Saturday, January 23, 2021

ROGUE FLASH: A Chance to Zoom with Liv Constantine

Pre-order The Wife Stalker and email your receipt to livconstantine2@gmail.com for a chance to win a giveaway of books AND join a Zoom party with best-selling writing team Liv Constantine


“Compelling and surprising, THE WIFE STALKER is a fast-paced page-turner, full of unexpected twists and an ending I did not see coming. Impossible to put down!”
     - Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author of ALL THE MISSING GIRLS and THE PERFECT STRANGER

After watching the trailer, we can't wait to binge-read The Wife Stalker!

Friday, January 22, 2021

THE REAL BOOK SPY'S JANUARY 2021 RECOMMENDATION IS...

by The Real Book Spy

Plenty of authors write really good action sequences.

But few have ever really lived that life. 

Brad Taylor, author of the New York Times bestselling Pike Logan series, is one of the few writers who’s actually experienced the kind of hard-hitting action he writes about. A 21-year veteran of the U.S. Army Infantry and Special Forces, including eight years with the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, Taylor knows a thing or two about combat, and that been-there-done-that authenticity bleeds through on every single page.

In his latest blockbuster thriller, American Traitor, Pike Logan—who is the leader of the Taskforce, an elite, off-the-books counterterrorism unit—and his significant other, Jennifer Cahill (also a member of the Taskforce), head to Australia for what is supposed to be a relaxing getaway. Instead, things go sideways almost immediately when they discover that their host, former colleague Clifford “Dunkin” Delmonty, is on the run from a team of Chinese hitmen. 

Dunkin, it turns out, stumbled upon something he shouldn’t have, and as Pike and Jennifer piece the clues together, a larger conspiracy emerges . . . one so big that it could very well lead to a war between China and Taiwan unless the Taskforce can expose the truth and stop the bad guys before it’s too late. 

In typical Brad Taylor fashion, American Traitor feels ripped straight from the headlines. Without giving anything away, few writers have their finger on the pulse of the geopolitical world the way Taylor does, making his stories feel at times a bit too close for comfort. While much of the genre is still focused on Russia, North Korea, and/or Middle Eastern terrorism, Taylor’s take on what China may or may not be up too is rather refreshing, albeit a bit terrifying. 

As for Pike Logan, well, he reached must-read status years ago. If you’re a fan of Vince Fynn, Brad Thor, Tom Clancy, or Mark Greaney—you will love Taylor’s work. Personally, I’ve always appreciated his diverse cast of characters, which has always featured a mix of strong, kickass women. It’s not uncommon these days to see authors try to include more women into their stories, but Taylor was doing it long before anyone else, and frankly, he just plain does it better. Pike is the star, sure, but Jennifer is every bit as important to this series, and you can expect her to steal plenty of scenes in this one.

Thank you to The Real Book Spy! We love action-packed plots and kickass female characters so American Traitor is sure to be a Rogue favorite!

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

NICK PETRIE GOES ROGUE

Nick Petrie received his MFA in fiction from the University of Washington and won a Hopwood Award for short fiction while an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. His story “At the Laundromat” won the 2006 Short Story Contest in The Seattle Review, a national literary journal. 

His first novel, THE DRIFTER, won the ITW Thriller and Barry Awards, and was nominated for Edgar®, Anthony, and Hammett Awards. He won the 2016 Literary Award from the Wisconsin Library Association and was named one of Apple’s 10 Writers to Read in 2017. Light It Up was named the Best Thriller of 2018 by Apple Books and has been nominated for a Barry Award.

by Nick Petrie

The last time I spoke with K.J. Howe, just before the Night of a Thousand Authors, she surprised me with a question: As a writer, what are you proudest of?  

I’ve done a lot of interviews in the last six years, and nobody has ever asked that question before. I wasn’t terribly proud of my answer, that’s for sure. I said something about how I was proud that I could write a book a year – although even as I said it, I knew it wasn’t coming out right.  

I have wanted to be a writer since high school. I spent more than twenty-five years learning how to tell stories, accumulating three unpublished novels and countless short stories along the way. All this while running a small business, having a family, trying to have a life. 

