Friday, February 26, 2021


Karna Small Bodman: We are delighted to welcome New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 25 novels and the EMMY award winning co-host of the literary TV show, A Word on Words, J.T. Ellison.  With millions of books in print, her novels have been published in 25 countries. Here J.T. tells us where she got the inspiration to write her new thriller, HER DARK LIES, described as one featuring a mystery, a ruined wedding dress and troubling shadows hovering over what should be a lovely wedding in an idyllic setting.

by J.T. Ellison

For those who know me, it’s not a surprise that my latest novel is set off the coast of Italy. My family is Italian and live in the Piedmont region, so any excuse to visit, I find.

Our last trip to visit family was a bit of a disaster. We went to Italy to celebrate my major milestone birthday. It was my parents, my husband and myself, my brother, and one of my nephews.

It rained, almost every day. We all caught terrible colds. We tend to migrate around when we travel, in order to see and experience as much as possible, and there were six of us (sometimes eight) in a rented van (nicknamed, appropriately, Van Go) barreling around the Italian Alps, sneezing and coughing, and, well, arguing. If you’ve ever been sick on vacation, you understand. It’s ten thousand times worse when you’re not at home. Being overseas, it is one heck of a challenge.

Como was our last stop, and we planned to be there three days before flying home. Traffic was awful, the roads so narrow we nearly scraped off the mirror a few times. Add in the sneezing, coughing, shouting  in Italian and English  by the time we alighted on the shores of Lake Como, everyone was primed for murder.

Thankfully, we found some excellent codeine-laced cough drops and soldiered through. There was good wine, of course. Our room had a beautiful terrace that overlooked the lake, and miracle of all miracles, when we woke, the sun was shining. My birthday had arrived, and finally, things were looking up.

I’d lost my voice at that point (a decennial tradition) but this was my first time on Lake Como, so I packed up a box of tissues and we caught the ferry. We toured around on the lake all day, disembarking at the various towns, gobbling down risottos and Prosecco. Eventually, we simply sat in our seats on the ferry’s top deck and motored around the lake. It was a wonderful day.

Spirits restored, we settled in for a special birthday dinner. As the wine arrived, a yacht pulled up to the dock on Comacina, Como’s sole island.

A wedding party emerged, disappearing into the island’s heart. It’s become something of a family joke  it never fails, no matter where we are, we run into a wedding. We could hear the makings of a grand party going on. As we were served dessert, fireworks began. I was wildly impressed that my husband had managed fireworks for my birthday, but quickly found out it was a Comacina wedding tradition.

We all had a good laugh, and I knew immediately I had to find a way to write this into a book. The setting, the yacht, the wedding, the fireworks. Murderous intentions. A novel was born.

Comacina has a number of legends surrounding it, which piqued my interest to do more research in the area. But to achieve my vision for the novel, I also needed crashing waves, extreme isolation, and a sheer cliff face, so I married Comacina with Capri for the cliffs and grottos, set it off even farther west where no one can reach it easily, and put a grand fortress on the cliff. Only later did I realize I’d put my fictional Isle Isola smack dab in the Tyrrhenian Sea between the Scylla and Charybdis. So fitting.

Being on an island in the middle of the sea, only accessibly by yacht, hydrofoil, or helicopter, during the stormy season, amped up the isolation needed to make HER DARK LIES the ultimate gothic thriller. Its roots are as Italian as I am. I can’t wait to go back to Italy and see what sparks for me next!

This new thriller will be our March 9. In the meantime, you can visit J.T.'s website hereThanks, J.T. for being a guest here on Rogue Women Writers. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021


 by Chris Goff

The Big Reveal

In July, I will have the distinct pleasure of discussing this topic with fellow Rogue Carla Neggers in our X-Treme CrafFest session entitled “Character Relationships,” airing during Virtual ThrillerFest XVI, June 28-July 10, 2021. Attendees can tune into over 100 conversations featuring over 200 industry professionals, all discussing specific aspects of the writing craft: setting, dialogue, conflict, opening sentences, etc.

So what do Carla and I know about Character Relationships?

A lot! I am the author of eight books—six in a Birdwatcher’s Mystery series and two international thrillers. I’ve been nominated for a lot of awards, won a few and honed my craft for nearly 30 years.

Okay, I admit, I have ten years’ worth of learning curve sitting in boxes in my basement. At least four novel attempts and a slew of short story attempts. But who doesn’t?

