Monday, December 13, 2010

Best Holiday Gift Ever!


Penguin Publishing Selling Author-Autographed Mini Cooper on

ATLANTA – December 13, 2010 – Are you or a friend or family member the ultimate literary fan? Then has posted for sale the ultimate gift for you or that special someone: a 2010 Mini Cooper SD with a dashboard signed by 18 Penguin authors, including Garrison Keillor of Lake Wobegon fame, Pulitzer Prize winning authors William Kennedy and Geraldine Brooks as well as New York Times bestselling authors Michael Pollan, Sue Monk Kidd, Jan Karon, Rosanne Cash and many more!

Penguin Books purchased the Mini Cooper as part of the company’s 75th anniversary celebration, which occurred throughout 2010. The vehicle traveled to literary and book events across the country and Penguin-published authors signed the car’s interior at each stop, making this truly a one-of-a-kind ride.

The vehicle is now for sale on with a Private Seller advertisement at for $30,000. The price reflects the unique nature of the vehicle, its excellent condition and an additional bonus: the car comes with the top 75 titles published by Penguin Books over the past 75 years, a collection of books worth about $1,200. Proceeds from the sale of the car will be donated to the New York Public Library.

“We wanted to post this vehicle on a site that had the ability to showcase the features of this car – both the features and options you’d find on any Mini Cooper and these unique autographs – and that had millions of car-shopping visitors so we could ensure the right buyer would find it,” said Kathryn Court, President & Publisher of Penguin Books. “With the ability to show detailed photos of the car and write a description that really highlighted the special and unique features,’s Private Seller ad was clearly the way to go.”

Penguin Books utilized’s Private Seller options to the max to showcase the vehicle. At, interested buyers will find multiple photos of the car’s interior and exterior and a description that highlights the car’s features. The vehicle comes with AM/FM/CD, MP3 player jack, air conditioning, automatic transmission, black cloth seats, orange and black exterior paint (freshly painted) and, of course, those 18 autographs in silver pen along the dashboard, doors and steering wheel. The car has about 15,750 miles on it and is currently located in New York City.

“When Penguin approached us to assist them in finding a buyer for this unique vehicle and for this great cause – the New York Public Library – we immediately said ‘yes’,” said General Manager of Private Seller Service and Sales Melanie Kovach. “ is all about using technology tools to connect buyers and sellers efficiently, and this is a special opportunity to do so that we’re really excited about.”

Full details, photos and contact information for Penguin Books to make an offer on the vehicle is included in the advertisement, or you can contact Paul Lamb at 212-366-2277 or

Penguin Books, like any private seller, will select the buyer with the most attractive offer. Used 2010 Mini Coopers listed for sale on range in price from about $24,000 to $30,000, depending on vehicle options and condition.

“We priced the car at the top of the price range you would find for a used 2010 Mini Cooper on because of the special and unique nature of the vehicle,” said John Fagan, VP Director of Marketing at Penguin Books. “We’ll consider all offers, but are obviously looking to get as much for the vehicle as possible as all the proceeds benefit the New York Public Library, one of New York City’s most treasured institutions.”

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Guest Blogger: S.G. BROWNE

I first came up with the idea for Fated late one night in September 2003. At the time, I didn’t realize the idea would turn into a novel about fate, destiny, and the consumer culture. It was just this kernel of a notion for a possible short story about a main character who knew certain things were going to happen because he was Fate. And that’s where I left it. As an idea waiting to become a story.

The following July, while sitting in a shopping mall and watching people walk past and wondering what their futures held, I wrote down the line:

I look at people and see what they’re going to be like in twenty years.

What followed was a short scene about a handful of people and where they would be in twenty years. While I connected it to the concept of Fate I’d touched on the previous September, I didn’t pursue it any further. Instead, I filed it away until, more than two years later, the scene became part of the opening chapter of Fated.

But even then, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the idea that I had. When I first sat down to start writing Fated, I had no idea I was going to be writing a social satire on the consumer culture and the stupid things that a lot of people do to screw up their lives. But in the same way I wrote my first novel, Breathers, the social commentary just sort of evolved as the story unfolded.

From December 2006 to March 2007, I wrote approximately half of Fated. Forty thousand words, or roughly one-hundred-and-sixty pages. And I had a lot of fun doing it. Scenes with Fate and Destiny. Lunches with Sloth and Gluttony. Awkward moments with Death and Secrecy and Failure. An unexpected romance with a mortal woman. And, of course, meetings with God.

Personifying abstract concepts led me to do a bit of research on the Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Contrary Virtues, and the concepts of Karma, Fate, and Destiny. While most people tend to think of these last two as one in the same, I differentiated between them due to their corresponding connotations. Fate tends to be more negative (a fatal disease, a fate worse than death), while destiny implies a more favorable outcome (he was destined for greatness, it was her destiny).

Because my main character has been around for the entire existence of humankind, I wanted to include references to famous people and significant historical moments in the narrative. So I consulted my Handy History Answer Book for events that took place during the Renaissance, the Classical Age, and the Scientific Revolution. I Googled to verify the passenger list of the Titanic and if someone during Henry VIII’s reign would wear a tunic. And I spent a lot of time researching the population of the planet, the evolution of man, and determining how many people God smote (Jezebel, Saul, Lot’s wife, and some guy who made the mistake of picking up sticks on the Sabbath, among others). After all, when you have God as one of your characters you need to try to get these things right.

Also, since Fate has to tend to the futures of people across the planet, I did research on a number of geographic locations, including Paris, Los Angeles, Vienna, Duluth, San Francisco, and Daytona Beach. But the majority of my research on set locations was for Manhattan, as that’s where Fate and most of the rest of the immortals reside.

Although it was some of the most enjoyable writing I’d ever done, I began to wonder where the story was going. Why it mattered. What was the purpose. I like to discover the story as I write it, so plotting everything out has never been my style. I’m kind of like Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I’m making it up as I go. Problem is, if you’re not sure where you’re going, sometimes it takes a while to figure out how to get there. So I played with some ideas, tossed them out, went back and revised sections for continuity, and scratched my head a lot.

Finally, in December 2007, I figured out what I wanted to do. How everything would tie together. Why the story mattered to me. At that point, after nearly a year working on Fated, I’d only managed to get another twenty thousand words written. Half of what I’d done in just the first three months. It was a humbling and often frustrating process.

But over the next month I poured out the last twenty thousand words and finished the first draft of Fated on February 2, 2008, two weeks after I sold Breathers to Random House. Twenty-one months later, I finally get to share the story with everyone else. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Visit the author's website: S.G. Browne

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Day Jobs
By Jeri Westerson

Maybe readers think that authors spring fully formed into the world, all published and everything. But those of us who publish later in life, usually have a slew of experiences prior to getting that call from a publisher.

As for me, my resume reads a little like I couldn’t hold down a job.

That was not the case. I started out life with an entirely different vocational path. While in high school and college, I had decided that I wanted to be an actress. I was a singer, failed dancer, successful comedienne and dramatic thespian, winning acting awards all through high school. I directed and even, briefly, became a puppeteer in college. But then I went to some real world auditions and had my head handed to me. Standing in a bare room with people in suits discussing your various shortcomings amongst themselves while you stood there, suddenly did not have the appeal it once had. But I was lucky. Like many other people with artistic talent, I had few tricks up my sleeve. Little did I know that the skill of designing all those programs and posters I did for years for various theatrical productions had a name: graphic artist.

I switched majors to art and graduated with an art degree and, with portfolio in hand, dove into the advertising world of Los Angeles. Well, not so glamorous at first. I worked in an in-house art department for a commercial lighting company in Huntington Park, CA. Later I got a dream job in Canoga Park designing video boxes, the children’s line. So basically, I got to watch cartoons and design the boxes and collateral. Family Home Entertainment became the best design job I ever had. If they still exist—and I designed some Inspector Gadget boxes, Pound Puppies, Strawberry Shortcake, for them to name a few—if they ever put together a little animated FHE logo of three crayons with arms and Mickey Mouse gloves like they had planned to, that was my design. I invented those guys.

