Monday, April 30, 2007

Do you have geek genes or Levi jeans?

By Joe Moore

I consider myself to be tech savvy—maybe more so than the average PC user. I believe I have geek genes. My wife has Levi jeans. She is always calling me into her office to say that there's something wrong with her PC and could I fix it. It’s usually a result of pilot error.

I wasn’t born with a geek gene. I believe I got it while in close proximity to someone who was born with it: my son. I remember when he passed it on to me. Many years ago, he came home from school one day with a Radio Shack TRS-80. He had traded a friend an old CB radio for it. The TRS used a TV for a monitor and had a paltry 16k of RAM. No hard drive. Storage was on an external 5.25” floppy disk or an audio cassette tape. Within a week, I got my hands on a basic word processing module and was using the computer more than my son. I wrote lots of stories with it as I dreamed of becoming a novelist.

Being an official geek, I soon grew tired of the TRS-80 and moved up to the highly advanced Commodore 64. Same external storage but a whopping 64k of RAM. Now we were getting somewhere. I found a better word processor program and kept writing more stuff. My first novel was years away, but I was on a roll.

Somewhere along the line, I learned how to use an Apple Macintosh. Built-in floppy storage and a massive 128k of RAM. I could feel the power.

Then I purchased a dedicated word processing device made by Magnavox called a VideoWriter. It was a computer, printer and monitor built into one unit. I wrote my first book using it--an action adventure novel set in Cuba and South Florida called DIRE STRAITS.

My first real, bigboy computer was a 286 made by Emerson. It had 4MB of RAM and a 40MB hard drive. Today, you can find toys in a McDonalds Happy Meal with more memory than my Emerson.

Next came a Micron which I used for many years until settling into my trusty Dell running three 19” LCD monitors and a bagillion giggawatts of flux capacitors and hot-swapping Terradactyl bites of quadrophonic, plutonium multiplex demodulators. When I turn it on, it’s like the scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where the whole power grid dims.

Does having geek genes help me write better novels? Probably not. But when you're a geek, it doesn't really matter. All that does matter is staying on the "bleeding edge" of technology.

So whatever happed to my son who gave me the geek gene? He went on to become a federal agent for the Department of Defense. His specialty: computer forensics.

Which do you have: geek genes or Levi jeans? What was your journey like along the techno highway to get you to your current computer? And the biggest question of all: will you stay with Windows XP or upgrade to Vista? I'm running the Vista compatibility test right now.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

No Reservations about Murder with Reservations

by Joanna Campbell Slan

News that author Elaine Viets suffered a stroke has hit the writing community hard last week. Many of us know Elaine personally, and many more of us have been the beneficiaries of her kindness.

Here in St. Louis, Elaine has long been a celebrity. She gently probed and explored our city’s foibles in a colorful column for the daily newspaper. One piece was about our odd custom of “forking” or sticking hundreds of plastic forks in the ground, handle up. Yep, you gotta love a town that knows how to have fun. Only in St. Louis can you say, “Fork you!” and not have to duck.

I can’t imagine the fear that accompanies having a stroke. Especially for those of us who make our living by wits. And if you’ve ever chatted with Elaine, you know what a bright and agile mind she has. When she lived in Washington, DC, she protected herself on the streets by wearing a custom-made pair of vampire teeth. That plus her height—six feet—gave her an “don’t mess with me” air which is totally at odds with the real Elaine. She’s a sweetheart.

And a dynamo. Right now, she’s a whirling dervish confined to her bed.

So here’s a great Mother’s Day idea…if you know Elaine…or if you want a terrific book to read…or a gift for your Mom…or if you’ve ever had a friend or relative cut down by a stroke…buy a copy of her newest release Murder with Reservations. Email and Main Street Books will take care of your purchase. And then give yourself a BIG pat on the back!

InkSpotters at Malice Domestic

Lotsa InkSpotters will be traveling to Arlington, Virginia for Malice Domestic, May 4-6, 2007. Be sure to check out their panels, or just say hello.

Deb Baker
5/5/2007 at 9:00 am
The Craft of Detection-Sleuths Who Craft More Than A Killer's Fate

Karen MacInerney
5//07 at 9:00 am
New Kids On the Block

Sue Ann Jaffarian
5/5/2007 at 10:30 am
Gumption-These Sleuths Have Plenty!

G.M. Malliet
5/5/2007 at 10:30 am
Short Story Panel

Chuck Zito
5/5/2007 at 10:30 am
Moderating "It's A Man's World: Guys With Attitude"

Susan Goodwill
5/5/2007 at 2:30 pm
Murder in Paradise:Death among the Beautiful People

Candy Calvert
5/5/07 at 4:00 pm
Mystery and Medicine: What makes the murder go down?

Joanna Slan
5/6/07 at 10:30 am
Undaunted Sleuths: Murder Most Adventurous

Friday, April 27, 2007

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

by G.M. Malliet

Photo credit: See

The photo is a reenactment of the scene at my house when Midnight Ink offered me a two-book contract. Only the original event was much, much wilder. I just wish I could remember it. ;-)

Writing the first book was exactly like this: rowing, rowing, rowing for miles, unable to see where you're headed, finally crossing the finish line...and realizing, you've won! Someone is standing on the shore, waving a book contract!

As I now work on the second book, I no longer feel I'm out there rowing alone, thanks to this group of Midnight Ink authors. I have people to call on for advice and information, and for reminders of why I wanted to be a writer in the first place.

I just came back from the Mystery Writers of American conference in New York, where a huge crowd of mystery writers also made me feel I was no longer alone in this strange and annoying desire to write a book. Stephen King was there, being interviewed in his role as Grand Master. (He is, by the way, not remotely scary in person.)

He talked about his book, On Writing, which is IMO pretty much the only book anyone has to read on the subject of writing. His summarized advice:

--Read everything
--Write every day
--Omit all adverbs

Yep, that about covers it.

He talked eloquently and with humility about how all writers--even famous, experienced writers like himself--can get lost, make mistakes, have to back up or throw away or revise and cut. How they waste days or weeks or even years on the wrong track. (The best writers just make it all look simple.)

And writers do this work with absolutely no sense that anyone cares or will ever care about what we've written. It really is a form of insanity. King emphasized it is also a form of therapy. It got him through the aftermath of his accident, acting like a painkiller once he got into "the zone"--that place writers go when they are too busy writing to notice the house is on fire.