Then Putnam agreed to publish The Drifter, and asked for another book in a year’s time. My upcoming novel, The Breaker, will be my sixth published novel. And two years ago, I shuttered my business, so I can write full time. Which is another challenge entirely.

Writing is hard work. It’s fun, for sure, but it’s also difficult, especially when your writing life, which, for me, was a precious unpaid preoccupation for twenty-five years, becomes the thing that pays your mortgage. You spend eight hours a day, for months at a time, alone in a small dark room staring at a screen and trying to be creative, goddamnit.

I was a carpenter and home renovation contractor for fifteen years, so I don’t want to equate the challenges of skilled physical labor, with all the attendant risk to life and limb, to sitting at my desk and typing. Compared to working three stories up on a steep-pitched Victorian, teetering on narrow planks as we tear off four ancient layers of shingles with pitchforks and lay down a new roof during the hot, humid heights of August? Sitting at my desk and typing is a breeze.  

But writing isn’t typing. Writing, for me, is about digging deep into myself to find the hearts of my characters and to put their emotions – which are my emotions, because all my characters come from someplace inside of me – on the page for all to see. Which means that writing entails a different kind of risk than demolishing a building or raising a roof, but it is risk nonetheless. The risk of exposing my own flawed heart to the world.

Another challenge to the work involves the fact that it’s really hard to know how well you’re doing, from paragraph to paragraph, scene to scene, chapter to chapter. Do the words do what I want them to do? Does the reader feel the emotion I’m trying to convey? Does the action telegraph in a way that makes it vivid? Is the whole thing just a cliché already done better by someone else?  

It takes me the better part of a year to write a novel, and most of that time is also spent trying to stay afloat in the quicksand of my own self-doubt.

For many years, maybe because I wrote mostly in isolation, I thought that I was the only person who felt this way. Since my first novel was published, I’ve spoken to many, many accomplished writers who have spent decades navigating their own confidence quicksand. It’s become clear to me that, in order to succeed in creative life, even in the smallest way, you need enormous reserves of energy and resilience and optimism in the face of great opposition. It’s no wonder that the writers I know tend to be pretty amazing people.  

So, back to Kim Howe’s original question. What I’m proudest of, to be utterly honest, is that I manage to keep writing, despite everything. Despite my own self-doubts, despite a quarter-century of failures and near-misses, despite the uncertainties of how my agent and editor and readers will receive what I’ve written. Even now that I’m an award-winning, bestselling author – I still feel those doubts, and I still write every day anyway.

Here’s why.

In the late 90’s, I went to a talk by Seamus Heaney, Irish poet and Nobel laureate. Someone in the audience asked him: What’s the hardest thing about writing poetry? He gave her a gentle smile and said, “Getting started, keeping going, and getting started again.”

Implicit in Heaney’s tiny impromptu poem, of course, is the recurrence of failure, and the power of perseverance.

I can’t tell you how much that sly comment has meant to this writer over the decades. 

Thank you, Nick! We can't wait to read THE BREAKER

Friday, January 15, 2021

THE SPY WHO WORKED FROM HOME: OR NOT!

by Chris Goff

So, I joked about writing The Spy Who Worked from Home, but to be honest I saw a lot of potential there. Except, it turns out, it's hard to spy from home. Spying is all about intelligence gathering, and in today's world with all the secure buildings and heavily defended cyber connections, its hard to gather much useful intel on a laptop in your pjs. 

What happened when Covid 19 struck?

Some agencies, such as the NSA, stuck with their "strictly forbidden to work from home" policies, and tried creating classified office space. They designated work hours, set up shifts for various teams and contractors, and disinfected the office space during shift change. 

Other spies tried working from home. Not a problem when working unclassified elements. A big problem for classified work. And, as the intelligence communities are known for over-classifying information, it soon became clear some things needed to be declassified. It may turn out that there will be less material deemed classified that spies want to get their hands on, and more clues out there to what material is classified.

Keeping tabs on the workforce! 

