin-off from my friend Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. Each of my books uses one of Lee’s as the source material and jumps off into a totally new story.

The protagonist of Full Metal Jack is FBI Special Agent Kim Otto, assigned to work off the books to find Jack Reacher, who is being considered for a special classified assignment. Reacher is perhaps one of the most dangerous men alive. But is he friend or enemy?

Readers have described Kim as “a tiny stick of dynamite with a deadly aim.” She runs on her standard triple A's: ambition, adrenaline, and anxiety. She’s the bravest woman I know.

Full Metal Jack is the tenth novel in the series. Kim and her new partner are sent to Carter’s Crossing, Mississippi, where they face deadly threats from ruthless villains. Reacher fans will recall Carter’s Crossing as the setting for Lee Child’s source book, The Affair.

What follows is fast paced and explosive action as she seeks to fulfill her mission: find Reacher.

Strong women getting the job done in the face of insurmountable odds is the story. Beth Harmon and Kim Otto both celebrate the kind of inspiring heroine readers can admire. Kim Otto fans will no doubt spy the common ground here. Such as…

Beth’s “can do” spirit, the confidence she displayed (whether she felt confident or not), her competitive nature, and her ambitious goals are constant.

Her focus – steady on, always honoring her own way, ignoring naysayers who might defeat her.

Courage in the face of adversity and triumph over her challenges.

Size matters. Agent Otto is a petite Vietnamese-American woman pitted against an unbeatable giant: Jack Reacher. How can she possibly win?

Like Beth Harmon, Kim Otto proves the doubters wrong. She deploys well-honed skills, guile, wit, and tenacity against overwhelming personal and professional odds. She never, ever, ever gives up – even when she might be tempted to surrender. Or at least retreat for a while.

For me, Kim Otto and Beth Harmon are both Rogue Women for sure.

I grew up reading Rogue Women like Kim Otto and Beth Harmon. I still love reading and writing them today. How about you?

Thank you, Diane Capri! We are partial to Rogues like Kim Otto and Beth Harmon. Readers, who are your favorite female protagonists?