At the conference, I had just reached the "slog" part of writing a novel--that middle part where you also have to make the tough, no-going-back decisions about where you're headed with this book. It was energizing to be reminded, once again, that I am not alone here on the river. I've got the Midnight Ink authors and Stephen King (but he has got to leave Cujo on the shore and that is final.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Standing Together

I had planned to follow up my "Lunch With Agatha" blog with a "Lunch With Dracula" entry, but real life stepped in and has changed the nature of my post. I recently returned from a three-day trip to North Carolina. I drove down to visit my mom and my grandmother, who has recently entered a hospice. It has been a tough year for my grandmother, as she has gone from using a walker to barely being able to stand, to the complete loss of the use of her legs. She has always been a fiercely independent woman and this physical weakness has really taken a toll of her emotionally.

I’m not sure if there are bleaker places than rest homes and hospices, but her sparse room became even colder when she asked me to go over to her house and pick out the things I wanted “once she was gone.” I didn’t want to, but it was important to her that I fulfill this request, so I did. My mom and I walked around her quiet, clean house using subdued voices and found ourselves reluctant to touch anything.

I’m sure everyone out there has had to face some kind of loss and one of the hardest things we must do is sort through the minutia of someone’s life. I picked out some antique toys for my children and a scrapbook full of letters my mother had written about her own three children to her mother, my grandmother. I was dry-eyed and spoke without a tremor in my voice until my mother held up a cheap, chipped hand mirror that had been in my grandmother’s bathroom as long as I could remember. I could see her holding it up as she brushed her long, silver hair. She only has a few white tufts now and I’ve got plenty of gray hairs myself, but it seemed only yesterday that I was a stringy haired blond girl watching my lovely grandmother wind her hair into a perfect bun.

When I got back to Virginia from NC, I was stunned by the violence that occurred at Virginia Tech. The city of Richmond is still subdued this week and I’ve been feeling rather down. It’s been a challenge to write light-hearted murder mysteries when cold-blooded, life-changing murders have ruined lives forever down the road.

There has been a silver lining to all this bleakness, however. Elaine Viets, author of the Dead-End Job and Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper mysteries, is recovering from her stroke. Everyone in the writing community was shocked that someone so young and healthy had been suddenly hospitalized with a dire prognosis. Elaine is doing much better, but clearly cannot tour or promote her new book. The MWA, Sisters in Crime, her promotionist at Breakthrough Promotions, and her fellow authors have rallied around her to promote her latest Dead End Job Mystery, Murder With Reservations.

A call to help Elaine has been answered by many: readers, authors, librarians, bookstore owners, etc. It has made me feel grateful to be a part of such a generous and caring group of people and also reinforced the notion that this is a small world after all. We all feel pain, loss, and fear, but once we reach out to one another, we become aware of the power of goodness.

Please support Elaine by pre-ordering her book. It will be released May 1st and on that date, it would be great to see it soar to the top of the Bestseller List! Clock here for the Amazon link and learn more about Elaine and her works on

Now, do me a favor and reach out to someone you love. Give them a hug, a kiss, a call, a prayer. Carpe Diem, my friends.

Worts and All by Jess Lourey

I am an efficient (perennially stressed. anal. stretched too thin.) person. Some days, I’m even like Martha Stewart on speed. I am a full-time college instructor of writing and sociology, a single mother of an eight and five-year-old, and a mystery writer with three books coming out within one 13-month period. Crazy, right?

I didn’t necessarily think so, until I noticed I was even altering the English language to accommodate my need to get stuff done sooner. I was making illegal contractions. Word shorts. Worts. The term is an example of what it defines (and if there is a word for that occurrence, please let me know because I bet it’s a cool word).

How it goes is this: I find myself typing really fast (Incidentally, this fast typing happens while I’m giving student feedback to online papers, not when I’m writing novels. I find that when I write creatively, my Muse comes more with the force of a whoopee cushion than a tempest.). So I’m typing so fast that spell check can’t keep up with me. I’ll be four lines past before that little red squiggly line appears, indicating I’ve misspelled a word. I look back and realize that what I’ve actually done is Frankenstein two words. “Awkward wording” becomes “awkwarding.” “Your thesis issues include…” becomes “Your thesissues include…”

What’s happening? Is my brain growing a horn? Is this evolution or a cry for help? Or do I just needitors? Help me.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

You Have Chatter

There’s a lot of talk among writers about wasting time online. What if we’re also wasting creative brain cells?

Sure, I’m right in there with you. I maintain a website, read about 20 blogs every day, post on 2, belong to 12 listservs. I have a presence on myspace and crimespace. I try hard to post comments at the blogs, join in the listserv conversations, send personal messages to myspace friends. I’m tempted to join the competition over at crimespace in composing a great forum, and I have fun plans to improve my website.

But how much creative thought can a writer produce in a single day. I’m finding that, on a good day, I have about three hours before my mind shuts down. That means that if I’m creating all this other junk for two hours every day (and it’s probably three) that leaves me short on resources for the book I have to turn in soon.

So the question is - am I throwing away creative juices?

Writing fiction is damn hard work. It’s much easier to get sidetracked on the internet and write whatever pops into my head, expounding on my personal beliefs, making them come alive for my mailing list, et al audience. Oops, forgot above to mention the newsletter I write.

Yesterday, I woke up with a bad cold. I’m way behind. Manuscript is due June 15th and I’m 2/3 of the way through the FIRST draft. And I have a blog posting due. I didn’t have the energy for both of them. Guess which one I decided was most important? Yup, the posting. It was a bad choice, but I’m making more of those these days.

Gertie Johnson, my protagonist, talked to me through the first two books. In book three, she’s been silent. I’m too busy thinking of witty things to say online to let her voice come through to me. I’m lousy at plotting without her. I need her back.

Look at the authors who are making it, I mean really making it. Are they writing dialogue while I’m writing this blog? Are they creating intriguing characters while I’m hunting down real-life characters to help me figure out problems with html so my newsletter publishes correctly?

Would I produce a better story if I didn’t have access to all these communities and their temptations? I love the writing community. It’s what I should be looking forward to as a reprieve when I ascend from my writing office in the bowels of my home. Instead it has consumed me. Resistance is (almost) futile. I have been assimilated.