Spies also faced problems similar to the problems the regular workforce experienced. With everyone working at home these days, a lot of employers want ways to keep better tabs on their employees. Work surveillance isn't new, but digital advances during the pandemic have taken it to new heights. It's almost like the boss is standing over you. Cyber apps let your boss know exactly what you're up to, what apps you are using most, what digital devices, and even what keystrokes you're making. One cyber surveillance company reported seeing a 16% increase in orders, and a 40% increase from current customers asking for more licenses. 

Just what everyone wants, their spy boss looking over their shoulder, recommending ways to be more productive working from home. What ever happened to the silent agreement that I'm doing my work and you're getting results?

So, are there spies doing real spy work from home?

Yes! Take the two Chinese engineers indicted for "researching vulnerabilities in networks of biotech and other firms publicly known for work on Covid-19 vaccines, treatments, and testing technology." They targeted firms in multiple countries: Australia, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK. They targeted AI companies, defense contractors and a solar energy company. They stole hundreds of millions of dollars in trade secrets. Working for themselves they attempted blackmail, and other times stole information of obvious interest to the Chinese government. In July, FBI Director Christopher Wray accused China of a "whole-of-state effort to become the world's only superpower by any means necessary," and said. "The FBI is now opening a new China-related counterintelligence case ever 10 hours." In fact, nearly half of the 5,000 active counterintelligence case currently under way across the country are related to China. 

And the UK claimed that hackers targeting organizations trying to stop a coronavirus vaccine in the UK, US and Canada "almost certainly" operated as "part of Russian intelligence services."

How are they doing this?

The theory is the Russians hackers used malware (specifically WellMess and WellMail) to download files from machines. The malware was planted through "spear-phishing" campaigns, targeting individuals who unknowingly—or rather unwittingly—gave up passwords and access codes.

The UK's National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) calls out a hacking group called APT29, also known as The Dukes or Cozy Bear. NCSC says it's more than 95% certain the group is part of the Russian intelligence services. Cozy Bear was first identified as being a significant "threat actor" in 2014 by Crowdstrike, an American cyber-security firm.

With a name like Cozy Bear, do you have any doubt these guys are working from home, on laptops in their pjs? Me, either! 

So where does that leave me?

Clearly The Spy Who Worked From Home is not a book I'm destined to write. There is a lot I know. There is a lot I can research. (My friend Lee Goldberg convinced me of that in his latest write up in CrimeReads.) And I may be technically saavy, but not at the hacking level. Which leaves me to take Lee's advice and finish researching my latest work-in-progress. Working title: Operation Gentoo.

What are your theories of what will happen with the traditional spy genre? What changes to you see coming?

Thursday, January 14, 2021

ROGUE FLASH - Chris Goff is featured in Shoutout Colorado!

Shoutout Colorado is an online publication designed to spark meaningful conversations. They like hearing from small business owners, mom-and-pops, and independent artists. It’s all about bringing attention to the entrepreneurs and creatives who live in the community. 

Shoutout Colorado reached out to Chris and asked her to tell them how her background shaped who she is today. Her answers give you an insight into who she is and what makes her tick. Check it out here. Be sure to leave a comment, and become part of the conversation!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

MYSTERY MINUTE GOES ROGUE

by Z.J. Czupor

He Did it For the Money

In 1920, he was born to poor, illiterate Italian immigrants in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City. At the age of 12, he dropped out of school to get a job after his father deserted the family. He worked as a railroad switchboard attendant to help put food on his family's table. Later, he graduated from City College of New York and joined the US Army Air Force in WWII. Because of his poor eyesight, he was stationed in Germany and India as a public relations officer. After the war, he returned to New York and attended the New School for Social Research and Columbia University.

His first published work was a short story, “The Last Christmas,” which appeared in American Vanguard (1950) and at the age of 28, he wrote his first novel, The Dark Arena (1955), which received fine reviews but only earned him $3,500. Ten years later, his second novel, The Fortunate Pilgrim, got similar reviews, but only earned him $3,000. The New York Times called the latter novel a "small classic."

Still in need of money, he found work writing and editing for a line of pulp magazines like Male, True Action and Swank,where he wrote adventure stories based on real events, such as WWII battles.

In the late 1960s, Mario Puzo (1920-1999) was married with five kids and living in Long Island. He was virtually broke. His eldest child, Tony, said, "His father liked to do things first-class even though we only had fifth-class money. He ran up a lot of debt.”