They got bought out by Carolco, owned by the Menendez family. We all thought that meant an influx of cash to the company. What it really meant is that they fired everyone. The art department was closed and we were all laid off, and there were quite a few of us (since their biggest video line was porn, and yes, I designed a few of those, too). The Menendez name should sound familiar to you. It was that murder case in the eighties where the young men killed both their parents and pled that they had been abused for years. I think they’re still in jail. Revenge for the firing? Hey, I’m not saying if you fire me you’re children will murder you, but...

Not long after that I got into freelancing and did work for Epic and CBS Records. This was all before computers, so I knew all the designer tricks (and I was pretty high tech at home with my fax machine and my copier that zoomed! Oooh.) But I made a lot of money in those fat eighties and semi-retired at that point to have a baby.

Fast forward about two years later and circumstances had us moving out of lovely Pasadena so my husband could follow the job to the Inland Empire (that’s southern California speak for deserty, inland counties, kind of far from interesting things like the coast). There was no question about my getting back into design because the entire world had switched to computers and I, alas, had not.

So this was the turning point for me to decide to become a stay at home novelist. And I did eventually learn to use a PC, but with a young, struggling family, I couldn’t end up just staying at home, at least not on the weekends. We also live in an area of southern California where there is a wine country so I thought it would be fun to work at a winery as a tasting host and tour guide. I also starting making bird houses to sell on the side so if you ever bought a birdhouse at a Temecula winery gift shop (Mount Palomar Winery) in the mid nineties, look on the bottom to see if it’s got my signature! Ah, a real collector’s item. I also made some amusing Christmas ornaments for that same winery (again, look for that signature on the backs.)

After three years of that I turned to newspaper reporter for just about all the local daily and the weekly papers. And during all this, I was writing my novels, sending to agents, and finally landing one. After eight years as a reporter I became a soloist and choir director for a local church. And still I wrote. I moved from that to part time secretary. Still writing. Still getting rejected. Until finally hitting on the right agent (number four) and about twenty novels later before that contract showed up at my door.

All smooth sailing and glamorous life of an author from then on, right? Wrong. Still had to keep a part time day job as an office assistant…until quite recently. They say you have to spend at least twice your advance on your first book to promote it properly and I’ve been doing the same for each book since. So far, all of my writing income has gone right back into publicity and promotion, including travel to various conventions, a nifty book trailer you can see on my website, collateral material, and a yearly fabulous book launch party that involves sword-fighting knights. With a son away in college, our household expenses have dropped and I’ve been sans day job since June of this year, using what little money I have to pay off my credit cards. But I’m writing full time. I've heard that it takes till the fifth book to make a profit. I’m hoping I won’t have to be back in the work force before that happens. In the meantime, I’m practicing: “Would you like fries with that?”

Jeri works at home writing the next Crispin Guest Medieval Noir in the series. The new release of THE DEMON’S PARCHMENT has been very exciting and you can share in the excitement by reading the first chapter on her website

Thursday, October 07, 2010



I’m not in favor of rules. However, free-thinker that I am, I’m willing to admit they have their place. Just don’t let those little buggers into my writing life. Talk about a great way to strangle the muse.

In the interest of true-confessions, I wasn’t always this…liberated. Like every wanna-be novelist, when I sat down to figure out how to write a novel, I wanted to know the rules. Just tell me how to do it, and I’d write a story the paint-by-numbers way. And, of course, this being the good ‘ol U S of A, the land of the ‘How To’ book, I found no shortage of opinions as to the proper approach to writing the next Great American Novel.

In my quest for the literary holy grail, I eagerly absorbed the proffered information. I learned some of the building blocks of craft—varied sentence structure, elimination of backstory and narrative, description only when necessary to set the scene or characters, adjectives and adverbs are not your friends, realistic dialogue (try reading it out loud), well, you get my drift. I’m sure there are plenty of other rules I absorbed so well that they became part of my subconscious. Others were pounded into intuitiveness by members of my critique group. And all of them helped me become a ‘writer.’

But my goal was to be a ‘novelist.’ So, what’s the difference? Well, a story, for starters. Now that I had some basic understanding of HOW to write (although I was far from being proficient—a reality that most beginning novelists find a bitter pill to swallow—I was no exception), WHAT to write became the burning question. I consulted my writing bibles. Thankfully, they provided a blueprint.

The first one suggested I should write what I read. Okay, I could do that. So I slaved over this international intrigue, romantic suspense, mystery/thriller. Suffice it to say, even after a million rewrites, the story was unsalvageable. It was so bad that I spent a great deal of time destroying every copy. I would rather see naked pictures of myself on the internet than have anyone read that first attempt.

Back to the books. The next suggestion was that I should write what I know. At the time I was a tax attorney in Colorado raising my son on my own. Life was a slog, punctuated by sublime moments, but a slog none-the-less. Who would want to read about that? By this point I was smart enough to know that was a rhetorical question. However, lacking any better idea, I set about writing a story with a lawyer who was a single mother as the protagonist. This attempt was better, and it was sufficiently proficient to garner the interest of an agent. But, while he liked my writing, the story was a bit too workman-like, too mid-list, for his liking.
Back to the books. Which, after offering the above suggestions, were curiously short on further specifics. I needed to be unique, but not too. I needed to find my own voice. I needed to write the story I was meant to write. Great. But how, exactly? I had no idea. So, I did what every good writer does…I punted. Actually, I didn’t punt so much as explore. I stretched other writing muscles.

First, I wrote a few feature articles for various publications. One of them was a bit flip, a bit cheeky—a less-than-confident attempt at humor. And, it worked! I had found my niche! And, I was having fun! Unconstrained, I let the stifled sarcasm run wild. After accepting an offer to write a humor column for a small national magazine, I flexed my humor chops. Along the way, I refined what was funny and what wasn’t, I learned to write tight, and I learned to write even when my muse took an extended leave.

After a few years of this, the dream of writing a novel could no longer be ignored. So, what to do? I can remember sitting at the computer, staring at the blank screen, and consciously deciding to throw away the rules, to shrug off the constraints on creativity, to boldly go where I had never gone before.
The resulting story features a sarcastic female protagonist who is the head of customer relations for a major Vegas strip property, a male lead who impersonates Cher for a living, the protagonist’s mother, who runs a whorehouse in Pahrump, NV, porn stars and swingers in town for the weekend, several mysterious men, and a girl taking a header out of a tour helicopter right into the middle of the 8:30 Pirate Show at the Treasure Island Hotel. Yup, I had a blast.

And, after all of this, I sold the story.

Deborah Coonts' mother tells her she was born in Texas a very long time ago, though she's not totally sure—-her mother can’t be trusted. But she was definitely raised in Texas on barbeque, Mexican food and beer. She currently resides in Las Vegas, where her husband, Steve (a bestselling author in his own right) assures her she cannot get into too much trouble -- silly man. She's spent more time in school than any sane person should, acquiring along the way a bachelors and masters degree in business, a law degree and a masters of laws in taxation (can you say ‘geek’?)

Saturday, October 02, 2010


The Associated Press reported yesterday that Stephen J. Cannell has passed away:

>>Prolific TV producer Stephen J. Cannell dies
NEW YORK – Stephen J. Cannell, the prolific writer-producer of dozens of TV series that included "The Rockford Files" and "The A-Team," has died at age 69.

Cannell passed away at his home in Pasadena, Calif., on Thursday night from complications associated with melanoma, his publicist said on Friday.

After three decades as an independent producer of TV shows, Cannell in recent years had focused his attention to writing books, and had published 16.

As an actor, he had a recurring role on ABC-TV's series, "Castle.">>

I'd like to add my two cents about Mr. Cannell.

I just met Stephen Cannell in February of this year at Sleuthfest, and I was simply taken with the man. He was the guest of honor and spoke beautifully about his life and family and his work. I blogged about it then and wanted to share it --

>>Lunch was followed by keynote speaker Stephen J. Cannell. He is a man who
>>overcame severe dyslexia to become one of the most successful TV producers
>>ever, then followed up that career by writing bestselling novels. For me, one
>>of the highlights of his talk was the way he spoke about his wife, Marsha, who
>>he has known since the 8th grade. He shared with us that he was constantly on
>>the verge of flunking out of school, but he was "relentlessly positive." And he
>>told us that "you don't have to be the smartest kid in school to get where you
>>want to go." He sure proved that.