What am I going to do about this insidious disease that threatens to eat away at my imagination? I have to try to remember what’s important and cut back on everything else. My husband once asked me, if I had to choose would I want to be a literary success or a commercial success. I didn’t even have to think about it. A commercial success, I said, feeling slightly embarrassed.

So the question I ask myself today is along the same lines – do I want to win over my peers or are my readers more important? And I have to choose. Which do I want? The answer is easy. I have to cut back on my efforts with my writing friends and lure my readers in with the best writing I can produce.

And I’m really, really going to cut back. Just as soon as I write the guest blog I’ve been invited to post, and answer a few myspace messages, and…

Deb Baker

Monday, April 23, 2007

Fiction or Fact?

by Chuck Zito

(Actual conversation:)

"So, do you have to pay this guy when you publish one of your stories?"

"What guy?" I respond, knowing in my heart just how baffling the answer was going to be.

"The Nicky guy. The one in your book. Do you have to pay him?"

My friends read fiction. You don't know them, so you'll have to take my word for it, but they do. They read mysteries, science fiction, literary fiction, thrillers. They read a lot of fiction. I don't think any of them actually believes there is a magical castle somewhere north of London where young wizards train. And, while there may be just a little confusion here and there about the Da Vinci Code, for the most part they don't have any issues when it comes to what is and isn't fiction.

That is, until they read my books. Then a very strange thing happens.

(Composite conversation: )

"That character, the music conductor – that's Alice isn't it?"


"Oh. But the guy – the best friend – that's me, right?"


And so it goes. There is an entire group of people on the West Coast who think one of the characters in my first book is based on a theater director we all worked with, even though the book was written before I met any of them. On the East Coast, an entirely different group of people are certain the character is based on a director they and I knew years ago. I've explained carefully that this is not so. They nod their heads as if they believe me, but I can see it in their eyes: "How come I'm not in a book?"

Fine. So I take some joyously idiosyncratic tick from a friend and weave it into a character. What happens? The friend in question never mentions the character who happens to love the exact same type of pickle, squash, and peanut butter sandwich as they. Nope. Instead he zeros in on a character to whom he bears absolutely no resemblance and ask why, after knowing him for twenty-five year, I would be so mean as to describe him as only five-feet four inches tall when he is obviously a prime example of manhood at six-feet one. That's right, my friends who aren't seeing other people in my writing, are busy seeing themselves in all the wrong characters.

Am I upset with people who think I couldn't be making up what I write? Not at all. I'm delighted it's so real to some readers. I'm happy to blur the line as best I can. And I always thank them for reading. It's just that I haven't found the next comfortable response after 'thank you.' What can I say to people who insist that I'm recounting my past and not, in fact, spinning daydreams from everyday life? I cannot possibly be alone in this strange place. What do other writers say?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Libraries: Check it Out!

By Candy Calvert

WOONSOCKET . . . HENNEPIN, KEENE, DERRY ~ aren't those the most amazing words? Don't they roll off your tongue and conjure up Seuss-like or Willie Wonka-esque images? Do you have any clue what they mean? I wouldn't have, except for the Google itch that compels this new author to do spot-checks on Dressed to Keel and Aye Do or Die--to see where my quirky cruise mysteries have recently sailed. So, now I know that Woonsocket is a city in Rhode Island, that Derry and Keene are in New Hampshire and that it is Hennepin, Minnesota. And I learned (delightedly) that these particular "ports" are . . . (lowering my voice obediently, so as not to be shusshed) libraries. Libraries! Now there's a goosebumpy reality I hadn’t figured on when I became a published author, and for some reason, this is even more mind-boggling than walking into a bookstore and seeing my books on the shelves. Maybe because the word "library," hurls me into an immediate flashback to my childhood library in Sacramento, California--The Belle Coolidge Library in the Lanai Shopping Center near Executive Airport.

I hurtle back in time, and suddenly it is summer and I am eight--bare feet (and tar bubbles on the asphalt), braids, pink seersucker shorts, sunburned nose-- when my well-worn yellow library card promised exciting new adventures and new friends, like Wilbur and Charlotte and Black Beauty and Nancy Drew. When I discovered new worlds with dinosaurs or faraway planets, underground cities . . . limitless possibilities. Hot Sacramento days, long lazy hours until bedtime, tangerine Kool Aid, enough Pixie Stix to stain my tongue red, and a shady spot under tree . . . who could have asked for more? And who could ever have guessed that one day my books would be in that same Sacramento library and so many other libraries across the country? Again--goosebumps.

I’ve since learned that not all books are purchased by libraries--that, indeed, many mass paperbacks are not. And, apparently, the reason is that libraries acquire books based on the recommendation of major reviewers like Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, and Booklist; and these folks (for reasons unknown to me) usually don’t accept mass paperback for review. They do, however, accept trade paperback, and Midnight Ink produces books (with beautiful covers) in that format. And then sends them to "Big Boy" reviewers.

So I continue to feel honored to find my mysteries in places like Bourbon County Kentucky, Warsaw Indiana, Hinsdale Illinois, Waukesha Wisconsin . . . and (seriously) Tasmania. And whenever possible, I offer to speak at libraries, even via phone conference--which recently happened when I connected with the delightful “Murder by the Book” club at the Regina, Saskatchewan library, who braved icy roads (dodging elk, moose, muskoxen?) to chat with me.

Plus, I found out one more thing that boggled me: it’s okay to write in library books. If it’s your own book. And you’re autographing it ("Really? You're sure?" I whispered to the librarian, certain she would confiscate my library card for vandalism). Trust me, this is something that little barefoot Sacramento girl (with Pixie Stix tongue) could never have imagined!
So what are your library memories? Old ones, new ones? Where have you “tracked” your books?

Falling in love again...

by Bill Cameron

Okay, I admit it. I've met someone new.

Sigh. *batseyes*

Do you want to hear about him? I don't even know what to say, he's soooo dreamy. Which means, I admit, that I dream about him constantly. Daydream. You know. Oh my. But he's so amazing.

His name is Eager Gillespie.

Yes, I know, that couldn't be his real name? Could it? Maybe it is. When a while can be named Moon Unit or Metallica, Eager doesn't sound so weird. Of course, maybe it's just a nickname. We've just met, and I haven't had a chance to ask about his family or his background much.

There's just one thing. He's dead.

I know, I know, how do you fall in love with a dead guy? What kind of sicko am I, anyway? But it's complicated, and honestly, if all goes well, maybe there's something I can do to bring him to life again. Maybe there's some secret that I haven't yet discovered about who he is, something that will move him from the dead to the quick.