Puzo's editor told him his last novel, The Fortunate Pilgrim, might have done better if it had more Mafia in it but he ignored the advice for he did not want to write about organized crime. He wrote two more undistinguished novels before he decided to put his highbrow literary goals aside and set out to write a novel with commercial appeal. 

"I was 45 years old and tired of being an artist…It was really time to grow up and sell out as Lenny Bruce* once advised," Puzo wrote in his memoir. 

So Puzo wrote a ten-page outline for a novel based entirely on research. He called it The Godfather; a fictional account of the Corleone crime family whose son Michael takes the reins after his father is murdered. But his publisher passed. 

Later, a friend arranged a meeting at G.P. Putnam’s Sons, where Mario regaled the editors for an hour with Mafia tales. They gave him the green light and a $5,000 advance. 

The advance was a strong motivation—an offer he couldn't refuse—so he set out to turn his outline into a novel. In 1965, he retreated to his basement nook, a broom-closet-like space that had enough room for a desk, typewriter, and little more. While he wrote away, his five children would often go downstairs and play loud games. Tony said his father would say, “Keep it down. I’m writing a best-seller.” 

While he worked on The Godfather, Puzo was also writing three stories a month for Magazine Management, along with book reviews for The New York Times, Book World, Time magazine, and a children's book The Runaway Summer of Davie Shaw (Platt & Munk, 1966). Puzo said, "I must have knocked out millions of words. I tell ya, it's absolutely the best training a writer could get, to work on those magazines. You did everything."

He finally finished the novel three years later, in 1968, because he needed the final installment of his $5,000 advance to pay for his family’s planned vacation to Europe. Even after he turned the novel into his publisher, he was not happy with the finished manuscript and thought he would do one more rewrite when he returned to America. 

But he was in deep debt. Writing in his memoir, The Godfather Papers and Other Obsessions, he admitted owing $20,000 to relatives, finance companies, banks and assorted bookmakers and shylocks. The Europe vacation would cost him more money than he had. His wife did not know that when they came home Puzo planned to sell the house. 

Upon his return, he had lunch at the Algonquin Hotel with his editor Bill Targ and was stunned to learn that the publisher sold the paperback rights for $410,000 to Fawcett Publishing before it was released in hardback. Back then, the record for paperback rights was $10,000. Today, that $410,000 would equal more than $3 million. Puzo said he didn’t dare rewrite his manuscript, figuring his publisher wouldn’t like it and would take the money back.

Published in 1969, The Godfather became a phenomenal success and remained on the New York Times Best Seller list for sixty-seven weeks, sold more than 20 million copies, and is still in print. Puzo then collaborated with director Francis Ford Coppola on the three screenplays that make up The Godfather film trilogy. The first two movies won nine Academy Awards, including best picture and best adapted screenplay for Puzo. The films catapulted The Godfather into a worldwide phenomenon. 

The novel and films had a huge cultural impact in that this was the first time Italian Americans were depicted as three-dimensional characters and not just cardboard foreigners who spoke in heavy accents. Even mob figures of the era liked the film and said it was “on the money.”

Mario Puzo was never affiliated with the Mafia. Incidentally, the word “Mafia,” never appears in the film script. He said, “I never met a real, honest-to-god gangster. I knew the gambling world pretty good, but that’s all.”

Following on that success, Puzo wrote screenplays for the first two Superman films (1978, 1980) and an uncredited version of The Cotton Club (1984).

On his nationally syndicated television show on CNN, Larry King Live, King asked Puzo, "Why do we like the family Mafia theme so much?" Puzo answered, “Well, because it’s wishful thinking. I think everybody would like to have somebody that they could go to for justice, without going through the law courts and the lawyers.”

He added, “The Godfather was really, to me, a family novel, more than a crime novel.” 

Despite the novel's success, Puzo still considered The Fortunate Pilgrim his best work. In his memoir, he wrote, "The book (The Godfather) got much better reviews than I expected. I wished like hell I'd written it better."