I didn't write about how he flew in to Florida with his wife, who suffers from
Alzheimer's disease. He was incredibly solicitous of her, always at her side and
when he couldn't be, he would ask someone else to watch her. He was supposed to take part in a Sunday brunch interview with David Morrell that was to close Sleuthfest,
but his wife wasn't doing well and he ended up canceling that event and taking
her home.

I guess with all the celebrity drama that's always being played out in the media, for me it was rather remarkable to see this Hollywood couple who had been
together for so long.

Rest in peace.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Guest Blogger: ANNA ELLIOTT

Healing Hearts

Dark Moon of Avalon takes place in the shadow of King Arthur's Britain, during the mid 6th century, when invading Saxon armies were increasingly defeating Britain's forces and taking over Britain's lands. My Isolde is the daughter of Modred, great villain of the Arthurian cycle of tales. And she has lost everything, her old life, her family, her home, have all been destroyed by the constant battles and political intrigue.

My Isolde is also a healer, working with Britain's wounded soldiers. She doesn't yet know how she herself can find the healing she offers others every day. But she desperately needs to believe that recovery from trauma is possible, and so she throws herself passionately into her mission as a healer.

As you might expect, Isolde's passion for the healing craft sent me scurrying for the research books. I read medieval herbals and compilations of the folk remedies common to the British isles; I pored over Roman surgical texts. And I was absolutely fascinated to discover just how sophisticated a Dark Age healer like Isolde could have been.

Certainly our modern knowledge of germs and bacteria revolutionized the medical profession, as has anesthesia and modern surgical theaters. But for all that, medical practice in the Dark Ages was not as crude or as brutal as one might imagine. One ancient surgical technique--that Isolde herself uses to conduct an amputation in Dark Moon of Avalon--was a device called a 'soporific sponge.' Texts on the soporific sponge survive from as early as the 9th century, and direct the healer to soak a pad or sponge with black nightshade, hyoscyamus (henbane), the juice of hemlock, the juice of leaves of mandragora, and several other mild narcotics. The sponge was then held beneath the patient's nose during surgery, so that breathing its fumes would keep the patient unconscious.

In Dark Moon of Avalon, Isolde and Trystan are dispatched on a diplomatic mission through unstable and warring lands to persuade rulers of the smaller kingdoms surrounding Britain to join forces to protect the throne. Isolde's skills as a healer are more than once all that stands between success and failure of their mission. Isolde's greatest test as a healer, though, comes when she is faced with the fear that she may not be able to save the wounded man who matters to her most of all. And the most rewarding part of writing Dark Moon of Avalon for me was watching her find the courage to face that fear, and through it find the courage to also heal her own wounded heart.

Brought together under dire circumstances, Trystan and Isolde must confront their growing love for each other and face a battle that will test the strength of their will, their hearts, and the lives of all those in Britain.

To celebrate the release of Dark Moon of Avalon, I'm offering a free prequel short story, Dawn of Avalon, available for free download on my website here:

He would become the most powerful wizard in the history of Britain—Merlin. She would become Britain's most storied sorceress—Morgan le Fay. But before they were legends, they were young. And they were lovers. Together, in the sunlight of one day long ago, they saved a kingdom.
Dawn of Avalon. A stand-alone story from the universe of Anna Elliott's Twilight of Avalon.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Guest Blogger: JACK TODD

Writing the Paint trilogy
Turning family history and American history into fiction

It started with a box. A fairly large, unwieldy box, heavily taped and tied with grocer’s string. Sent, with love, from my mother in western Nebraska to me in New York City in 1981.

This time, it wasn’t a box of brownies. My mother, born Maxine Marguerite Morgan in a Nebraska sod house in 1910, had shipped our family history, or as much of it as a single box could contain. Letters, family portraits, fragments of diaries, and one fairly substantial memoir, thirty-five pages single-spaced on someone’s old typewriter, left by my great-uncle Eb Jones, pioneer and frontier character in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska.

Perhaps, my mother suggested in the accompanying letter written in her elegant hand, I could do something with all this. I don’t know what she had in mind: a family history to be circulated to the relations, perhaps? One of those Aunt Betty and Uncle Bill and the bear at the family picnic things, preserving all the family yarns for posterity?

I did read Uncle Eb’s memoir, pieced together from memory after the diaries he kept for forty years were lost in a house fire in the 1930s. It was lively stuff: frontier murders, a goldrush or two, the Civil War, a drive to bring a thousand head of buffalo from Arizona to Wyoming. The massacre at Wounded Knee, where he was a scout for the cavalry.

I put the box aside and forgot about it. Somewhere along the line, in one of my numerous moves, most of it was lost. Twenty years later, a conversation with my sister aroused my curiosity about those old letters and memoirs, because two things struck me: first, there was a doozy of a story in there, which I had been too obtuse to see the first time around. Second, there was a remarkable confluence, over a period of nearly 150 years, between the history of my family (or more specifically, my mother’s family) and the history of the United States.

The first members of the Jones family had arrived in the Boston area before the American revolution. They drifted south as far as Mississippi, where John Milton Jones was born in 1830. John Milton left the south to walk to California with seven or eight friends after gold was found on the West Coast in 1849. As far as we know, he was the only one to survive. He returned to the Mississippi River with enough capital to buy what he called a “store boat,” which he operated on the river in partnership with a freed slave until they came under Confederate fire during the Civil War.

John Milton sold the boat and moved north to South Dakota, arriving as one of the first pioneers in the Sioux Falls-Yankton area in 1863. He married a woman who was part Sioux and fathered several children, two of whom, Eb and his brother Squier, became the protagonists of my first novel, Sun Going Down.

Both boys were fluent in Lakota, but Eb was perpetually restless. He scouted for the cavalry, worked as a sheriff in Spearfish and elsewhere, tried ranching in a dozen locations at a dozen times. Squier settled down in Brown County, Nebraska and built a ranching empire, beginning with a 160-acre homestead.

It was on that ranch that the essential conflict of this trilogy was borne, when Squier’s daughter Velma, my grandmother, became pregnant by one of his bronc riders. Squier kicked the pair of them off his ranch and set them up in a miserable homestead with a tumbledown soddy. After my mother was born, the bronc rider broke her arm in a quarrel and Squier went a little farther: he drove the young husband out of the state, leaving Velma to try to figure out how to survive, along with her two small children on a desolate homestead.

She might have pulled it off, but Velma learned she had tuberculosis in 1915 and spent most of the rest of her short life in and out of the sanitarium in Denver while her children were shuffled back and forth among orphanages and various family members willing to take them in.

In historical terms, it was all there, a primer of American history in the story of a single family: the great Mississippi River and the steamboats, the California gold rush (and a later gold rush in the Black Hills) the Civil War, the westward expansion, the Indian wars, World War I, the Roaring 1920s, the Great Depression and World War II. Somewhere along the line, members of the extended Jones family were always part of it.

I set out to tell the story. Six years after I began reassembling the stories in the original box, with the help of sisters, cousins and aunts all over the western U.S., Sun Going Down was published by Touchstone Books.

The first novel began in 1849 and ended at the beginning of the Great Depression, in 1933. The second, Come Again No More, is set entirely during the Depression years and researching it was less difficult, because I heard much of it directly from my parents. They lost their farm in Nebraska during the 1930s and joined the great migration to the West Coast, moving to a small Oregon mill town where my father, a former boxer, had a job in the mill. After six months, he decided he couldn’t stand the rain and dragged the family back to Nebraska.

Like Sun Going Down, Come Again No More is an attempt to get at the general truth of our common history through the particular history of a single family. It is one thing to read the history of the 1930s or to review the painful statistics of a time when a third of the American work-force was unemployed. Those statistics come home, however, only when you find a way to bring alive the impact of hard times on ordinary folk.