Carla, maybe!

She is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 75 novels, including her acclaimed Sharpe & Donovan suspense series. Her books have been translated into two dozen languages and sold in over 35 countries.

I’m in awe.

But I digress.

In the world of crime fiction, there is an ongoing debate about what’s most important– character or plot. As a beginning writer, I would have said plot. After all, it’s the pulse-pounding ride that makes a thriller so exciting, right? It’s all about the chase to the end to see justice triumph. But, as a seasoned writer, I’ve changed my mind. After eight books, I’ve come to the realization…

It’s character that drives the story.

After all, justice looks differently to different people. How justice looks depends on whether you’re the protagonist or the antagonist, the wife or the other woman, the boss or the employee.

It took me years to complete my debut thriller, DARK WATERS. The idea came to me in 1999. I was in Israel for eight weeks with my daughter. She was eleven and there receiving medical treatment. I was the parent on the ground. I had just turned in my first book in the Birdwatcher’s Mystery series, and was under contract for four more in the series. I knew I should be working on Book #2. Instead, I spent the eight weeks focusing on my daughter and taking notes. Lots of notes. The more I watched, the more I was struck by the by the complexity of Israeli society. There were lots of Jews, who believed different things. Some weren’t religious, some were. Some were orthodox, some were ultra-orthodox. There were Israeli Arabs, separated by a border wall from their Palestinian relatives. I was enthralled with how many similarities there were to things happening at the borders in the US.

It was right at the time when suicide bombings were gearing up, and the fear and anger was palpable.

Later, when I worked on the book, it was the characters in my book that made the story work. It was their differences, offset by their similarities and their common goals, which drove the plot and made the story come alive.

The good the bad and the ugly.

It is incredible how nuanced relationships are. You can love someone and still not like them. You can be in awe of someone’s accomplishments, but despise them as a human being. You can try with every fiber of your being to make someone understand, and still not be able to make them comprehend.

And that’s what makes it interesting!

Like in real life, it’s the push and pull between characters that captivates the readers. Who is smarter, the villain or the protagonist? Does the person your character loves unconditionally, place conditions on their relationship? Do the characters have different belief systems and yet want the same outcome? For the same or for different reasons?

I’ve spent the past few days thinking about what I want to say in our session, and what I want to ask Carla. I know there’s a lot I can learn from her. And for the past week, I’ve been taking notes again, and begun tweaking Operation Gentoo. One thing I know for certain, the stronger my characters, the better the book.

If you could share one truth about relationships or character, one thing you’ve learned over the years, what would it be?

Friday, February 19, 2021


by Jenny Milchman

Did anybody else have those carnation campaigns around Valentine’s Day in high school? I think they were a student council fundraiser, maybe to pay for prom. The fact that I don’t really know shows my relationship to the carnation sales (and also to high school). I didn’t even go to prom, and I was never the one getting carnations delivered in every single period, standing up in a for me? dance over and over again. My best friend and I had each other’s carnation backs, saving the other from being flowerless.

Point being, Valentine’s Day can be tough. As a teenager who has yet to experience romance. And as an adult in myriad ways. Plus February is about much more than Hallmark. So I thought I would share some thrilling reads that each embrace a different kind of love.

Love for a Twin Sister

Speaking of Summer
by Kalisha Buckhanon

Anybody who has a sister will relate to the love that infuses this dark literary mystery. Autumn’s twin sister, Summer, disappears one snowy night from a rooftop in Harlem. There is only one set of footprints in the snow, and the door from the building is locked. Intriguing setup—but the strong, beating heart of this story is the lengths to which Autumn will go to find out what happened to her sister, and the tangled, twisted bonds of sisterly love.

Love for a Cause

Don’t Turn Around
by Jessica Barry

I know, there’re two Jessica Barry novels on this list. She’s, like, [cue tween-y voice] my new #faveauthor This book frightened me to my very toes, as in, I had to stop reading at one point and go stalk around the house to put me back in the Now instead of the terrifying world Barry creates where society is divided, and you can almost (note that I did say almost) see the other’s point of view. In those shades of gray, which Barry delves into furiously well, true terror lies.