Mario Puzo wrote eleven novels: The Dark Arena (1955), The Fortunate Pilgrim (1965), The Runaway Summer of Davie Shaw (1966), Six Graves to Munich (as Mario Cleri, 1967), The Godfather, (1969), Fools Die (1978), The Sicilian (1984), The Fourth K (1990) and The Last Don (1996). His last two novels, Omerta (2000) and The Family (2001) were published posthumously. He also wrote three non-fiction books and ten short stories.

He continued to live in the same house in Bay Shore, Long Island, the one he almost had to sell. But he did remodel it and doubled it in size.

Puzo was born poor and never felt like he had enough money. When he died of heart failure in 1999, at the age of 78, his net worth was around $20 million.

###

*Leonard Alfred Schneider (1925-1966), better known as Lenny Bruce, was a stand-up counterculture comedian, satirist, and social critic.

Some of Mario Puzo’s most famous lines are:

· “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

· “Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment.”

· “A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.”

· “The strength of a family, like the strength of an army, lies in its loyalty to each other.”

· “What is past is past, never go back. Not for excuses. Not for justification, not for happiness. You are what you are, the world is what it is.”

· “Behind every successful fortune; there is crime.” (based on Honoré de Balzac: "Behind every great fortune there is a crime.")

· "Never let a domestic quarrel ruin a day's writing. If you can't start the next day fresh, get rid of your wife."

· "Moodiness is really concentration. Accept it because concentration is the key to writing."

· “Actions defined a man; words were a fart in the wind.”

· “Italians have a little joke, that the world is so hard a man must have two fathers to look after him, and that’s why they have godfathers.”

Thank you, Z.J. Czupor for bringing the genius behind The Godfather back to life! Readers, do you have a favorite tale written by or about Mario Puzo?

Friday, January 8, 2021

NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS FOR THRILLER READERS & WRITERS

by Jenny Milchman

It’s that time of year again. Happy 2021, Rogue Readers! I hope that whether these 12 goals resonate with you and become part of some fun to-do’s, or just provide interesting things to consider, they offer a lens into this thrilling reading, writing life that brings us all together here at Rogue Women Writers.

1. January It’s a fresh year, a blank slate, a blank page. I like to use this time to be intentional, envision how I’d like the next twelve months to go. I may not get exactly where I predict—heck, I may not even get close, especially if a curve ball is thrown in like, cough, a global pandemic—but it helps to set my year on course. Readers, what would you like your book year to look like? Do you want to read more, or differently? Writers, what kind of project do you picture taking on with a shiny new year ahead? Reach for the stars. Where do you want to go this year? 

2. February It’s the dead of winter and we need ways to warm up. Readers, what book would heat up your month? Maybe one set in a warm clime—think Randy Wayne White’s series in Florida. Or something with loads of action like Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X books—all that attacking works up a sweat. Thriller writers, turn up the heat on your work-in-progress. Get your protagonist in hot water, more trouble than came before. Insert a smokin’ plot twist.  

3. March Spring is in the air! A change of seasons is a great time to think about changing things up in your reading and writing life. If you’ve been reading one sub-genre, try a different one. Check out a spy or assassin thriller if you typically read domestic suspense. Or a book by a female author if you typically read men, and vice versa. Writers, this is the time to send your work-in-progress in a new direction, or unearth a particularly important clue in the thawing ground of your mystery.

4. April The cruelest month, according to T.S. Eliot. A time of taxes and flowers, rain and sun. April for me is about contradictions. One day it feels like summer, the next winter doesn’t seem to have ended. Take a page from the book of opposites and apply it to your reading life. What two authors have nothing in common? Have fun identifying a pair, then read one book by each. Writers, try working on two scenes or chapters at once—and make them as different as you can. Or just follow Eliot’s example and find a book that exemplifies cruelty—Thomas Harris, anyone?—then create the cruelest character you can dream up. 

5. May This is an easy month in some ways. Warm, anyone tied to the school year knows a break is nearly nigh, and even non-school birds are likely to enjoy the long Memorial Day weekend. Readers, settle in with an old favorite—one of those books we turn to again and again that reminds us of good [reading] times. Writers, time to give our characters a breather. Thrillers benefit when the relentless pace is interrupted every now and then; this lets readers appreciate it when the action kicks in. So give your story the equivalent of a nice, warm May afternoon. Then interrupt it! After all—summer is coming, and it won’t be all sunshine in the thriller world.