There is an odd process a writer goes through when turning family history into fiction. The real characters fade and are replaced by the fictional characters who become as real, in the imagination, as living friends and relatives. Thus Squier Jones for me will always be Eli Paint, his fictional counterpart, and Eb Jones is Ezra Paint, Eli’s brother.

The character Emaline in both books is, of course, my mother. With her hot-tempered, quick-fisted husband Jake McCloskey (my father, the first Jack Todd) she is alive to me as both fiction and memory. In Come Again No More, I attempted to tell their story, the awkward marriage of the rather prim young woman who loved Chekhov and Balzac to a character so rough, he would drive a steel bolt with his bare fist.

As Come Again No More ventures into the world, I’m completing the third novel in the series, The Rain Came Down, set almost entirely during World War II and based, in part, on the letters of my mother’s younger brother Jimmy Wilson, a gunner on the battleship Tennessee from Pearl Harbor to Japan. The contents of another box, in other words.

A lesson for writers everywhere: beware the boxes you open. You may find yourself, years later, still entranced by the old stories, the characters who stare out at you from the black-and-white photographs, the hasty letters dated 1887 or 1910 or 1944. More novels, waiting to be born.

Jack Todd is the author of Sun Going Down and Come Again No More

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Guest Blogger: ROSE MELIKAN

Rose Melikan is kicking off a trilogy of guest posts from some authors of historical fiction. Enjoy!

I’m an academic in my “day job”, and writing scholarly non-fiction has influenced my Mary Finch novels a great deal. Structurally, I approach fiction in the same way as academic writing. I follow plans and outlines, and I work out calendars so that I can plot out the action on a day-by-day basis. As a story develops I often feel more like I am discovering and recording what actually happened rather than creating it, so I come to an understanding of the story in the same way that I come to an understanding of an actual historical development. Now, I’m sure that one reason I feel this way is that, so far, my fiction has been set in the same period as my academic work. I’m fictionalizing material that I’m already quite familiar with in the non-fiction context.

I also do the same kind of research for fiction and non-fiction, although I use that research in a different way. Non-fiction and fiction have the same basic objective – to convince the reader of an argument. The non-fiction argument is the thesis, and the fiction argument is the theme. The difference is that the non-fiction thesis is obvious whereas hopefully the theme in a work of fiction is not – you work it out as you go along. That’s the pleasure of reading a story – you wonder what is going to happen and why, but if you were wondering what an academic article was about as you were reading it, you’d probably give up. So, academic research is more focused and more obvious. The academic tries to make his argument irrefutable by setting out his sources in charts, tables, footnotes. Research for fiction is more wide-ranging and subtle. The author tries to captivate the reader and carry him along – encouraging rather than lecturing, so that the reader is won over without realizing it.

I think that the best kind of research in fiction, therefore, often goes unnoticed. It is embedded in throwaway comments, or background descriptions, or summaries that “effortlessly” set the scene. I find that I do a lot of research in order to feel comfortable not saying something, or to say something very simple – even something that, in retrospect, I could have said without doing the research, simply by making an educated guess. It can feel like a waste of time, but I like to think that some of my confidence is transferred to the reader. As a reader, I think I can sense when an author’s knowledge of the world he’s created is so extensive that he isn’t telling me everything he knows. He’s describing one room in a house, but if I asked him, he could tell me about all the other rooms. If I feel that an author is writing right up to the edge of his knowledge, I become suspicious, and once that happens, the illusion of the story is lost. Among modern novelists of historical fiction, I think that Patrick O’Brian is a master in this respect.

Another reason for doing more research than I think is strictly necessary, of course, is that sometimes my educated guess would have been wrong! There is nothing more irritating than finding a mistake after it has been incorporated in the story, particularly (as always seems the case) when it turns out to be something fairly straightforward that I really ought to have checked… It may seem odd to be worried about accuracy in the context of a work of fiction, but it’s essential that where the world of the novel intersects with real people or actual events, it doesn’t ignore what is known about those people and events. Of course, historical fiction can “get away” with inaccuracies or vagaries that authors of contemporary fiction cannot. The average reader today would find it difficult to estimate the time of a journey from London to Cambridge in 1800, or whether someone in Boston, Massachusetts would have had an accent significantly different from his relatives in Boston, Lincolnshire – but such details wouldn’t pose such a problem in a novel actually written in 1800. In one sense, the more ancient the setting, the less likely readers are to spot errors. On the other hand, the writers of contemporary fiction are much less likely to make these kinds of errors in the first place. More importantly, because they can presume a general familiarity on the part of their readers, contemporary novelists have fewer decisions to make about the level of accuracy necessary to establish and maintain their fictional worlds.

As you will have guessed by now, I’m rather a pedant where historical accuracy is concerned – it must be the academic in me. My editor once told me not to let the truth get in the way of a good story, but I’m afraid that I can’t knowingly falsify the historical record. I would much rather amend the plot (and hopefully come up with something better and more accurate). I also try to weave my story as closely as possible into real events, or events that might have happened, given the state of our knowledge. Most of the time these events are essential to the narrative, such as the timing of the Woolwich mutiny in The Counterfeit Guest, but sometimes I’m afraid that they simply reflect a fascination with detail, such as the departure time for the Ipswich to London mail coach in The Blackstone Key. Nothing really turned on it, but I wanted to get it right. Of course, sometimes I have to give in. I couldn’t discover the Parisian theatre schedules for the autumn of 1797, so my characters in The Mistaken Wife actually attend a play that was performed in the autumn of 1796. The London play in the same story, however, is accurate for the day and theatre mentioned. And I certainly can’t claim to be perfect. Fortunately, I have a wonderful copyeditor, who questions everything, and definitely keeps me on my toes.

For more info: Rose Melikan

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Guest Blogger: LISA BLACK


Television tells us that serial killers come in one consistent profile—white men between 25 and 40, quiet, loner types with a grudge against their mother. Reality tells us that nothing in life is ever that consistent.

Google “Cleveland, Ohio” and “serial killer” and the hit list will come up with exactly two, separated by over seventy years: Anthony Sowell, who killed eleven women and buried them beneath his home, and the still-unknown Torso Killer. Anthony Sowell was caught in 2009. The Torso Killer murdered at least twelve people, possibly twice that, mostly between 1935 and 1938, adding a new layer of grief to a city besieged by the Depression. However, Cleveland’s serial killers operated at polar extremes of both time and method.

Eliot Ness, the city’s new safety director, could do nothing. Cleaning up organized crime was one thing, but trying to find a foe with no such businesslike motive to his work turned out to be quite another. The Torso Killer was America’s first apparent serial killer before the term existed. He was America’s version of Jack the Ripper--bizarre, bloody and prolific.

Anthony Sowell, on the other hand, is your ‘classic’ serial killer, one who followed all the modern-day rules for staying under the radar: Be polite to your neighbors. If you get caught, serve your time quietly and move on. Pick victims who can disappear without furor, poor women with addiction problems.

The Torso Killer broke all these rules. He killed men and women alike. He castrated, mutilated, dismembered. Sometimes he wrapped the pieces in clothing or newspaper for some unlucky witness to find. Far from keeping a low profile, he displayed his work with dramatic abandon.

The police didn’t know what to make of him. They rounded up the usual suspects—crazy men and various ‘perverts,’ looking for the obvious when cops today would know to look for someone more like Anthony Sowell—someone quiet, unnoticed. It didn’t help that homeless men were riding the rails more than ever, criss-crossing the country and functioning without the trail of dental records, fingerprints and missing person information databases that exist today.

The victims of these killers were brought to the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office, where I used to work as a forensic scientist in the trace evidence lab, so I’ve tried to cite both these past and present methods of serial murder. In Trail of Blood CSI Theresa MacLean must apply modern-day science not only to the Torso killings but to a new series of murders in order to keep history from repeating itself.

Lisa Black spent the five happiest years of her life in a morgue, and now works as a certified latent print analyst and CSI for a police department in Florida. Her books have been published to critical acclaim in seven languages.

Lisa's latest book is TRAIL OF BLOOD. Visit her on her website at Or stop by the Glades Road Branch Library on Thursday, Oct. 7 at 2:00 PM to meet Lisa in person!