More Twin Love

The Vanishing Half
by Brit Bennett

Another twin sister disappearance novel, dealing with the topics of identity, race, and the dark legacy men leave on women. Is it possible to grab hold of another life, even if it means never seeing your family or going back home again? When Stella Vignes stumbles almost accidentally upon the chance to live as a white woman married to a wealthy businessman, she takes it, although it requires abandoning all that she loves. And then one day, her stack of lies is threatened.

Mother/Daughter Love

by Jessica Barry

The love a mother has for her daughter propels this wilderness thriller. When a small plane crashes in the Rockies, there are no survivors. Or are there? Because even though Maggie Carpenter hasn’t spoken to her daughter in years, knows nothing about her life, job, or her impending marriage, she can’t believe that Allison perished in that fiery crash. And as Allison makes her way home, her journey places the mother who won’t give up on her in grave danger as well.

Can’t We Just Be Friends Love

The Lost Night
by Andrea Bartz

The love friends have for each other can be as deep as any other. But the flip side is how intense the hatred and rivalries and betrayals can also run. A group of friends has grown up; it’s been ten years since they left their drunken, partying days behind, with one key member dead. But when one of the living starts to wonder why her memory of the last night they spent together is so cloudy, everything else has to be questioned too. Hipster Brooklyn and millennial life are put vividly on the page, as well as the reality of what happens when we leave our youth behind with secrets still buried.

Love for a Child Who Isn’t Your Own

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

How much must you love kids to be a professional nanny? Arguably, Emira Tucker behaves more lovingly to her three year old charge, Briar, than does Briar’s snooty, entitled mom. But when Emira is accused of kidnapping little Briar in an upscale grocery late one night after her employers have leaned on her to work extra hours, all you-know-what breaks loose in the upper crust neighborhood where the Chamberlains live, on the media, and in mom Alix and nanny Emira’s lives. Especially because Emira is in no way a kidnapper, and Alix doesn’t know her three year old at all.

Love for an Era

Confessions in B-Flat by Donna Hill

This is the most traditional love story of my selections. Will Jason Tanner, a new arrival to New York City at the height of the civil rights movement, who comes bearing the anti-war message of Dr. Martin Luther King, woo beat poet, Anita Hopkins, a devotee of Malcom X? But this novel is also a love letter to an era, one we in many ways need to revisit, rediscover, and reboot now, as we seek to build new and loving binds with each other.

Love for a Stranger

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner

Frankie Elkin is Lisa Gardner’s new heroine, a woman who seeks and finds people who’ve been forgotten to the world, their lives, even their own families. There are so many people truly alone in the world, or who feel alone in it, and that’s why everybody needs a Frankie: fierce, dogged, and brave. Because this is a Lisa Gardner novel, we know the character will come riddled with flaws that make her relatable and real. But you also know you’ll find in Frankie a heroine for the times, along with the truest message of love, which is: Never, ever give up.

What's on your Valentine's month reading list? Let us know! 

Friday, February 12, 2021


By Lisa Black

I will not have a new book coming out in 2021. 

Last summer I finished what I thought would be the first book in a new series. My protagonist could be described as ‘like Jack Reacher, if Jack Reacher were a fortyish ex-housewife with no martial arts training.’ I loved it. My agent was enthusiastic about it. We sent it to the publisher.

The publisher said: No. 

Not ‘this needs some work.’ Not ‘the villain isn’t convincing.’ Not ‘here is ten pages of suggested changes.’ 

Just ‘no.’ 

They did add: ‘But you know what we’d really like…’

In the writing world, having a book rejected is not only a shock, an interruption to the publishing schedule, a pain in the #*&^$ neck and possibly a financial hardship, but it really hurts your feelings. It’s a punch to the gut like your mother throwing your drawing away instead of hanging it on the fridge. It’s like spending your senior year working up the courage to ask a particular person to the prom and when you do, they give a snorting laugh and walk away. It’s like overhearing your spouse confiding to their best friend that they should have married the person they dated before you. 

It is, in a word, the worst. 

In case I haven’t made it completely clear, it’s not only that a year of your life has been utterly wasted. (Sure, you can tell me it was a learning experience and all for the best and it will make me a better writer, but I won’t believe you. On principle, I won’t believe you.) It’s not a matter of second guessing, such as: Did I choose the wrong setting? A boring title? Maybe I should have given my character red hair. 

No, a rejection this flat makes you doubt your very sanity. Am I so out of touch with reality that I thought this was a good book? Am I crazy, or just stupid? 

