Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Books That Shaped America

by Kathleen Ernst

I had the honor and pleasure of participating in the 2012 National Book Festival in Washington DC in September. One of the highlights was a visit to the magnificent Library of Congress, where I got to see the exhibition called “Books That Shaped America.”
According to James Billington, Librarian of Congress, “This list is a starting point. It is not a register of the ‘best’ American books--although many of them fit that description. Rather, the list is intended to spark a national conversation on books written by Americans that have influenced our lives, whether they appear on this initial list or not.”

So, what made the list? Here’s a sampling:

Benjamin Franklin, “Experiments and Observations on Electricity,” 1751.  (Franklin was named twice.)
Amelia Simmons, “American Cookery,” 1796.

Frederick Douglass, “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,” 1845.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” 1852.
Henry David Thoreau, “Walden;” or, “Life in the Woods,” 1854.

L. Frank Baum, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” 1900.
Upton Sinclair, “The Jungle,” 1906.

Zane Grey, “Riders of the Purple Sage,” 1912.ba0043_enlarge
Erma Rombauer, “Joy of Cooking,” 1931.

Margaret Mitchell, “Gone With the Wind,” 1936.

Margaret Wise Brown, “Goodnight Moon,” 1947.

Dee Brown, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” 1970.

Mr. Billington added, “We hope people will view the list and then nominate other titles. Finally, we hope people will choose to read and discuss some of the books on this list, reflecting our nation’s unique and extraordinary literary heritage, which the Library of Congress makes available to the world.”

As a participating author, I was asked to name books I thought had shaped my life, the nation, and the world. My life was easy—I named a couple of classics that truly did start me down the reading/writing path I’m on today (Laura Ingalls Wilder, Marguerite Henry.) But after that, I froze like a wet fish. How to choose, how to choose?

If you have any thoughts on books that shaped your life, or books you feel have shaped our nation and perhaps our planet, I’d love to hear them!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dignity Trashed

By Deborah Sharp

Before I became an author, I dreamed of all the high-minded things I might do if I ever got published. I pictured myself in a patron's parlor, reading from my book. Maybe I'd teach a class, quoting fiction written by luminaries. I imagined hobnobbing with other authors at those mysterious conferences I'd heard so much about.

I did not foresee me donning a Hefty bag and bridal veil to talk about how the "Mama'' character has hijacked my  Mace Bauer Mysteries. But there I was, prancing around in black plastic last month at the Florida Heritage Book fest. (The photo shows me with readers, playing along in Mama scarves and sunglasses). I'd say a garbage-bag garment makes it hard to maintain dignity, but I think that baby got tossed with the bathwater back when I was promoting Book 2.

Set on a trail ride, MAMA RIDES SHOTGUN lent itself to events such as rodeos. I dutifully attended a few, until I wound up sitting on a scratchy hay bale on the hottest day of the year, right next to the cow chute.  You haven't lived until you've tried to peddle books while sweating puddles into your cowgirl boots, enveloped in an odoriferous cloud of cattle crap and urine. Did I mention the cute little candy giveaways I brought that day? Hershey's kisses, which look astonishingly like miniature cow patties when they melt in 100-degree temperatures at an outdoor rodeo arena.

Hey, whatever it takes, right?

Which brings me to my Hefty bag. Organizers at the Heritage Fest  asked each featured author to come up with a topic for an hour-long presentation. Two things about this freaked me out: My talks, generally linked to the release of a new book, usually top out at 20 minutes, with 10 minutes or so for questions. Longer than that, and I begin to bore myselfSecondly, MAMA SEES STARS (No. 4) came out waaaaay back in the summer of 2011. It felt weird in today's fast-paced information whirl to be yakking solely about a book that seemed soooo yesterday.

So, I had the grand idea of talking about how the mother of the main character in the series has taken over  -- and not just the books, but also the promotion for each book. That way, I could fill an hour with a snippet or two about each title, and have some fun with the construct that the Mama character makes me do outrageous things to spread the word about her ... uh, I mean, MY, books.

Bringing sherbet-colored scarves to signings? Mama's idea, since she believes everyone looks better in sherbet hues. Riding a horse across my state on the week-long Florida Cracker Trail Ride? Mama made me do it, carping in my head about how a real author wouldn't shy away from first-hand research of a setting.  Dressing in tacky bridal veil and serving punch at signings for Book 3? Why not stage make-believe weddings for MAMA GETS HITCHED?  In Book 4,  Mama becomes a diva when a movie crew shoots a film in little Himmarshee, Fla. Said the little voice inside my head:  Diva sunglasses. Feather boa. Wouldn't a red carpet party be a hoot? 