Monday, July 26, 2010

For the college bound...Part 1

There are lots of books out there to help prepare you for going away to college, and my daughter Ariel and I have read most of them! Ariel is an incoming freshman and a reader, so was happy to help with this project. Here are our picks for the best of the best, the books you should not miss.

Harlan Cohen heads the list with two terrific books, one geared towards students, the other towards parents - but feel free to switch with each other when you're done!

The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College by Harlan Cohen: Published in 2009, it's still new enough to cover all the stuff that matters to today's incoming freshman, from the title's what do you say to a naked roommate and other trials of dorm life to STDs to should you be Facebook friends with your parents? It's funny, easy to jump around or read in order, plus Cohen includes lots of real life stories from college students about every situation you can think of - actually, lots more than I ever would have thought of.

Cohen's newest book is The Happiest Kid on Campus: A Parent's Guide to the Very Best College Experience (for You and Your Child). In this book he speaks more to the parents, but Ariel enjoyed reading it as well. There is some overlap with the aforementioned Naked Roommate, but if you can, get both. I figure I will send the Naked Roommate off to college with Ariel so she can have it as a reference as things come up, and keep the Happiest Kid home with me. Unless she takes it with her! This book deals with things like how to stay connected with your child and how much is too much, visiting, safety issues and concerns, and even teaches tech-challenged parents about Twitter and texting. Tons of great ideas and information from parents and students who have been there and done that.

Note: that's Harlan Cohen, NOT Harlan Coben, the thriller writer. Check out his websites, too: Help Me, Harlan and The Naked Roommate Online

Monday, July 19, 2010

An Open Letter to the Publishing Industry

RE: Large Print Books

I am here to vent about an ongoing problem in libraries; the inability to get large print versions of popular books. If a book becomes popular after the initial print run, the large print goes out of print and libraries, AKA library patrons, AKA taxpayers, are screwed.

For instance, my library currently has 193 reserves on the large print version of Sarah's Key by Tatiana DeRosnay. We own 6 large print copies and are currently filling reserves that were placed last February. We would gladly buy more, but it is out of print. has 2 used copies for sale at $280 each!

I had spoken to someone at Random House a few years ago about this when we had a similar problem with one of their books (I forgot which, sorry) and was told they were looking into some sort of print on demand for large print books. Apparently it never came to pass.

There has been some progress made in large print publishing. Many of the larger publishing houses are now producing their own large print books which come out at the same time as the regular print. The rest are farmed out to large print publishers like Thorndike or Wheeler, they of the ugly covers and publishing dates a year after the regular print books hit the shelves.

Hey, publishers, you are missing the boat here! In case you've all been taking your meetings under a rock, the population in the United States is aging. Does the fact that the fastest growing age group on Facebook is now 65+ mean nothing to you? Baby boomers are aging and you can bet more and more of them are going to need large print books.

In these days of economic downturn and sluggish sales across the board, why aren't publishers leaping at the chance to sell more books? If my library needs another 30+ copies of Sarah's Key, I'd bet there are other libraries that do as well - most of which cannot and will not purchase used, $280 copies.

Is there some sort of explanation that I'm missing? I'd love to hear from publishers about this.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Guest Blogger: LISA BLACK on ThrillerFest!

I couldn't get to ThrillerFest this year, but Lisa Black, author of the terrific TAKEOVER and EVIDENCE OF MURDER plus the upcoming TRAIL OF BLOOD (this September,) was kind enough to share her some of her thoughts on her experience at ThrillerFest

Thoughts from Thrillerfest, 2010

I attended the expensive but star-spangled conference of the International Thriller Writers last weekend and came to recall why it’s well worth the money. Writers are fun, funny and endlessly approachable. I think it has something to do with spending copious amounts of time alone—a conference, in essence, crams half a year’s worth of socializing into one weekend and we instantly become giddy with adrenaline and the unaccustomed use of our vocal chords. (There is, of course, the inevitable crash—about halfway through Saturday I might go into a Garbo-like I vant to be alone stage, though more likely I just get tired. It is a marathon of social networking—but I paid for this, dammit. A nap is not an option.

And authors can be so funny. They have a Debut Authors Breakfast on Saturday, where all the first-time authors have a minute to stand up and talk about their books. A participant named Brad Parks, instead of introducing his book, started to talk about how wowwed he still felt to meet all these famous authors, and then he burst out into excellently rendered lyrics that went "Brad Meltzer, I'm sharing a stage with Brad Meltzer" to the tune of "Maria" from West Side Story.

But I know how he feels. At the group signing Harper Collins arranges for its authors at Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop, I met an older gentlemen who had worked for Agatha Christie’s publisher and had gone to England to meet with her later in her career. Let me reiterate: I conversed with a man who had conversed with Agatha Christie. Agatha freakin’ Christie. Is that cool or what?

At a conference you can pitch to an agent, meet one of your idols, and listen to session after session on writing, aspects of writing and methods of writing and the serendipity of writing. But most of all, more than anything, these conferences are a morale-boosting exercise to get us through the rest of the year when we’re locked in our rooms in front of our keyboards. Over and over the panelists confirm two things: First, that no matter how big you get, you will still secretly think that you suck. It’s normal. Don’t let it bother you and don't let it make you give up, which leads into the second point: Never give up. We all have stacks of unpublished novels and their attendant rejection letters. The sweet and very funny Brad Meltzer told a story that when Harper Lee was halfway through To Kill a Mockingbird she decided that it was terrible and never going to work. She opened her window and threw the entire manuscript out into the snow. Then she called her editor. No one knows what her editor said to her, but after she hung up the phone she went out into the snow and picked up all the pages, went back to work and finished the book.

Never give up.

Reporting in retrospect from Thrillerfest, Lisa Black.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

2010 Top 50 Crime Fiction Blogs award!


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Three and a half (3.5) Million Free eBooks at World eBook Fair !

Welcome to the Fifth Annual World eBook Fair where we hope you will enjoy at least a few of the books that are presented here, now in the millions.

Brief History of the World eBook Fair:

Just a few years ago the First World eBook Fairs came on the scene with about 1/3 million books and doubled to 2/3 million in 2008, and over a million and a quarter the following year.

This year there are over Three million eBooks.

The World eBook Fair's mammoth amount of books were created by contributions from 100+ eLibraries and thousands of volunteers from around the world.

This year we have added over a million new free eBooks already, and plan to add 50,000 more by the end of The world eBook Fair, which runs from July 4 to August 4.

The collections include light and heavy reading materials, more reference books, scientific items, etc., and about 50,000 music entries in addition to the 12,000 that debuted last year.

Please note that The Internet Archive and Project Gutenberg are also presenting a number of items in other media; music, movies and artwork, even dance choreography, are included.

At midnight Central Daylight Time July, 4 2010 we estimate that the approximate numbers of titles will be:

2,324,842 from The Internet Archive
750,000 from World Public Library
400,000 from Wattpad
112,000 from Project Gutenberg
62,000 from International Music Score Library Project

>>> 3,648,842 Grand Total <<<

More eBooks To More People Via Cell phone Reads

In addition to presenting twice as many books, we are also trying to reach 10x as much of the population by including a number of programs a person can use to read these eBooks on phones, MP3 players, PDA's, iPods, etc.

>>> WeBF Sponsors >>>

Project Gutenberg , World Public Library , Baen Books , Internet Archive , MobileBooks , MyeBook , Wattpad

Access To Source and Collections and Search Available At:

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!!! Thanks To Mike Cook / GutenberyNews / For The Tweet !!!

Thursday, July 01, 2010



From Paul Levine:

“When is Jake Lassiter coming back?”

I get the question at bookstores and Bouchercon, at Thrillerfest and Sleuthfest, at Left Coast Crime, and even my dentist’s office. I might be promoting one of the “Solomon vs. Lord” books, or “Illegal,” but the questions always come back to this:

“Where the heck is Jake?”

I wrote seven Lassiter novels between 1990 and 1997. Since then, I’ve written two stand-alone thrillers, a four-book series, and a bunch of episodes for two CBS-TV dramas. But what everyone wants to talk about is that linebacker-turned-lawyer, a tough guy with a tender heart.