I sure hope so. Because I loooove him!

Here's what I know. He's a young cop, still a probie barely out of the academy. His death is tragic and unexpected (as are so many of them), but he dies in the line of duty. A hero's death. Which is actually good for him, because it turns out if he hadn't been killed, he'd be dead soon anyway, and much more unpleasantly. His hero's death is almost a gift.

The sad thing about Eager is that he's in to some stuff he shouldn't be. I don't know much about it yet, and it's not going to be easy to dig it all out. He wants to be a good guy, but who saddled him with that name maybe got him off on the wrong foot. I've been dreaming about him, and in every dream I learn something new. I learn who his friends are, and which friends maybe shouldn't be. He talks fast and is eager to please, which is probably where his name comes from. That's a great strength of his, but it's also a great weakness. It's what gets him into trouble.

He's my newest character, and I'm going to love bringing him to life and then killing him off again.

Sigh. *batseyes*

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Few Words on Exploitation!

April 18, 2007
I recently finished reading the ARC of RAGAMUFFIN, my friend Tobias Buckell’s second novel, due out June 2007. The first was CRYSTAL RAIN (you’ll like it; go buy it; read it). Toby writes hard science fiction and it’s pretty great stuff. It takes place in a very distant future, way out there in the galaxy. Humans not only aren’t alone, but we’re pretty much screwed. Forty-eight planets are connected by thousands of wormholes, but the entire galaxy is under control of a race of beings called the Satrap, who meticulously control technology and slap down anyone—especially humans—who try to develop technology they don’t want used. In fact, much of humanity lives on a few isolated planets (including Earth, cut off from the wormholes) or in “free zones” allowed by the Satrapy. Many have “chosen” to be “pets” to other advanced races, such as the Gahe, in exchange for regular food and care. There are a group of freedom fighters known as the Ragamuffin and…

Anyway, the point really is that Toby’s a terrific writer, especially when developing worlds and universes. I find the strength of his imagination to be sort of dazzling. But when I was reading part of the book, I was thinking, “I’m not sure he exploited that as well as he should.”

With apologies to Toby—and I did warn him I was going to do this—I want you to take a look at the cover art for Ragamuffin. It appears that those three people are falling into a pit, machine guns blazing. The tough chick with the huge gun is Nashara (Nash) and she’s a sort of living, breathing super-assassin, in many more ways than one. They are not falling into a pit. This scene takes place in a habitat, a space station circling a dead planet. It is 20 miles long and shaped sort of like a giant Campbell’s Soup can. The interior sides of the can are where people live. It’s just like a planet, with earth and trees and plants and buildings. As the habitat spins, it creates an artificial gravity. As you move toward the center space of the cylinder, gravity approaches zero. Running from one end of the habitat to the other, through the middle, is a nuclear fusion lightline that creates light for the habitat, and will charge from one end to the other, simulating a day cycle. It’ll also fry anybody who gets too close to it.

Nash and two others are on a mission in the habitat, controlled by the Satrapy and their brainwashed human soldiers (the Hongguo), essentially to steal fuel for their spaceship. Toby’s universe is very realistic, not Star Trek-like. The wormholes shuttle you from place to place, but between wormholes your spaceship requires plasma fuel—a lot of it—and it’s expensive and controlled by the Satrapy. Nash and her two pals rescue two kids on the way, steal the big machine gun, and then, being chased by soldiers, need to get from one end of the habitat to the other. Rather than try to fight through hundreds of soldiers on the ground over 20 miles, Nash leads them to the center end, then they tie themselves together, push off into zero gravity and use the machine guns to propel themselves along the lightline, all while being chased by the Hongguo.

Cool, huh? I thought so. I was glued to the pages.

Except, as exciting as it is—and it IS exciting—I thought it could have been better. In a phrase, I thought Toby could have exploited the action more. (And to be fair to Toby, the last third of RAGAMUFFIN is a space battle that’s pretty damn cool).

Now, I write action thrillers. We all have our strengths, and writing action is probably my greatest strength. Paul Levine, who writes hilarious romantic-comedy-crime novels (highly recommended), once commented on how jealous he is of Lee Child’s ability to write action scenes that last 10 pages long. Well, I like Lee Child pretty well, too, but I’m not quite as dazzled by what he does because, well, that’s what I do, too. And although I imagine I could write witty dialogue that ran on for pages and pages like Paul, I’m afraid I would probably want to interrupt it with a bomb going off or somebody getting shot in the butt.

In an interview David Morrell gave years ago, he commented that he finally realized that what readers want was romance. And by romance, David suggested, he didn’t mean hugs and kisses, he meant romance in the way knights and chivalry suggested it—heightened drama, even melodrama (in its best connotation, not worst). Fiction isn’t realistic—not exactly. In real life, fights don’t last very long and a good punch to the jaw can end up with one person with a broken jaw and the other with a broken hand. Sex is in most cases not necessarily the upswept, long-lasting, simultaneous-earth-shaking-orgasms of the novel, either (well, okay, maybe yours is. Who's to say?)

I think it’s the writer’s job to exploit every bit of the story, using every bit of their skill (if at all possible). Above my desk I have listed five steps to creating tension and/or suspense. Number 3 is: Milk the tension. That applies to almost everything in fiction, I think. Milk the laughs. Milk the terror. Milk the sex. Milk the violence. Milk the romance. Exploit whatever’s there to the fullest.

Your readers will love you for it. (And as for RAGAMUFFIN: you’ll like it; go buy it; read it!)

Mark Terry

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Where I Get My Ideas

by Nina Wright

Since the premier of my very first play, I continue to be thrilled whenever readers or audience members care enough to ask where I find my ideas. It's a question I always answer honestly; however, the reply that I long to make is a variation on one I heard a bestselling writer give on late-night TV. When asked where he got his ideas, the celebrity novelist replied, "Dubuque." After the laugh, he went on to say that he’d never been to Dubuque, but he figured it was as good a place as any to shop for inspiration.

I’d like to say my ideas come from . . . Cincinnati.

And not just because it sounds funny. Newly divorced in my 20s, I had moved to Cinci to take what would be my first corporate job when I realized that I was never going to be happy wearing a suit every day. That shouldn’t have been a stunning revelation since I had already worked five years in professional theatre; however, the big Three-Oh wasn't far away. Time to get serious about earning a steady income. Alas, selling bulk orders of Crisco shortening for Procter and Gamble was not my career destiny, despite the tempting health and retirement benefits.