It seemed natural to wind up my book-fest talk with a look ahead to Summer 2013, when Book 5 will come out. The title? MAMA GETS TRASHED. And when I see that picture of me in the garbage bag, I know exactly who to blame.

How about you? Authors, do your characters make you do things you wish they wouldn't? Readers, what wacky thing have you done to promote something or make a point?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

INKSPOT NEWS- October 20, 2012

Time to get your F.R.E.A.K.S. on just in time for Halloween! From October 25-31st the critically acclaimed paranormal mystery Mind Over Monsters: A F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad Investigation #1 will be available on Kindle, Nook, all e-reader formats for the reduced price of $1.99. Whether it be zombies, werewolves, vampires, whatever creepy creature you're in the mood for, join Special Agent Beatrice Alexander in facing them all (with a little romance, humor, and a machete named Bette thrown in for good measure.) Don't miss out on this spooktakular deal!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Oh, The Pain, The Pain

Thinking is hard work. Much too difficult for this dried legume I call my brain. And yet, I find myself painfully hashing out a new plot. I have a general story. I know how it’s going to end. I know the premise, the characters, and some of the twists. In fact, I thought I had enough basic information that plotting this one would be like drift diving along a scenic reef.

Not so much.

Instead of coming up with concrete, workable ideas, I get distracted. Which is not like me in regular life. I’m usually disciplined—work before pleasure and all that. Like the character on Friends. What was her name? The Courteney Cox character, not Rachel, who was Jennifer Aniston. You know, the one who got all bent because her friends wouldn’t click the caps on the marking pens and they’d dry out? I never liked her and really hate that I can be like her…. Um. What was I saying about distractions?

Then there’s the fact that I’m a lazy thinker. I can get out of working for new ideas by telling myself that it would do my shriveled up gray matter good to rest and take in a movie to absorb story telling by osmosis. Or, really, wouldn’t it be better to read that new book on craft to gain some inspiration? Or maybe that old book on craft.

It’s said the great ones like Hemmingway and Fitzgerald knocked back a few cocktails to loosen the creative juices. Many of my writing pals have play lists or use pictures tacked to their walls to inspire them and keep them focused.

Even as I write this The Man With Infinite Tolerance is scurrying around and he said, “You keep looking at me with a blank expression and I assume you’re thinking.” Just because he’s the only thing moving and my eyes can’t help but follow him might make it look like I’m thinking but really, I’m panicking. My brain is refusing to give me what I want.

There are two tricks I use to force myself to concentrate. They both involve physical things to make my mind forget it’s working. The first thing I do is get out my big, thick, yellow legal pad. It has to be a new one so I don’t fret (Courteney Cox character-esque. What the hell was her name?—Squirrel!) about running out of paper or wasting it. I write down questions: Why would Nora have to solve this murder? Why wouldn’t she call the cops? What happened to her cell phone? What is the first plot point? The midpoint? What is her character arc? You know how that list grows and grows.

Somehow, the act of moving my hand across the page can trigger thoughts and many times the answers flow. Often, the characters themselves answer in their own voice. (Oh, don’t pretend I’m the only one sick enough to do this. You KNOW you hear your characters, too.)

The other ploy is to strap on my running shoes or hiking boots and hit the trail or pavement. Walk, run, plod, trek, traipse. Whatever it takes. I pound myself into some kind of trance and my eyes turn around and start to look into my brain. Please, dog, someone tell me you do something like this, too. My brain becomes like a movie screen and the scenes play themselves out before my turned-around eyes.  They aren’t always brilliant scenes, mind you, but sometimes magic strikes and it works. I’ve also done this on cross-country drives but I don’t recommend it. It’s really hard to concentrate on driving if your eyes are turned around in your head.

If you are one of those geniuses who don’t writhe in pain when you plot, I don’t want to hear from you. But if you struggle and fight your brain to give you the shining nuggets, I’d love to hear how you make it cough up the goods.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Going To Hell in a Handbasket

By Beth Groundwater

(Keep reading to the end to find out about a contest!)

Very soon, on November 8th, my fourth mystery novel published by Midnight Ink will be released. It is the trade paperback and ebook editions of To Hell in a Handbasket, the second book in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series. The new edition includes a bold, bright purple cover that I just love!