Of course I handled the whole thing with maturity and professionalism. For example, I moved through the seven stages of editorial rejection in record time: 

Disbelief: What, no? You’re just going to say no? As in, like, no?

Denial: This can’t be right. Is my editor on vacation? Did the snarky temp at the front desk write this email?

Bargaining: What if I throw in a sex scene? What if I make the character twenty years younger and a one-armed trapeze artist who escaped from a circus in Uzbekistan?

Guilt: This is karma for not completing the three-page character profile of the protagonist’s second cousin.

Anger: The publishing world has been taken over by uncouth mercenaries who wouldn’t know a good book if they were stuck overnight on the Flushing line with nothing but a copy!

Depression: I suck. This book failed because I suck, have always sucked, and they probably only published all those other books because my mom made them. 

Acceptance: All right—what would you, publisher, really like? [Maybe I can repurpose this manuscript down the road….]

But of course, it was 2020. The country, the entire planet, was having the worst year ever and I’m going to publicly weep and moan because I typed ninety thousand words that no one wants to read? Complain to my husband, who was out of work for 8 months? To my niece who’s trying to teach middle-schoolers via Zoom? To friends and family who have loved ones in the hospital with Covid-19? Nope, not an option. Besides, who wants to advertise the fact that they crashed and burned into a still-smoking heap of failure? 

So there I was, wallowing in a writer’s peculiar and lonely kind of misery—but here’s the kicker: I actually mean this to be an inspiring blog. Because I’d been there before, and survived. 

I’ve had a book rejected before, a previous year of my life tossed in the can. I’ve had chapters axed, a character completely remade, book ideas vetoed without even an outline read. Once before an editorial meeting I spent ten minutes explaining my next plot to my agent only to be warned: “Yes, well, don’t say that. Say pretty much anything but that.” 

There is a lot of rejection in the writing life, and yes, you have to get used to it. But you also have to believe that it’s only a rejection of this particular piece of writing. It’s not a rejection of you. Writers write a lot of stuff--some of it works out, and some of it doesn’t. 

You only fail when you let it stop you. 

So tell me, dear readers: when did you refuse to let a setback stop you? 


Thursday, February 11, 2021


by Paul Vidich

The Memorial Wall in the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley Virginia has 133 black stars carved into Vermont marble.  Each star represents a fallen agency officer.  Many are named, but a few are identified only by the date and place they died.  My new novel, The Mercenary, is inspired by one anonymous man represented by a star.  Initially, I was intimidated by the challenge of telling the story of a high-ranking KGB officer exfiltrated by the CIA, not because it was about Cold War spies, (I had addressed this world in my previous novels), but because my novel was to be set in Moscow, a city I had never visited – and couldn’t in the pandemic.   

I wanted to make sure The Mercenary evoked a vivid sense of Moscow in the last years of the Soviet Union. To create an authentic sense of that place and time, I knew I would have to do a great deal of research.  Before sitting down to write the novel, I did six months of extensive research to get five things right: setting, characters, dialogue, location, and the historical context. This breakdown was helpful for my spy novel, but it can offer readers and writers useful tips for any type of novel research.

SETTING: Setting may be the novelist’s first critical choice. Setting means a certain place at a certain time where the story unfolds.   Setting is not just scenery, or nice descriptive passages, although an illustrator’s eye for a place is part of it. It’s about mood, it’s about the things that draw a character to a place, establishes the novel’s atmosphere, and evoke the story’s imaginary world.  Setting provides the yearnings, fears, attractions, and possibilities that are available to characters who find themselves at a unique moment in a particular place.  It is the stage for the characters whose stories will be told. 

BELIEVABLE CHARACTERS: In The Mercenary, I needed to imagine men and woman whose choices, values, and actions were convincing and of the era.   I read several autobiographies of high-ranking KGB officers who successfully defected to the West.  Their stories are gripping real-life accounts of spies and they paint a graphic picture of the paranoia, incompetence, intrigues and sheer nastiness of the KGB.  I was able to understand the hopes and fears of men who were caught in the Soviet system, and once I inhabited their world, I created Viktor Petrov, a KGB Lieutenant Colonel who wanted out. He became a whole person who lived in a specific apartment block, drank too much, spoke with a provincial accent, and cared deeply for his son.  I created him, as all writers create characters, by accessing my own emotions and psyche, combining them with the real-life accounts of the KGB officers, and then I scraped all this material into a mental space, breathed on the ember, and gave life to Petrov.