So it was in Cincinnati, during an existential crisis, that I faced my personal truth: no matter what the cost, I wanted to walk through life as a Writer.

I look back on my brief time in the Queen City as the start of a long and winding road paved with corporate failure and creative fodder. I wish I could say (on a late-night TV talk show promoting my first bestseller) that I found a blockbuster idea in a bowl of Skyline chili, but of course that didn't happen. No, the answers I stumbled on in Cincinnati led me to grad school, restaurant work, more grad school, more theatre work, assorted teaching jobs, lots of freelance writing gigs, a sideline biz renovating homes, lots of elder care, and a costly school-of-hard-knocks general education before I ever got my first novel published.

So . . . where do I get my ideas?

Honest answer: Finding ideas is the easy part—the easiest part—of the whole creative process. Inspiration is literally everywhere, especially if you listen more than you talk. People are always telling their stories, asking their questions, whining their complaints. All you have to do is pay attention. You don’t even have to wait around long enough to hear the ending. In fact, I recommend that you don’t. Walk away while they’re still talking and go write the rest of the story. It’s yours now. Let the magic begin.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Dreaded Epiphanot Alligator

An idea that at first seems like an amazing insight (at least to the conceiver) but later turns out to be pointless, mundane, stupid, or incorrect, and often is the root cause of bad decisions. Mostly occurs under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

That's the word of the day over at the Urban Dictionary. It got me to thinking…
As writers, we're constantly asked the question, "where do you get your ideas?"
I don't think that's the real question with writers. I think most of us are bombarded with story ideas. Every eavesdropped snippet of conversation, every weird news event, every person we pass on the street holds an idea for us. That's just the way we're wired.

The real question isn't where we get ideas, it's how to know which ideas to act upon. How do we know that idea isn't leading us into Bad Idea Swampland where we find out it's an epiphanot ? How do we know the Epiphanot Alligator isn't waiting in the dark to snarl, "This is schlock!" and gobble up weeks, maybe months of work?
(Okay, sometimes he's an agent or an editor or a critique partner, he just looks like an alligator at the time.)

I can only speak for myself on this, and the truth is, I don't know. But I trust my gut when a really intriguing idea beckons me to step out into the dark. If it won't go away and seems friendly, I grab my flashlight and venture a few feet out at a time. Maybe I plot, maybe I collage, maybe I journal, maybe I brainstorm, maybe I draft like crazy.
Sometimes I whine. Loudly.
But I do whatever it takes to get me to move out in the dark a little further.

I may have to back up and take another path now and then, but I keep going and trust that just beyond the flashlight's beam, is Story. Being a writer means we have to be optimistic, sometimes even irrationally so, that we will reach that Story End, and a lot of that is simply about moving out into the dark swamp. So what if we encounter the Epiphanot Alligator?
We'll probably just write him into the story.
Susan Goodwill writes the Kate London Mysteries, BrigaDOOM, a quirky romp through murder, mayhem, and romance gone awry was released March, 2007 from Midnight Ink Books.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

InkSpot News - April 14, 2007

JOANNA CAMPBELL SLAN will appear on the SleuthFest panel "The Road to Publication -- Advice from Recent Travelers," at 9 a.m., Sunday, April 22. Her article Ten "Things" I Learned at Love Is Murder appeared in the Love Is Murder online magazine and will be republished in her Monday (April 16) blog.

On April 21 at noon, BILL CAMERON will be signing copies of Lost Dog at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, 117 Cherry Street in Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA 98104.

ANN BURGESS has joined the faculty of Forensic University of St. Louis: 50 Ways to Catch a Killer, Nov. 1-4, 2007. The two-and-a-half day conference will be held at the Hilton St. Louis Airport (St. Louis, Missouri). Other headliners are Jan Burke, Dr. D. P. Lyle, Eileen Dreyer, and Detective Lee Lofland (retired).

Burgess is world-renowned in forensic science. Not only was she one of the authors of Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives (with the FBI's John Douglas and Robert Ressler -- an extremely important book, this was one of the first scientific studies of serial killers)  and the Crime Classification Manual, Sexual Assault of Children and Adolescents. She’s also the author of more than 21 books and 135 articles) that are in use by those in medicine, psychology, criminology, forensic science, criminal justice -- everywhere. She's also published studies on trauma, violence against women, domestic violence, infant abductions, elder abuse and other important subjects. She founded one of the first hospital-based rape crisis intervention programs in Boston in 1972.

For more information go to: http:/// or for updated information about programs & faculty:

Friday, April 13, 2007

Dogs and Mysteries

Tom Schreck,
author of On the Ropes, A Duffy Dombrowski Mystery
Available September 2007 from Midnight Ink Books

You may or may have not noticed the prevalence of dogs in mysteries. There’s no shortage of dogs in the Midnight Ink series and whether you’re a fan of Robert B. Parker, Stephen White, Joan Hess, Carol Lea Benjamin or countless others, you know dogs figure in the plots of lots of whodunits.

In my own series, The Duffy Dombrowski Mysteries, lots of people tell me that Allah-King, Duffy’s Black Muslim basset hound is their favorite character. “Al” as Duff calls him is very much the prototypical hound in that a) he has no inclination to please his owner; b.) He does what he wants, when he wants regardless of who is present and c.) When it matters, I mean really matters, he comes through.

Al is very much like my own basset, Wilbur, who is pictured with me above. Wilbur barks incessantly, he eats my shoes and if he doesn’t feel like walking where I want to walk he just lays his fat self down and makes me drag him. Wilbur sleeps with my wife and I (and our other basset and four cats) and likes to lay on his back with all four paws straight in the air. This is quite a sight and might even be somewhat amusing if he wasn’t dead center on my side of the bed.

The other thing you should know about Wilbur is he comes with me to the Special Ed School I work in. While he doesn’t do a damn thing I tell him to do you can see him cheerfully running up and down the halls happily on the leash of young girl with autism or sitting and lying down for a treat so he can get petted by a half a dozen of kids at once. He doesn’t care that they are loud or unpredictable with their movements—he just knows what they need.