In the book, gift basket designer Claire Hanover is reluctantly enjoying a spring ski vacation with her family in Breckenridge, Colorado, when a bloodcurdling scream cuts the frigid air. Claire is appalled to find the sister of her daughter’s boyfriend dead on the slopes. Others assume the girl’s death was an accident, but Claire notices another pair of ski tracks veering dangerously into the victim’s path. To protect her daughter as incriminating clues surface, Claire unravels a chilling conspiracy.

To Hell in a Handbasket received some good reviews when it was first released in hardcover in 2009:

"Groundwater's second leaves the bunny slope behind, offering some genuine black-diamond thrills."
        -- Kirkus Review, April 1, 2009

"How it all plays out makes for an engrossing and entertaining mystery that keeps you reading until the final page. Tightly plotted and very current, the story manages to keep you on the edge of your seat. Even though the physical violence is off screen, the tension comes from the potential danger to the characters you've met and come to be concerned about."
        -- Gayle Surrette, Gumshoe Review, May 1, 2009

"Groundwater follows her Agatha-nominated debut with a solid mystery that should broaden her fan base."
        -- Molly Weston, Meritorious Mysteries, May 5, 2009

"Don't mess with Mama Bear. Mothers will be able to identify with Claire Hanover, who goes into protective mode when her daughter is threatened in Beth Groundwater's To Hell in a Handbasket…Groundwater's book is a fast-paced family mystery, for readers who enjoy Diane Mott Davidson's books. The book has the same family feeling that Davidson's fans will appreciate."
        -- Lesa Holstine, Lesa’s Book Critiques, May 24, 2009

I'm hoping that these new, less expensive formats will gain me many more readers--and many more reviews (on Amazon, Goodreads, etc.) from those readers!

I'm doing my best to find ways to promote the release, but it is often hard to promote a re-release. Bookstores who hosted a signing for the hardcover edition are reluctant to do so again for the trade paperback, even though three and a half years have passed. And, living in ski country in Colorado, I'm reluctant to commit to driving to events more than an hour away in November and December. We DO get a lot of snow in the winter around here! ;-)

So, with this release, I'm focusing on on-line promotion, such as: interviews, blog visits, newsletters, chats, announcements on mystery-writing organization websites, etc. I also decided to have a contest HERE for Inkspot readers. You can enter the contest to get a free autographed trade paperback copy of To Hell in a Handbasket sent to you by doing two things:

1. Leave a comment or question for me on this post.
2. Sign up to follow Inkspot, if you aren't already a follower. (If you're already a follower, you're in!)

That's it! Easy peasy. Check back here tomorrow to find out who the winner is. I'll draw a random number at to pick someone. Good luck. Let's have some fun!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Last Thursday through Sunday I attended the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, held this year in Cleveland, Ohio. For those of you unfamiliar with Bouchercon, it’s a huge gathering of the mystery and crime fiction community, bringing together writers, industry professions, and fans. The annual event was named for mystery author, science-fiction editor, and San Francisco Chronicle reviewer Anthony Boucher who died in 1968.
Opening ceremonies were held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The courtyard is filled with giant fiberglass electric guitars that have been painted by various artists. 

Here’s fellow Midnight Ink author Alice Loweecey wearing her steampunk hat and standing next to a steampunk inspired guitar.
On Friday morning I was on the Those Crafty Sleuths panel with fellow crafting mystery authors Mollie Cox Bryan, Joanna Campbell Slan, Penny Warner, and Kylie Logan. 
A signing followed in the book room.
Later that afternoon and again on Saturday afternoon I hosted a crafting session where attendees could make fabric yo-yo greeting cards. Yo-yo crafts are the featured craft in Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, the next Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery which will be out in January. And no, I’m not talking the plastic Duncan variety of yo-yo. Check out Anastasia’s Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog next Monday to learn how to make the craft like the Bouchercon attendee pictured here.
Friday many of the Midnight Ink authors got together for lunch. 
Bouchercon is also a time to catch up with old friends and make new ones. Here I am with fellow Midnight Ink authors Alan Orloff and Alice Loweecey and our editor Terri Bischoff.
And here Alice and I are with fellow Midnight Ink author Jessie Chandler.
The fans are the best part of Bouchercon, though, and this year Alice and I had our very own Fan Girl, Liz Cox.

Next year Bouchercon will be held in Albany, NY, and we’re already making plans to attend.