6. June Weddings, graduations, big events. Let’s translate that into reading and writing. Concretely, by checking out one of the great thrillers about marriage (try Robyn Harding’s The Swap) or kids at school (Lisa Lutz’s The Swallows is a swoon for me). Or figuratively—find a book to read that will be an accomplishment and milestone for you—perhaps a classic you’ve always wanted to read but haven’t. (Dostoyevsky is one of the first great thriller authors). Writers, could a scene in your work-in-progress use a milestone to further the plot? 

7. July Summertime and the living is easy. Except in the thriller world nothing’s ever easy. Vacation lit is a burgeoning sub-genre (you heard it here first. Well, maybe not first). Readers, check out Zoje Stage’s latest, Getaway. There are great vacay films in the thriller genre—a whole subset of survival ones like Outback and Backcountry. Writers, have you considered setting a book in a new and exotic location?

8. August It’s hot out and we can stand a little chill. Let’s do the opposite of what we did in the dead of winter and consider the cold lit sub-genre. Readers, check out Julia Spencer Fleming’s In the Bleak Midwinter, or S. K. Tremayne’s The Ice Twins or a King classic like The Shining or Misery. And writers, a great way to work the writing muscle is by incorporating weather into your work. I think of it in terms of the senses—a great writer lets us feel, smell, see, even taste the weather. Write a scene and make your reader shiver—physically and figuratively. 


9. September Even more than January, September feels like a new start to me. Readers and writers, take time to look back on where you have been these last eight months, and what you would like to do before another new year comes around again. Steam ahead toward a reading goal like number of books read? Dig into that tome that’s been sitting on your night table or e-reader? Writers, is it possible to complete a writing project if you give a big push now?

10. October This is my favorite month so I’m going to suggest we give that a reading and writing slant. Nothing but fun this month! Carve out your very best reading time. Want to spend a whole day with nothing but a good book and scrummy food? October’s your month. Let the fam know—or tell yourself—that you’re off chore-duty today because you Have to Read. You deserve it. Writers, give yourself a break on whatever part of the process is hardest for you. Are you looking for agents and hitting a wall? Hit the pause button instead. Stuck in the murky middle of your novel? Skip ahead to a scene you can’t wait to write. 

11. November Time to hunker down, for winter is coming. Haul out the afghan and put together a reading list, all the books you haven’t gotten to yet this year. Go to the library or bookstore—if we’re post-pandemic—or online and get yourself some reading treats before the cold weather and/or end of another year slams us. Writers, crawl deep into that work-in-progress, stay there till you’re so bleary-eyed you have to come out. You’ll be amazed at what you’ve accomplished!

12. December No matter what you celebrate, make this month a holiday. Host a book club party either in-person or virtually. Read a holiday-themed book. Authors, a slowdown is coming in the biz and even your editor will probably miss a few days looking out for that book that’s past its deadline. Emerging writers, give yourself a break on querying and use this time to gather trusty readers to critique your soon-to-be-finished book. After all, another new year is almost here to fill with reading and writing goals! 

Readers and writers, inspire us by sharing your ambitious goals for 2021!

Monday, January 4, 2021

ROGUE WOMEN DECEMBER ROUNDUP!

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

Diane Capri went Rogue to tell us about her latest book in the Jack Reacher companion series, Full Metal Jack.

"Just the facts, Ma'am." Z. J. Czupor spent this month's Mystery Minute on why the beloved show Dragnet opened with police badge #714

hygge (pronounced hue-guh) is the Danish art of living life with intent. Carla Neggers gives us her suggestions for incorporating hygge into our lives by creating a perfect reading nook.

Karna Small Bodman shares some Rogue suggestions for gift giving and holiday treats in Bites and Books for Christmas

Ever feel like throwing a book across the room when you hit the end? Lisa Black delves into why readers like satisfying endings, and then lists a few books that left her sputtering. 

And Chris Goff finishes the year with these hilarious tales of holiday disasters. I mean, who hasn't experienced an epic fail?