Last month at school a 13 year old girl was given the job of walking Wilbur so that she would have a responsibility. Jen has a disability and part of that disability is that she has a speech impediment. She proceeded to teach Wilbur a couple of tricks that I never could get him to do. Last week, after Wilbur did his tricks and gave Jen a kiss, she looked at him and said “Good Boy Wilbur.”

Big deal? Yeah, you bet it was. You see her speech therapist was the one who gave her the Wilbur job and after Jen told Wilbur he was a “good boy,” the speech therapist put her hand over her heart and her knees buckled. She later told me that in the thirteen years she had been working with Jen she never came close to being able to say “Good Boy.” Now she tells Wilbur that after every trick he does.

So last night at 2:37 am when Wilbur wanted to go outside I didn’t yell at him. When he chewed through my $100 running shoes I gritted my teeth but let it go and when he doesn’t shut up right at the climax of the Yankees game I don’t yell at him.

You see, dogs have a way of letting us know what’s important—not what we think is important but what is truly important.

Al, Duffy’s dog, does the same things and he also becomes Duffy’s moral barometer. If you’re lucky enough to have a dog like Wilbur or Allah-King you already now what I’m talking about. If you don’t you’re going to have to wait until September when On the Ropes, A Duffy Dombrowski Mystery debuts.

Then, you along with Duffy can adopt your very own obstinate basset hound.

(If you really can’t wait—check out the short story, Hounding Duffy on

The Nicest Bunch Of Killers I Know

One of the most remarkable things about the crime fiction community is how generous writers are to one another, with very few exceptions. This might seem counter-intuitive, since we spend most of our time making bad things happen to good people in the pages of our books, but I’m continually struck by how mystery writers go out of their way to support each other.

I just got back from a book signing, a joint appearance with Steve Hockensmith, whose novel Holmes On The Range is up for an Edgar this year. Steve invited me to join him on part of his tour, and in the parlance of his character Big Red, it was a hoot. Readers of his books discovered mine, and vice versa, and at every appearance one or two people in the audience were fellow mystery authors who came out to cheer us on.

In Portland there was Bill Cameron, fellow MI author and blogger whose must-read debut Lost Dog is finally on bookstore shelves. Like the rest of us, Bill is now on the deadline treadmill, and he probably had a lot more important things to do than listen to me and Steve read, but he turned out anyway. He could have thrown tomatoes or heckled us from the back row, but instead he was a friendly face in the crowd, and I can’t thank him enough.

Mystery writers seem to have figured out this isn’t a competition. The only real threat to you selling more books is Nintendo, reality TV, or the millions of other forms of instant gratification that define popular culture. If one of us sells a book, that means someone must be reading crime fiction, and that’s good for all of us.

I’m told that writers in other genres or the literary crowd may not be so kind. I wouldn’t know, since I spend most of my time hanging out with people who dream of murder and mayhem. When I first met Julia Buckley, I told her a story about my first writing conference. I sat across a table from a woman who had attended more than a few over the years, and she told me the mystery writers were the nicest people because they got all their aggressions out on the page. Her closing comment to me was, “Almost everyone is really great. There are only one or two assholes, and we all know who they are.”

Based on my experience so far, I’d say she was right.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Research - Getting It Straight From the Horse's Mouth

By Sue Ann Jaffarian

Earlier on this blog Candy Calvert talked about research and the things we learn to make our books authentic. I love research and one of the things I love most about it is how happy most experts are to help you with it.

Take yesterday, for instance. The head litigation partner of the law firm where I work came dashing into my office to discuss attorneys, disbarment, and motives for murder, all because I asked him if he would help me out. Now this is a man who probably bills at $500+ an hour and he came to my office, sat across from me and, with great excitement, discussed for thirty minutes how to authentically beef up the motives of some of the attorneys in my next book.

When writing Too Big To Miss, which is set in Orange County, California, an Orange County detective graciously gave me a hour of his time to discuss local police procedures when handling a suicide, how bodies are identified in Orange County, and his cop gut feeling if he were investigating the murder in the book. When I wanted to describe a bullet wound, I asked a former cop who'd been shot to tell me about how it felt and looked (and yes, he showed me his scar!). Information about collecting lunch boxes used in The Curse of the Holy Pail, came from the acknowledged expert on lunch boxes who lived in Texas. But my most interesting and extensive research so far was for one of the main characters in my series who is a paraplegic. Yep, you guessed it, I interviewed several men about the same age in wheelchairs about every aspect of their lives, including love and sex. And one even allowed me to follow him around a couple of days so I could see how he handled the most mundane tasks of daily living.

People willing to help writers are everywhere. All you have to do is ask. And if someone says no, ask someone else. But when you ask, ask the experts, not someone who may know or might have read about it or heard about it third hand, or, horror of horrors, saw it on CSI. Authors with questions should take the time to go to the source. One of the things that bugs me as both a writer and a reader is when an author uses faulty information in a book. It makes me wonder if they were misinformed by well-meaning friends or just lazy, or both. Research is pretty simple; if you want to know about jay walking laws in Appleton, Wisconsin, contact the Appleton, Wisconsin, police department. Believe me, they will be happy to help you get it right.

My 5th Odelia Grey novel involves a corn maze in Massachusetts. I have already made contact with the owner of the maze and in September I’ll be winding my way through towers of corn trying to get a feel for the experience. Oh yeah, and if I find my way out of the maze, I just might make it to a family wedding the next day. Talk about multi-tripping.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand....

There are only a few movies that will make me stop my mindless channel surfing and Cool Hand Luke is one of them. Cable had it on heavy rotation this last weekend and when I hit upon I knew I was going to be late for a dinner party at a friend's house. No way can you leave right in the middle of Luke eating those eggs!

Great movies and great books are like that. You can see or read them again and again and you always get something new out of them.

And that's what we are all trying to do right? Live the life day to day and get something meaningful out of it. See the rerun that is our life and hope to catch that spark, that moment of pleasure that makes you pause and say, yeah, that's pretty cool.

Yeah, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.

Killer Year 2008

Killer Year began in 2007 as a group of debut thriller/suspense authors who banded together to help promote each other. In the end thirteen authors were involved. Efforts that they used in promotion included the Killer Year blog, Killer Year website, a chap book mailed to several hundred independent booksellers, organizing Killer Year panels at various conferences and bookseller events, and producing a Killer Year anthology which will be published by St. Martin’s in 2008.

For their hard work, they’ve received major press coverage, radio interviews and feature articles as well as the support of ITW.