Award-winning author Lois Winston writes the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series featuring magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, a January 2011 release, is the first book in the series and received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Kirkus Reviews dubbed it, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum” Death By Killer Mop Doll was released this past January. Revenge of the Crafty Corpse will be a January 2013 release.

Lois is also published in romance, romantic suspense, and chick lit books as Emma Carlyle. Now through the end of October, she's donating $500 to breast cancer research for every 1,000 Emma Carlyle books sold. Visit Lois at , visit Emma at, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers character blog,

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mary Sue Vs. Debbie Harry

by Jennifer Harlow

Urban Dictionary Definition of a Mary Sue:
A female character in FanFic or original stories who is so perfect, so superior to all other characters, so powerful,she's annoying. Often based on the author.
(See Ana Steele, Bella Swan, TV Sookie Stackhouse)

Jennifer Harlow Definition of a Debbie Harry:
A female character who is flawed in many ways but does her best to overcome and accept them, is mouthy or prickly, strong or finds her strength, and who has to work for all she has especially love.   
(See Anita Blake, Kinsey Milhone, Lizbeth Salander)

I consider myself a tough broad. I have a mouth on me, dirty a lot of the times, I've walked through dangerous cities at night alone, I've seen someone assaulted and got my friends out of the situation while keeping a calm head, and I've kicked not one but three dudes in the balls when they wanted to play rough and I didn't. I can shoot a gun, change a tire, I kill spiders and open jars for my brothers, and I take shit from no one. I'm not ugly but it takes over an hour for me to become pretty. The only things I'm exceptional at are dispensing advice, story telling, and keeping fish alive (Beta Larry lived 2! years). I'm stubborn, solitary, I have no sex appeal or mojo, and I live with my parents.  In other words, I am not a Mary Sue. I am a human being, flawed yet still fabulous. And so should your main character be.

I came across the term "Mary Sue" when I read an article on "Fifty Shades of Grey" (yes, I read the book. Got it from the library. Wasn't great, wasn't terrible, read it in about three hours.) Like most blockbuster books, there was some derision about it, especially from authors. So much was said but for the purpose of this blog I'll just focus on the main character Ana. She was definitely a Mary Sue: perfect, every male falling over her, had the supernatural gift of having mind blowing orgasms every time. The woman would not exist in the real world.

In this article (which I'm sorry I can't remember the name of, sorry) the author also mentioned that this type of character a "Mary Sue" was prevalent in Fan Fiction, which is how Fifty got its start. The term came into existence when Paula Smith wrote a short story about the type of female character prevalent in Star Trek FanFic. Mary Sue was only fifteen, a genius, the youngest lieutenant, with unprecedented skill in everything both mental and physical, and is beloved by all characters in this case especially Spock and Kirk. Mary Sue has no flaws, she struggles at nothing, and everyone fawns over her. In other words, she's boring. Unbelievable. Those are the worst words any writer can face.

If Mary Sue kept herself contained in the pages of FanFic I'd really have no problem with her. Full disclosure, I don't read or write FanFic. My roommate was obsessed with it, especially Wincest and Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy parings (EWWWW to both). I understand the desire to write them. These are characters you love, and in writing the Fic you get to tinker with those characters however you see fit. You put yourself into this fantasy world. You're in control. But before Fifty no one was really making money on it. Now publishers are trolling the sites for the next Fifty. Besides the copyright issues, my main concern is that more characters like Ana (a copy of Bella Swan) are going to be the norm. The only acceptable female lead will be demure, gorgeous, subservient, basically a feminist like me's worst nightmare. Ana let a man tie her up and spank her just to please him. Bella literally became a teenage bride, got knocked up, then DIED in childbirth. This is what has captured the minds of American women. It gives me chills.

And I was aghast to find how close I can to Mary Sueing in my own work. In researching the Mary Sue I did come to realize that I am a little guilty of making my main character Beatrice a Mary Sue, or bringing her right to the cusp. I've gone on record as saying I view Bea as an idealized version of me. I'm tough, but if a zombie horde was coming and it was people I barely knew or me, I'm pretty sure they'd be on their own. (At least I wouldn't hobble them like my bro Liam said he would. He is not going to be my zombie apocalypse buddy, that's for sure). Bea has more patience than me, men do fall over her (sort of), and she is very powerful. But she's also plain, makes very bad decisions that get people killed, and nothing ever comes easy for her. I worked in flaws. She doesn't get the guy right off the bat. Her team mates don't really like her. She saves people a lot more than they save her. In other words, she's not perfect and there's a reason for that. Perfection is boring. Who would you rather hang out with, spend money on? Little Miss Perfect Mary Sue or flawed, funny, tough Debbie Harry? Me, I'd rather spend an hour with an interesting shit than a whole day with a super nice person. You get more from Debbie than Mary Sue. When you're doing your writing remember that.