DIALOGUE: It is critical. It reveals character and it drives plot.  But to make dialogue authentic, you need to know your character well. I listened to the voices of the Russians who I researched and developed an ear for imitation. Often writers make the mistake of describing a character to help the reader imagine, but writers sometimes wrongly use Somerset Maugham’s technique of sumptuously describing a person’s aquiline nose, grey eyes, knitted brow, and so on, and by the time the reader has finished the paragraph the reader still doesn’t have the faintest idea what the person is like. But if the character opens their mouth and says something, you reveal them in two or three lines. 

LOCATION:   In my previous novels, set in Havana and Washington DC., I visited the cities doing something akin to location scouting.  I wanted to see where the action happened, the routes my characters took from their hotel, where my characters lived, and what they saw when they walked down the street.  I couldn’t visit Moscow in person so I did my location scouting with Google maps.  The street view feature allowed me to visit the city virtually.  Street names, traffic patterns, pedestrian’s clothing can all be seen.  All these little details are important to establish authenticity, but they have to be transparent.  If a detail stands out, the writer has failed.  There is tendency in historical fiction to show off period details, but a detail that draw attention to itself takes the reader out of the moment.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT:  I read as much as I could to understand the Soviet Union in 1985.  The Afghan War had been raging for several years and the Soviet occupation had become deeply unpopular and depleted the Soviet economy.  Details of the historical moment helped shaped the tone of the novel, and became background for several of the characters, allowing me to insert myself into the mind of those characters. Serge Schmemann’s Echoes of a Native Land, a New York Times correspondent’s memoir of living in Moscow, provided a stark and moving account of the city in the 1980s that was infinitely suggestive.

Finally, when I had finished a draft of the novel, I looked to see if I could find a sensitive reader whose personal experiences could validate the experience of a foreigner living in the Soviet Union’s pervasive surveillance. I was fortunate to be find John Beryle, American Ambassador to the Russian Federation 2008-2012, who also happened to be a counselor officer in the American embassy in 1985. He provided invaluable insights into specific details, Moscow life, Russian vocabulary, and he corrected mistakes that would only be noted by someone who lived and breathed Moscow in the ‘80s.

The writer’s sleight of hand is to create a world that is authentic to the reader.  It is not easy to do, but it’s what makes the books we admire succeed.

What are some of your favorite tips, tricks, and strategies for writing an historical novel?

Tuesday, February 9, 2021


By Z. J. Czupor

Doppelgänger: Myth, Literary Device, or the Real Deal?

Unless you are an identical twin, would it unnerve you to bump into your dead ringer … your doppelgänger?

Would your lookalike be your exact double, your evil twin, or just a mischievous spirit?

When a carbon copy character emerges in literature, the author is playing with our sense of reality. In a novel, when another duplicate self appears, doubts automatically surface. The main character questions the double's identity (who are you?) and the main character questions him or herself, (who am I?). In other words, the use of a doppelgänger as a literary device helps writers portray complex characters.

Seeing through the main character's eyes, it sets readers wondering if their protagonist's experience is real, an imagination, or hallucination? That duality inspires terror and dread. 

In general, the doppelgänger creates a creepy or eerie tone within a story, possibly because we see ourselves from outside our own bodies. In other literary situations, an incompetent look-alike can be used to humorous effect.

"Doppelgänger" is German meaning "double-goer" or "double walker." 

It was introduced by German author Jean Paul, in his 1796 novel Siebenkas. In fact, he invented two words: doppeltgänger, (with a "t") his name for an uncanny lookalike; and doppelgänger, to describe a meal in which two courses were served simultaneously. But it wasn't until 1824 that the latter word stuck to mean "apparition of a living person." 

Myths about spirit doubles have been around for thousands of years. In Ancient Egypt, the "ka" was considered one aspect of the soul and depicted as a spirit identical to the body. This myth also lived in Europe, Africa, in Norse mythology, and in English and Irish literature during the 18th and 19th centuries. These oral and written traditions assumed that if you saw your ethereal double, it was a harbinger of bad luck, or … signaled death.

Dueling Natures

Perhaps it was these myths and oral traditions that inspired numerous authors over time to explore our dual natures. 