“Jake’s not in jail, is he?”

I don’t think so, but given his conduct in court, maybe he should be.

Truth is, Jake Lassiter lives!

In Fall 2011, “Lassiter” will be out in hardcover from Bantam as Jake searches for a missing woman from his past and becomes entangled in the intertwined worlds of politics and porn. But wait, there’s more:

Jake Lassiter is back in print now!

Or rather, in bytes.

On line.

Just a click away.

I’m talking about e-books. You can start reading the 20th Anniversary edition of “To Speak for the Dead,” in about 90 seconds. An international bestseller, the first Lassiter novel was named one of the best mysteries of the year by the Los Angeles Times and became an NBC World Premiere Movie.

For a limited time, e-book sellers are offering “...Dead” at the astonishing price of $2.99. Right, less than your double mocha latte, which by the way, Jake Lassiter would never drink. (That price may surprise the collector who e-mailed recently that he paid $325 for a signed first edition of “To Speak for the Dead.” Wow. I have a couple cartons in the garage if he wants more).

Now, here’s the best part: All author royalties – 100 per cent – will go to the Four Diamonds Fund, which supports cancer research and treatment at Hershey Children’s Hospital. It’s a cause dear to my heart. The facility, part of Penn State’s College of Medicine, is one of the premier institutions of its kind. Thanks to the Fund, children whose families lack the financial wherewithal receive top-notch medical care.

There’s even more news about Jake. The second book of the Lassiter series, “Night Vision,” is also available as an e-book, as is “9 Scorpions,” a stand-alone legal thriller set at the Supreme Court. In the next several months, all seven Lassiter books will be on Amazon Kindle and the other e-bookselling platforms. So, even if you’re new to the series, there’s time to catch up before the new one hits the stores next year. If you’ve already read the books in the dead-trees format, try them again on your e-reader or right on your desktop or laptop. Here’s a quick look at what’s available now.

TO SPEAK FOR THE DEAD – Defending a surgeon in a malpractice case, Jake begins to suspect that his client is innocent of negligence...but guilty of murder. A sexy widow, a robbed grave, and another murder follow. “Move over Scott Turow. ‘To Speak for the Dead’ is courtroom drama at its very best.” – Larry King, USA Today

NIGHT VISION – Jake is appointed a special prosecutor when a serial killer
begins stalking women on a sexually oriented Internet chat site. Enlisting a brilliant woman psychiatrist, Jake wades into a maze of lies and corruption to uncover the murderer. “Sparkles with wit and subtlety.” - Toronto Star

9 Scorpions – Sam Truitt, the newest and youngest justice on the Supreme Court, hires a brilliant and stunning female law clerk, unaware she has a personal stake in a huge case before the court. It’s a story of passion and violence, justice and revenge, in and out of court. “A relentlessly entertaining summer read.” New York Daily News

For more info and to purchase, please visit

Author Paul Levine explains why he has pledged 100% of all royalties to the Four Diamonds Fund for childhood cancer treatment and research.

In the United States today, one in 300 children will be diagnosed with some form of cancer. All of us have friends or family members who have fought that grueling battle. These days, with great advances in medicine, there’s a increasing chance the fight has been successful.

Yet, progress seems excruciatingly slow for those on the front lines.
A few years ago, one of my dearest friends, the godfather of my son, lost his daughter Margaux to Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare but vicious bone cancer. The survival rate for Ewing’s sarcoma that metastasises is a disheartening 10 per cent.

Ten per cent!

In this age of medical miracles, how can that be?

After Margaux’s death at age 14, I dedicated a book to her. Such a feeble gesture. I wanted to do more. Still do. Here’s how.

Twenty years ago this month, my first novel, “To Speak for the Dead,” was published to a decent amount of fanfare. The legal thriller introduced the world to Jake Lassiter, a linebacker-turned-lawyer who seeks justice but seldom finds it. The book facilitated my career change from lawyer to novelist and has always held a special place in my heart. Now, good old Jake can help a cause that’s also dear to me.

I will donate all proceeds of “To Speak for the Dead” to the Four Diamonds Fund, a charity that pays for treatment of pediatric cancer patients at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. In addition to providing world-class medical care, the Fund supports research in immunotherapy, carcinogenesis, and several other fields I can barely spell, much less understand.

In basic terms, the Fund helps sick kids. I don’t know a more worthy cause.
I’m hoping that the e-book will sell for years, bringing enjoyment to readers and support to a life-saving cause. Hoping, too, that others will be moved to directly contribute.

Here’s a little background about the Fund. In 1972, a 14-year-old boy named Christopher Millard was an aspiring writer. Or rather, he was already a writer. He’d penned a mythic tale about “Sir Millard and The Four Diamonds,” in the tradition of Sir Galahad and Sir Lancelot. What are those Four Diamonds? Wisdom. Courage. Honesty. Strength. All are needed in our daily lives, especially in children’s battles with a dread disease.

You have probably figured out that Chris wrote the story while in the throes of cancer. The diamonds of his story were allegorical. The quest was for life itself. After a three-year battle, Chris died, but his memory lives in the name of the Fund established by his family.

Penn State students have contributed an astonishing $61 million to the Fund through their annual dance marathon. This year’s event raised $7.8 million alone. The motto of “Thon” is “For the kids.” And that, too, is the dedication of “To Speak for the Dead.”

Even if you don’t own an e-reader, you can download the book to your laptop or desktop. So, if you’d like a “breathlessly exciting” read (Cleveland Plain Dealer) or a “genuinely chilling” one (Washington Post), please give it a try. For a limited time, the book is only $2.99. Purchase information here:

One last thing. If each of us can contribute – just a bit – of courage, wisdom, honesty, and strength, maybe we can reach the goal of Conquering Childhood Cancer.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Karin Slaughter is on a blog tour for her latest book, BROKEN, and I am delighted to host her today.

I’ve been writing about Dr. Sara Linton for ten years now, and I’m still surprised by the different aspects of her character. In Broken, it’s the week of Thanksgiving and she’s back home in Grant County for the first time in four years. Instead of being excited about being with her family, Sara is wary. A lot has happened since the tragic events that ended Beyond Reach. She’s had to build herself into a new person, and just driving into the Heartsdale city limits is so difficult that she has to pull over to the side of the road and collect herself.

It’s been almost a year since I wrote that scene, and I can still feel Sara’s anxiousness when I think about it. I suppose that’s the gift and the curse of being with these characters so long. I see them as human beings, and I feel their losses almost as if they were close friends. I also feel their anger, which is why writing about Lena Adams was hard this time around. She’s always been a difficult character because she’s very erratic and just when I think she’s on the right track, she takes a one-eighty and does the exact wrong thing.

Sara has been warning readers about Lena’s unpredictable behavior for years, and I think finally folks are seeing that she’s right. Yet, still, I find myself thinking—hoping—that Lena is going to manage to turn herself around. She’s not altogether awful. She tries to be a good cop. She loves her family. She’s been loyal to a fault. The thing is, people who do bad stuff never think they are bad people. That’s what I’ve always found so fascinating about Lena: she really thinks underneath it all that she’s doing the right thing. I think readers often take that ride with her.

In one chapter, you might think she’s finally managed to turn things around, and then in the next, she’s doing something breathtakingly risky and even downright stupid. I guess that’s why it was so much fun bringing Will Trent into Grant County, where he gets caught between these two strong women. On the face of it, Will seems like the character with the most flaws. He’s in a crappy relationship, he grew up in an orphanage, he’s got a mean boss and he’s dyslexic. And yet, of the three, he comes across as the least broken.

If you'd like to win a signed copy of BROKEN, along with several other thrillers, please visit and click on the Win Thrillers page for all the details!

Karin Slaughter is the number one international bestseller of several novels, including the Grant County series. A long-time resident of Atlanta, she splits her time between the kitchen and the living room.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Thrillerfest is right around the corner!

From Shane Gericke:



Yes it's true so very true,

That we have done our work for you,

And now it's time for you to look,

At the complete ThrillerFest schedule and panel assignments now posted on our website.