If you are thriller/mystery/suspense writer whose debut novel is being published in 2008, go to to learn more about Killer Year 2008.

So get ready, because 2008 is gonna be another Killer Year.

Application deadline is June 15, 2007.

Recollections and Lessons Learned On My Maiden Voyage

Recently I was thinking about my first book, how naïve I was , and the lessons that I learned. With the exciting news of my first sale, (then writing prehistoric fiction under the name Lynn Armistead McKee) I didn’t really give a hill of beans about the advance or anything other than the fact that Berkley was publishing MY book! (That’s the first naïve part) It was originally a horror/occult novel, but the editor requested I take all of that out so it would appeal to a broader audience—in other words change the genre. My immediate answer was, “Sure, no problem.” I had no idea what I was in for. This was no simple revision, but what did I know? (That's the second naïve part.)

A month later and deep into the revisions, I received a horrifying phone call from my agent’s assistant (my agent was on vacation in Turkey) telling me that my editor had left Berkley and I was orphaned. I had to ask what was the worst-case scenario. He sadly related that there was the possibility that the new editor might not like my book, and it wouldn’t get published. My first thought was that I had already told all my friends that I was going to have a book published. Yikes! Luckily, the new editor liked the book, and it continued along in the editorial process—which was another eye-opener. Didn’t a writer get a call on Monday that a publisher was buying the book, and then it was published on Friday—or something like that? Why would it take an entire year? Wow, see how uninformed and virginal I was.

Finally, revisions complete, final edits done, ARCs out, and then the big day. I had befriended a Waldenbooks store manager, and she called me when the books arrived. I gathered up all my family and headed to the mall with a video camera. I was going to surreptitiously capture the first sale. (Like I didn’t stand out in the crowd with a video camera stuck to my eye.) That’s about the time my stomach turned over and I felt like I was going to throw up. All this time I had been anxiously looking forward to seeing my “baby” on the shelf. I was so sure that I would be ecstatic. Now, through the camera lens I witnessed someone pick up my book, read the back blurb, thumb through it, then put it back on the table. For the first time I realized that not everyone was going to like my book—after all we don’t all like to read the same thing. But the worst was that I became acutely aware that some of those people who wouldn’t like my book were going to be my friends. I had never really considered that.

Amongst all the rude awakenings during my maiden voyage into the publishing sea, that was the rudest.

I heard Stephen King speak once, and he said his publisher spent tons of money doing a survey on why some people don’t read Stephen King. He said he told them it was because some folks just don’t read that sh--. The publisher went ahead with the survey anyway and King said that what they found out after spending many thousands of dollars was that some people just don’t read that sh--.

Authors have to have tough skin. It’s part of the package. I have switched genres and publishers, changed my pen name to Lynn Sholes (my real name—I had what I call a regime change—divorced and remarried), and now co-write thrillers with Joe Moore for Midnight Ink. Even though we have had wonderful feedback and great reviews, as every writer knows, from out of the fog a rogue reviewer sometimes emerges, or you occasionally get a flat response from a friend. Changing genres, publishers, and names hasn’t changed the bottom line that not everyone will love what I write. I can’t be offended by that or I’d never write again. Blowing it off is a lesson worth learning. When I don't get the fabulous comments from a friend that I wanted or when the creep from hell posts a less than super review on Amazon, I have to keep in mind what I discovered in the mall behind the lens of my video camera and also when listening to Stephen King-- some people just don’t read that sh--.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

InkSpot News - April 7, 2007

SUSAN GOODWILL's debut book in the Kate London Mystery Series, BrigaDOOM, has made the March, 2007 bestseller list at Mystery Lover's Bookshop.

Mystery Lovers Bookshop is one of the largest specialty mystery book stores in the country and has been in business for seventeen years. Located in Oakmont, PA, Mystery Lovers sponsors the Annual Festival of Mystery, now in its twelfth year. 

The Festival will take  place Monday, May 7, 2007.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Are We All Nuts?

What do you call someone who is detached from reality and lives in a fantasy world? A schizophrenic? Delusional? How about a writer?

People have told me they think Ian, the main character in my book Dot Dead is really me. That’s flattering since he’s younger, more attractive, and smarter than I am, but it’s just not true. In fact, I think those people have the situation exactly backwards. While writing the book, I became Ian. I lived in an alternate world as Ian and made my way through that messy place as him. When he checks voicemail one day, Ian gets a message left for him by a person since murdered. A shiver went up my back and my scalp tingled when I wrote that. I was there. I was Ian.

Back in grad school when I was writing my thesis on British diplomacy just before World War II, I caught myself writing checks dated 1939. (No, I was not in grad school then. I’m old but not that old.) For ten or twelve hours a day, I time-traveled and became Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, and company trying to figure out how to deal with the Nazi menace. Putting yourself in another time and place, walking in another person’s shoes – isn’t that what writing is all about? And there’s no need to defy the laws of physics to do it. You just need a laptop and the ability to live in an alternate world.

Some writers do meticulous outlining before starting the first chapter. Not me. I write in the first person because I want to be in that alternate world and experience what the narrator is seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and thinking. So I can become him. Tess Gerritsen recently blogged about this: “I have no idea where my story will take me when I sit down to write the first page.” Me neither. Finding out where I'm going in an alternative world is what makes writing so exciting to me.

It all kind of reminds me of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter, hero of A Princess of Mars, who magically travels between two different worlds. (Same thing for the kids in C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.) Don’t we writers escape from the workaday world and move to another, more interesting one while thumping on the keyboard?

So where do you draw the line between being a writer and being a little unhinged? As for me, I draw no line, but a circle. I’m both.

Keith Raffel

P.S. Just in case you were wondering what I had in common with Zach Braff, Marilu Henner, Bob Marley, Michelle Phillips, Billy Dee Williams, Merle Haggard, André Previn, James Watson, Walter Huston, Butch Cassidy, and Raphael.... We were all born on April 6!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Has this ever happened to you?

I could talk about writing. Everyone else is talking about writing. But I don't feel like talking about writing.

So I'm going to talk about something else. In fact, I'm going to talk about something that happened to me this morning.

The last few weeks, things have been rather hectic for me, the result being that there's been more than a bit of sleep deprivation in my life. So this morning, since I had an interview to do at noon (with Ashley, a very nice young lady from the Daily Texan) and I wanted to be able to form coherent sentences, after I dropped my kids off, I did NOT go and write. Which is highly unusual.