In Fyodor Dostoevsky's (1821-1881) novella, The Double (1846), a mild and antisocial government clerk meets his bold and assertive reflection. The doppelgänger encroaches on the clerk's affairs and drives him mad by the end of the story.

Edgar Allan Poe's (1809-1849) short story "William Wilson" published in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine (1839) is about an English schoolboy who meets another child with the same name and appearance. This spitting image follows William throughout his life and impedes his ambitions.

The doppelgänger, however, is different from the alter ego — the alternate self, which is embodied by a single person, i.e., Superman/Clark Kent or Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. The device is also different from the imposter who dresses or acts as another character, such as Tom Ripley who pretends to be his Princeton classmate in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) by Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995). 

Some critics consider the doppelgänger plot ruse to be a cliché, but popular stories still abound in novels, soap operas, TV, film, and video games. 

An extensive list of well-known modern mystery and thriller writers has also employed the doppelgänger or evil twin plot tactic, i.e., Stephen King (The Outsider, 2018); Joyce Carol Oates (Jack of Spades, 2015); Tana French (The Likeness, 2008), and Tess Gerritsen (Body Double, 2004) to name a few. The gambit also is popular in romance, science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. 

Are doppelgängers the real deal? 

There are several cases in which historical figures have reported seeing their duplicate selves including President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) who told his wife, Mary Todd, that he saw his reflection doubled in the mirror with one face beside the other. She said the mirror image looked deathly and foreshadowed bad news. Nevertheless, she thought Lincoln would be re-elected but wouldn't "last through it." Lincoln won re-election but was assassinated forty-two days into his second term.

Neuroscientists claim that intense emotions can cause you to perceive an illusory body which shifts your awareness away from your body to the perception of a separate bodily self. In neuroscience jargon, this is called heautoscopy, where scientists study data from brain scans of patients who experience their "double selves" moving and interacting along with a sharing of emotions and thoughts.

Some physicists have speculated that the "Big Bang" — a theory that our universe was created by a massive explosion—also created a parallel universe. They argue that since space is infinite, matter can arrange itself in a finite number of ways, like cards in a deck. Sooner or later our matter is going to repeat, but not necessarily our mental configuration, which could cause an evil doppelgänger version. For example, in its simplest terms, if you love chocolate, your evil twin from a parallel universe would hate chocolate.

According to folk wisdom, everyone has at least one doppelgänger, or maybe as many as seven other "duplicate selves" walking around the world. Creepy, but not very likely.

There are seven billion people on the planet. There is bound to be someone out there who shares your same features. Right? Scientists, however, claim there's about a one in 135 chance that a pair of complete doppelgängers exist somewhere in the world. But the likelihood of someone walking around looking identical to you, specifically, with your facial features, is only one in 1 trillion. 

Psychologist and paranormal investigator Jayne Harris, who authored What Dwells Within: A Study of Spirit Attachment (2015), says, "Whatever the real truth, belief in the spirit double has instilled both fear and wonder in people for thousands of years and will no doubt continue to do so. After all, the wonder of life is surely its mysteries."

How They Met Themselves, watercolor by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1864).

Saturday, February 6, 2021


Just in time for a Valentine gift, Rogue Karna Bodman’s latest thriller Trust but Verify just went on sale at Amazon.  Both the hardcover and audio versions are available at a special price, though not for long.

It is especially timely to make this announcement in conjunction with President Ronald Reagan’s birthday, which is February 6, because the author served six years in the Reagan White House,
first as Deputy Press Secretary, later as Senior Director of the National Security Council. 

This thriller features a member of the White House staff an
d an FBI Special Agent who race to unravel an explosive plot that threatens the lives of international financial leaders and would sink stock markets worldwide.

New York Times bestselling author, Lee Child, describes it this way: “Bodman’s hard-won insider information and sheer storytelling talent make this a book to remember. This novel was recently awarded a medal by the Military Writers Association of America. 

Happy Valentine’s Day from Rogue Women Writers.


Wednesday, February 3, 2021


by Karna Small Bodman

Valentine’s Day is next week. Won’t it be nice to take some time to focus on romance rather than simply remaining safe during challenging times. You know why we all must be careful and keep our distance. But do you know why we celebrate love and close companionship on February 14, when Americans are expected to spend over $27 billion on cards, chocolate, roses and other gifts? Is any part of Valentine’s Day’s history authentically romantic? 