Clearly, I won't win poet of the year. But who cares, now that I can decide where to go and who to see at ThrillerFest!

As can you. The panel assignments and official schedule of everything we offer is now posted on the ThrillerFest website, in downloadable PDF format. It lays out every panel, talk, presentation, party and autograph session, along with the authors appearing at each.

Click here for the hour-by-hour breakdown of CraftFest, AgentFest, ThrillerFest, Thriller Award Banquet and evening events.

More ThrillerFest updates you should know:

JUST THE FAQs: Any question you might have about the conference is now answered on the website. We explain in a handy FAQs format why ThrillerFest remains in New York instead of moving around the country . . . what a cab ride should cost from LaGuardia . . . and why the coffee in the hotel lobby is so $%^*& expensive. (And where you can buy a cup for half the price.) I even threw in some sex so you'll read the whole thing. Click here to read. Still got a question? Drop me a line and I'll add it to the mix. If you want to know, chances are others do too.

MEET MARK BOWDEN: Who? Yep, that's the point of our Headliners series--to introduce the fabulous authors headlining ThrillerFest V. Just posted is Lawrence Light's profile of journalist Mark Bowden, the author of BLACK HAWK DOWN, the world-renown book and Hollywood epic about the heroic rescue of American soldiers trapped behind enemy lines in Somalia. (Yeah, it's that Mark Bowden!) He's the first-ever winner of our True Thrills award for nonfiction, so click here and scroll down past the FAQs to read all about him.

MEET THE REST: First we profiled Harlan Coben. Then, Lisa Scottoline, and now, Mark Bowden. But brace yourself: over the next three weeks you'll see a mega-blitz of Linda Fairstein, Gayle Lynds, Brad Meltzer, David Morrell, and our 2010 ThrillerMaster for lifelong excellent in thriller writing, Ken Follett. Scroll through Latest News (where you just read the Bowden piece) to find each profile the moment it appears.

RECORD AGENTFEST: We're delighted to announce we've persuaded 48 world-class literary agents to hear your pitches at AgentFest. That's a record turnout of agents, and each and every wants to find the Next Big Thing amongst your manuscripts. Click here for their individual bios and photos. If you decide to give speed-pitching a go (it's like speed-dating, except with manuscripts, and you don't get kissed at the end), click here.

CALLING ALL VOLUNTEERS: ThrillerFest needs volunteers for all kinds of cool jobs, from the registration desk to helping folks navigate CraftFest to keeping time at author panels. Why not you? The work is fun and satisfying, and you can work as many or few hours as fits your schedule. David Wilson, ThrillerFest's coordinator of volunteers, has bunches of slots to fill, and he'd love to hear from you. Drop him an e-mail ASAP at to get on the list. For those of you who contacted me during the year hoping to volunteer, I forwarded your names already. But please drop David a line anyway, just to make sure he knows you want to work--it couldn't hurt, right? He'll get in touch with you when he's ready to make assignments.

ONE MORE TIME: Volunteering at ThrillerFest is a unique opportunity to meet your favorite authors face-to-face. (Imagine yourself handing Steve Berry, Lisa Scottoline, Sandra Brown or Ken Follett a badge and program book. . . .) It's also a fun way to learn ThrillerFest from the inside out. I'd be so pleased if you wrote to volunteer coordinator David Wilson and said: Yes, We Can. Again, it's

SLOTS SLIP-SLIDIN' AWAY: You receive these e-mail updates as part of your ITW membership, whether or not you've registered for ThrillerFest. If you’re one of the latter, please consider joining me at the world's coolest literary conference. I signed up after selling my first thriller manuscript five years ago, and wound up liking the event so much that now I'm chairman. Yeah, it’s that much fun. Catch the excitement yourself by clicking here to register.

Thanks for reading, and see you in New York!

With warmest regards,

Shane Gericke
Chairman, ThrillerFest 2010

Questions? E-mail me at

Guest Blogger: SIMON WOOD

By Simon Wood

I was thinking about the perception of safety the other day. My wife, Julie, doesn’t like it when I leave the front door unlocked when we’re in the house. She doesn’t want anyone storming the castle gates while we’re at home, so she puts her faith in a deadbolt. A two inch slug of steel not even an inch in diameter will keep her from harm. She doesn’t worry (but probably will after this blog) that there’s nothing stopping evil doers from chucking a rock through any of our floor to ceiling windows and entering the house that way.

I started thinking about other safe things in our lives.

When the little red man tells me not to walk, I don’t. The little red man knows all about danger. That’s why he’s red. When I ignore his advice, my heart rate shoots up a few beats.

The same applies to stop signs at a four-way stop. I put my faith in the driver of the eighteen-wheeler coming from the other direction that he’ll obey what it says on a red octagon and not plow into me.

Down on the Bay Area’s subway train system, BART, a row of yellow bricks keep me safe from the speeding trains if I stand behind them. And I do feel safe. The moment I stand on those yellow bricks, I feel queasy. I’ve put myself in danger. A train could hit me. Someone could bump me and send me sprawling onto the electrified rails. Those yellow bricks are just yellow bricks, but they have some power behind them. It’s really silly. My safety can’t be measured by the width of a row of yellow bricks. There are so many other contributing factors that can take their toll on me.

How many of us fear earthquakes, tornadoes, being struck by lightning, shark attacks or an in-law coming to stay? While these things exist, there’s little chance of them affecting us.

I look around me without my safety goggles on and reexamine my environment. There are so many things I perceive as safe. Harm won’t come to me because I’m not putting myself in harm’s way. Theoretically, that is. But boy, isn’t it a tenuous belief system? I am safe on the sidewalk because sidewalks are safe. There’s nothing to say a car won’t plow into me or I won’t trip and fall into the road, but I don’t think about these things because the sidewalk is my talisman.

It all comes down to perception. If I perceive danger everywhere I go, then I will see danger everywhere. Perception is reality. If I think safe, then I am safe. I guess there’s a little bit of the Pavlov’s dog syndrome at work inside us all.

Fundamentally, we all believe in a safe world and it is when all of us agree and on how to act. But what if someone doesn’t? Where’s our safety then? In jeopardy is the answer.

I quite like it when my thinking goes off the rails like this. I cross my eyes and I see the emperor without his clothes on. This is useful when it comes to the stories I tell. I like to pick at a character’s world until it unravels by attacking all the things that they hold dear. Basically, I break down their perceptions and belief system. Life is a tightrope and I like to twang the cable while there are people on it—fictionally speaking that is.

The notion of safety tends to play a part in the stories I tell. I don’t focus on global terror or category 5 hurricanes or anything like that because it’s too abstract. I don’t have any experience with something like that and it’s too infrequent to worry about it. I like to focus on the what-ifs of daily life. What if someone ignores a deadbolt and breaks in through the window? What if a waiter steals my credit card number and uses it? These are things that can happen and if the situation snowballs how can that one incident keep coming back at me to make the situation worse? My latest book, Terminated, deals with a vindictive employee who terrorizes his female boss and dismantles every part of her life, from her family to her reputation amongst friends and colleagues. It’s a real life threat that we can all identify with. It’s something that could happen to any of us and something we’d be little prepared to combat. Look at your own workplace. How would you deal with one of your coworkers turning on you? What damage could they inflict on you and your livelihood? It’s scary to daydream about, but it’s a scenario that could happen and that’s what makes it all the more powerful. We could all fall prey to circumstances we couldn’t imagine and would have to struggle to overcome. An act of terrorism, while real, thankfully happens rarely. A minor dust up with a stranger is far more likely, and therefore scarier.

I hope I haven't given any of you worriers out there something new to worry about. Now, sleep tight and I'll see you in your dreams.