Instead, I went home, took a bath, read a book, and set the alarm clock for a reasonable time in case I fell asleep.

Well, the alarm went off, I got up, blew my hair dry, got dressed, couldn't find my keys, discovered the rabbit had fleas, and then accidentally left the front door open.

And then the alarm went off, and I woke up.

Now, maybe it's just me, but personally, I think life is busy enough that I deserve a little downtime when I close my eyes. I mean, you'd think my subconscious could throw a dragon or two in there, or maybe a trip to the south of France. Or at least a hunky guy in a kilt.

But no, I get lost keys and fleas.

If only there was someone I could complain to...

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

A Writer's Moment of Truth

by Julia Buckley

I remember waiting to find out whether or not I was going to be published by Midnight Ink. They had been discussing my manuscript and keeping my agent apprised of its progress; I got occasional e-mails saying “It’s still under consideration.” I was granted a lot of time, therefore, to contemplate how much I wanted it. I was about to turn forty. I saw this as my opportunity to accomplish something pretty big before leaving my thirties.

This is a pattern with me; a week before I turned thirty I bore my first child, so I got in just under the wire at the end of that decade, too. Now I can say that I had Ian “in my twenties,” but just barely.

The book, as I saw it, was another kind of baby, and I really wanted it to be born with Midnight Ink. It was December (my birthday is on the 30th), and I was waiting for a call from my agent, who was expecting word any moment. However, it just so happened to be my husband’s day off, and I had to go to work, so I told him to keep track of any messages.

My husband picked the boys up from school and then they came to get me at work. He didn’t say anything when I got in the car, so I assumed he had no news for me, good or bad. We drove for a time, talking about the day and wondering what we’d do for dinner. Then I noticed that Jeff was looking at me warily, out of the corner of his eye.

“If I knew something,” he said, “would you want to know that I knew?”

My heart began an uneven stacatto. “Do you THINK I might want to know what you know? Otherwise I’m not sure.”

He paused. He didn’t want to mess this up, for fear that later I would say, “You totally destroyed the moment!” (Which I might, in all fairness, have said). “I’m just wondering, if you had some kind of phone message, if you’d want me to tell you what it said, or if you’d want to listen to it yourself.”

The uncertainty was killing me, but I didn’t want to risk bad news. “Uh—do you THINK I’d want you to tell me the message?”

My children were getting annoyed in the back seat. They had long since left sweet, chubby babyhood and entered into a rather sarcastic adolescence that required them to ask “What’s your point?” on a regular basis.

“What’s your point, Dad?” asked my eldest with no small amount of scorn.

My husband caved in. “I’m talking about Mom getting published! Mom is going to be a published author!”

Burdened as I am with the German reserve, I didn’t hoot and holler, but I enjoyed a moment of quiet pride. “That’s good,” I said. That was the understatement of the year, but I never have been the screaming type. The boys congratulated me and asked if this meant we were going to be rich. I said no, and then, understandably, they sort of lost interest.

Still, it was a great moment, and I recall it with happiness, just as I do the birth of my babies. I made sure to tell friends, family and colleagues the news BEFORE the New Year, though, so that I could officially say I sold a novel while I was in my thirties. Now I have to decide what I must accomplish before I turn fifty. Seeing one of the books become a movie? Singing the National Anthem at the World Series? (Hey, it could happen). Feel free to leave your suggestions here. I will take them under advisement.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Is that a gun in your pocket . . .

by Joe Moore

. . . or are you just happy to see me? Mae West got our attention with one of the most famous opening lines in history. So how important is a first line? In life, some people call them icebreakers, and they can mean the difference between getting a date with that just-right person or nailing that dream job. It can set the tone for a relationship with your new end-laws or neighbors. The more important an event, the more importance we place on it.

In a novel, the first line can be a killer or a clunker. It can lay there like an overcooked piece of fish or fire up the imagination and demand that the second line be read and the third . . . It can produce a ho-hum yawn or cause a gasp. And it is probably the most overworked, over written string of words in a writer’s life.

Some first lines drift away like smoke on an autumn breeze. Others laser themselves in our gray matter to be remembered and recalled until the grave. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of time . . .” from Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities comes to mind. The problem with that one is, back in school I was told it was a great first line. Admittedly it is, but what I’m talking about here are the ones that we discover on our own. The treasures in the attic or the gems buried in the bottom of the old dresser bought at a flea market.

When I was in high school, I picked up a novel and read the first line, and knew in an instant that I would never forget it. That I would be able to recite it anytime, anywhere for the rest of my life. And because of that line, I devoured the rest of the book and every other novel the author wrote. That first line was a black hole that sucked me in. It was an 11-word mixture of mystery, suspense, intrigue, darkness, and magic. As a writer, I aspire to someday writing a first line as good. For now that’s only a distant dream, but one I never stop working toward. Here’s that first line:

“The seller of lightning rods arrived just ahead of the storm.” Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.

What’s your favorite first line?

Monday, April 2, 2007

The Key to Writing Success

By Joanna Campbell Slan

“If there is a key to writing success, it’s this…You go into a room alone and leave behind those you love and you do your work without excuse,” said Randy Wayne White to a crowd of about 100 at a book signing event at the lovely Vero Beach Book Center in Vero Beach, Florida. The presentation coincided with the release of his latest (and greatest) thriller in the Doc Ford series, Harvest Moon.

Thanks to White, the rest of us have a succinct response when people say, “I want to write a book. But how do you start?”

Better yet, we can quote White when folks look at us balefully and say, “Ah, but I’ve got so many ideas. I can’t pick one.” The author of 14 books in this series suggested if you are dallying around trying to pick just one idea, you are coming up with excuses. After a pause, he added, “If you are waiting for that magic combination of events, (it won’t happen).”

Of course, most of us won’t find such dramatic inspiration for our work as White has. White found his central idea for Hunter’s Moon when a former president and his family spent New Year’s Eve with the author and his family. When White’s son needed a knife to open something, the former Chief Executive pulled one from his pocket and grinned. “One of the best things about being president is that I can carry a knife anywhere and never get searched.”

White admitted he felt chills when he wrote the final scene in the book. “It’s my favorite thriller of the group,” he said, as an almost-schoolboy blush colored his already sunburnt face.

Chills? I sat beside a pool surrounded by noisy children and cried as I lowered the book to my lap.

Seriously…it’s that good.