You’ve probably heard that the day has something to do with a patron saint named Valentine, but the actual origins are shrouded in mystery since there are different “martyred saints” with that name. According to one legend, Valentine was a Roman priest living in the third century who secretly married couples after the Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage because he thought single men made better soldiers. 

Anther legend focused on a man named Valentine who, while imprisoned, helped Christians escape and sent the first “Valentine” to a woman who visited him while he was there.  He reportedly signed it, “From your Valentine.”

What about the date in February? Some believe that it originated in the Middle Ages when birds’ mating season was thought to begin on February 14.  The first actual mention of celebrating Valentine’s Day as one that centers on romantic love goes back to Geoffrey Chaucer in 1375 with a line from the poem Parliament of Foules: “For this was sent on Seynt Valentynes’ day/ Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”

When it comes to choosing how to celebrate the day with a gift for your own Valentine, you can certainly send a card, but how about choosing a book . . .  perhaps one focusing on romance, mystery or a combination of the two? Since we Rogues are women, I thought I’d pull together a short list of novels penned by bestselling women authors that just might fit the bill.

A new series by Tracy Gardner from Hallmark Publishing features both romance and mystery.  The first is Out of the Picture. The star of this story is Savanna Shepherd, a former art authenticator who can tell a forgery from the real thing.  She’s described as having a talent for spotting secrets hiding in plain sight. One reviewer tells us this is “A story of family, new beginnings and community … that holds you in pleasure, particularly for mystery and romance story lovers. You will be gripped by the story’s irresistible pace…it will not disappoint.”

The second in this series is Behind the Frame. In this installment, Savanna is convinced that the arrested murder suspect did not commit the crime, and with the help of a doctor, who is her new romantic interest, they uncover hidden resentments and intrigue. This novel also gets rave reviews with readers saying it is, “Everything I love in a cozy mystery: an appealing location, an intriguing mystery to solve, plenty of suspects to consider, and a wonderful group of likable characters.”

If you think your Valentine might like to read more focused mysteries (vs. the “Hallmark variety”) here are two brand new releases that immediately hit the bestseller lists.  We have written about author Marie Benedict before when her terrific novels, The Only Woman in the Room, about the inventions of actress Hedy Lamarr, and Carnegie’s Maid, about a servant who may have inspired Andrew Carnegie.  

Now Marie has penned The Mystery of Mrs. Christie. This novel takes place in 1926 when famous author, Agatha Christie disappeared for a mysterious 11 days, one of the most notorious events in literary history. What happened to her when her empty car was found on the edge of a deep pond, the only clues being tire tracks and a fur coat left in the car which was strange for such a frigid night? What is real and what is mystery? Read the book and decide for yourself.

A final recommendation is a book released just last month, The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins. This too was an instant New York Times and USA Today bestseller. CNN called it “One of the most anticipated books of 2021.” It’s described as being “A delicious twist on the Gothic classic, Jane Eyre that pairs Southern charm with atmospheric suspense.” It’s also called “A delicious thriller with a fresh, sharp twist that you’ll likely want to read in a single sitting.”

Of course, I would also recommend books written by my Rogue colleagues that are listed on the left of this page. These thrillers appeal to both men and women. If you haven’t sampled their story telling skills, you might want to order one of their books as a gift on February 14.

What are YOU going to give your own special Valentine next week? Leave a comment – we’d love to know. And thanks for visiting us here on Rogue Women Writers. 

Monday, February 1, 2021


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

Most people make resolutions at New Year's, but Rogue Jenny Milchman goes all out and makes resolutions for every month of the year.

ZJ Czupor takes a hard look at Mario Puzo in "He Did It For the Money," a tale of how the Godfather came to be.

Ever wonder if a writer's background made them the writer they are? Chris Goff spills the beans in Shoutout Colorado. Chris Goff tackles the pandemic with the idea for a new book: The Spy Who Worked From Home.

His first novel won the ITW Thriller and Barry Awards and was nominated for Edgar®, Anthony and Hammett Awards. And his sixth book, The Breaker, is just coming out. Nick Petrie shares with the Rogues just how hard writing can be.

Plenty of authors write really good action sequences, but few have ever really lived that life. Not true for this months The Real Book Spy's Rogue Recommendation, Brad Thor. Check out his new thriller: American Traitor.

Carla Neggers told us how to create a writing space that 'sparks joy'.