Yours in perfect security,

Simon Wood

BIO: Simon Wood is an ex-racecar driver, a licensed pilot and an occasional private investigator. He shares his world with his American wife, Julie. A longhaired dachshund and five cats dominate their lives. He's had over 150 stories and articles published. His short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines anthologies, such as Seattle Noir, Thriller 2 and Woman’s World. He's a frequent contributor to Writer's Digest. He's the Anthony Award winning author of Working Stiffs, Accidents Waiting to Happen, Paying the Piper and We All Fall Down. As Simon Janus, he's the author of The Scrubs and Road Rash. His latest thriller, Terminated, is out in mass paperback. Curious people can learn more at

Monday, May 10, 2010


Harper Perennial presents
An Interactive Literary Environment

On the occasion of the publication of Ben Greenman’s What He’s Poised to Do (Harper Perennial, On Sale: June 15, 2010) we invite you to celebrate the art of correspondence and WRITE A LETTER TO A FAMOUS FICTIONAL CHARACTER

Before there was any fiction at all, there were letters. For centuries, letters were the only way for people in different locations to communicate with each other. But letters have also become a rich and complex element of the best literary fiction. The acclaimed author Ben Greenman explores how letters function in life, as well as how they function in fiction in his new collection of inter-linked stories What He's Poised to Do.

"Ben Greenman's masterwork of stories inspired by letters offers
fresh insight into the mysteries of intimacy."--Simon Van Booy.

On the occasion of the book's publication, and in celebration of the art of the letter as a form of fiction, Harper Perennial invites you to participate in its Letters With Character campaign, and to write a letter to a fictional character. The letters can be funny, sad, demanding, fanciful, declarative, or trivial. They can be about a novel, a short story, or a children's book, works both literary or popular. There is only one requirement: They must be written by a real person and must also address an unreal one.

The best, most interesting, strangest, and most moving letters will be collected on Visit the site to see a selection of those that have already been written: a romantic appeal to Captain Ahab, a moving consideration of middle age addressed to a Garcia Marquez heroine, a hilarious challenge to Agatha Christie's famed detective Hercule Poirot.

And feel free to submit your own letters to

Friday, April 30, 2010

Edgar Awards

Last night was the Mystery Writers of America's 64th annual Edgar Awards dinner. I was thrilled to see two of my favorite books of 2009 were winners - congratulations to John Hart on winning another very well deserved Edgar for THE LAST CHILD, and to Otto Penzler for THE LINEUP, a fascinating glimpse into the minds of so many truly creative and gifted crime fiction writers.

Here are the winners!

Best Novel
The Last Child by John Hart (Minotaur)

Best First Novel by an American Author

In the Shadow of Gotham by Stephanie Pintoff (Minotaur)

Best Paperback Original
Body Blows by Marc Strange (Dundurn)

Best Short Story

"Amapola" by Luis Alberto Urrea in Phoenix Noir, edited by Patrick Millikin (Akashic)

Best Fact Crime
Columbine by Dave Cullen (Twelve)

Best Critical/Biographical
The Lineup: The World's Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives edited by Otto Penzler (Little, Brown)

Mary Higgins Clark Award
Awakening by S.J. Bolton

Ellery Queen Award
Barbara Peters and Robert Rosenwald of Poisoned Pen Press

MWA Grand Master
Dorothy Gilman, best known for her Mrs. Pollifax series

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Marilyn Johnson

The undisputed queen of the Florida Library Association annual conference and libraries everywhere is Marilyn Johnson. Johnson is the author of This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save us All, and a librarian advocate. That's librarian, not library.

If you watch the news, you know there are plenty of people out there fighting to keep their libraries open in this age of budget shortfalls. State legislators are inundated with letters and have to pass picket lines to argue the budget. But in all those discussions, the librarians themselves may be on the picket line, but they are rarely discussed.

I met up with Marilyn at FLA, where she gave a hilarious presentation, complete with a PowerPoint presentation, to a packed house. I got to spend some one on one time with her as well, and had a great time getting to know this champion of librarians.

I was curious about her; why this fascination with librarians? When she was in high school, Marilyn told me she worked as a page at the library for $.95/hour. After her first year, she asked for a nickel raise and was turned down, so she quit. That was the end of her library career, but really just the beginning of her great love affair with libraries.

Marilyn is a journalist, and one of her jobs was writing obituaries, which led to a book, Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries. But something curious happened in the writing of that book; Marilyn noticed that the obituaries she found most fascinating were not those of famous celebrities, but those of librarians. That fascination led her to her new book, an homage to librarians of the past, present and future.

This Book is Overdue covers librarians from "Frederick Kilgour, the first to link libraries' computer catalogs to one another back in the late sixties" to George Christian & Janet Nocek, the Connecticut librarians who sued the federal government as John Doe over the Patriot Act, to the virtual librarians of Second Life and all the blogging librarians, too. Johnson celebrates these librarians as heroes of the information age in an always interesting and often humorous way.

According to Johnson, librarians are "sensitive to patrons and reward innovation." They don't sell people out and they keep secrets. In her research, Johnson found street librarians who literally worked the streets during the demonstrations at the Republican National Convention in New York City, armed with smartphones, lists of phone numbers for legal aid and such, and the locations of public restrooms. She found missionary librarians, who not only provided students from developing countries with laptops but taught them how to use them well enough for the students to take online college classes.

Johnson readily admits to having not much of a grasp of MARC catalog records, was forced to use the word "cybrarian" for lack of anything better for her computer powered librarians, and that she really had to address stereotypical librarian fashion sense as gracefully as possible. When one librarian complained about the cover of the book, specifically the librarian superhero's "sensible shoes", Johnson grabbed her marker and turned them into stilettos!

Johnson was also very excited and proud to tell me about the American Library Association's ALTAFF, the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations. While enjoying their programs at the annual conference, Marilyn wanted to join the library advocacy group. But when she looked at the application, she wasn't sure which box to check. Was she an advocate? A friend? What? So she called ALA and they decided to add another box for authors. Marilyn feels that writers are an endangered species, and libraries keep them alive, and now writers can support the ALA.

I really enjoyed chatting with Marilyn, and I loved reading her book. It's warm, witty, and wise, just like many of the librarians portrayed within. As a library school student on my way to becoming a librarian, I found it inspiring.

Thanks, Marilyn, for being a cheerleader for a profession that is grossly underpaid, often misunderstood, and rarely appreciated. Librarians everywhere should applaud you; you did us proud!

Monday, April 12, 2010


Last week I had the privilege and pleasure of attending the Florida Library Association's annual conference. I got to meet fellow library students, professors, authors and of course librarians from all over the state. It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot of interesting things. Here's my top 10 list:

1. I learned about "augmented reality;" not really sure what it is? Try YouTube for some interesting videos about it - here's one for a magic card trick

2. I learned that Delray Beach librarian Brian Smith has a terrific blog about his adventures as a Florida librarian that he calls Bribrarian

3. I learned that the Orange County Library system charges for the use of their meeting rooms: $25 for two hours. They also offer more computer classes than any library I've ever seen with dedicated librarian/teachers at every branch.

4. I learned that the Jacksonville Public Library allows their patrons to reserve meeting rooms online, and to pay their fines online as well. They also have a really cool Zine collection and blog about it here.

5. I learned that there are organizations that are trying to censor libraries as to what materials they should or shouldn't have in their collections, and they do so using innocuous, innocent sounding names like "Safe Libraries". That's the difference between librarians and those who seek to stifle us; I have no qualms about sharing their website.

6. I learned that the Pasco County Library is using QR codes on their books. This allows patrons use their smart phones in the stacks. They can use the camera & an app to scan the QR code on the spine of the book, and instantly read reviews on! "Point your phone at a printed page. Take a picture. Get taken to a website. That's the power of QR codes, codes embedded in print that can link cell phones to specific websites." Read the rest here.

7. I learned that anyone can upload video along with a PowerPoint presentation or notes to iTunes.

8. I learned that anyone can register for a free account at and create and manage your own movie lists, catalog your DVD collection, get local movie info and more.

9. I learned about free video editing software called Camtasia Studio, which CNET calls a "powerhouse for creating and producing screencasts for the Web, mobile phones, and DVDs."

10. I learned that Marilyn Johnson, author of THIS BOOK IS OVERDUE, is out there telling the world that librarians are smart, feisty, independent thinkers that will fight for your right to receive quality information in whatever format is currently available. Truth told, I already knew that, but it's always great to hear it again!

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