What about all of you? Do you prefer Mary Sue or Debbie Harry? Why? Am I being too hard on poor Mary Sue? Can you think of any other examples of either?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

INKSPOT NEWS - October 6, 2012

This weekend (Thursday, October 4th - Sunday, October 7th), many Midnight Ink authors will be at the Bouchercon 2012 conference in Cleveland, Ohio. Below are a list of our panel appearances. If you're attending, please attend our panels and stop by and say hi at the signings afterward!

Thursday, October 4:
12:15 - 1:05 PM, "It's Just a Job" Panel, Alice Loweecey
2:45 - 3:35 PM,  "50 Shades of Cozy" Panel, Catriona McPherson
2:45 - 3:35 PM, "Have Gun Will Murder" Panel, Darrell James

Friday, October 5:
7:30-8:45 AM, "New Author Coffee Hour," Sheila Boneham
9:00 - 9:50 AM, "Those Crafty Sleuths" Panel, Joanna Campbell Slan, Lois Winston
11:30 AM - 12:20 PM, "Murder in Small Town USA" Panel, Jess Lourey
3:00 - 4:00 PM, making fabric yo-yo greeting cards in the crafts room, Lois Winston

Saturday, October 6:
1:00 - 2:00 PM, making fabric yo-yo greeting cards in the crafts room, Lois Winston
1:30 - 2:20 PM, "He Said. He Replied. He Gasped." Panel, Alan Orloff, Jessie Chandler
1:30 - 2:20 PM, "Avoid the Unbelievable" Panel, Maggie Sefton
1:30 - 2:20 PM, "Historical WhoDunnits" Panel, Joanna Campbell Slan

Sunday, October 7:
9:00 - 9:50 AM, "True Grit" Panel, Colin Campbell
9:00 - 9:50 AM, "Red Herrings" Panel, Beth Groundwater, Keith Raffel

Also, there will be a Midnight Ink Autographing Hour in the Book Room from 11:15 AM - 12:15 PM on Saturday, featuring Sheila Boneham, Colin Campbell, Darrell James, and Maggie Sefton.

Lastly, on Friday, October 12, 2012, from 7 - 9 PM, Midnight Ink author Beth Groundwater will appear at Summit County Library's Authors’ Night, Main Branch of the Summit County Library, County Commons Building, 0037 Summit County Road 1005, Frisco, CO 80443. Beth will discuss her books, answer questions and autograph copies.


Author Sheila Webster Boneham's online event,  Drop Dead for Healthy Dogs, a virtual book signing to launch Drop Dead on Recall, continues through Thursday, October 11. A portion of all sales through this event go to support canine health research.

Sheila will be reading from Drop Dead on Recall, answering questions, and signing books in person at Pomegranate Books in Wilmington, NC, at 7 p.m., October 11, to bring Drop Dead for Healthy Dogs to a close. Hope to see you online or at Pomegranate!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Five Fine and Dangerous Novels

Guest Post by Keith Raffel

My experience, probably not that different from other authors, is that the following three questions come up in just about every appearance I make.

Question 1: Where do you get your ideas?

Question 2:  What are you reading?

Question 3:  What have been your strongest influences?

My answer to the first question is that I have no clue.  It’s a miracle.  My answer to the second is Canada by Richard Ford and Death’s Door by James Benn.  Partway done with both, I recommend them highly. The answer to the third question might take a bit longer to spin out.

Like so many thriller novelists, I write about ordinary people confronted by extraordinary circumstances. The acknowledged master of that genre isn’t a novelist at all.  It’s Alfred Hitchcock, of course, but we’ll save rhapsodizing about North By Northwest, The Thirty-Nine Steps, Shadow of a Doubt, and Rear Window for another time.  (Well, maybe I’ll need to come back to The Thirty-Nine Steps before the end of this posting.)  In my latest thriller, though, I am trying something different than writing about a high tech guy who finds a dead body in his bed (as in my Dot Dead) or a man shattered by the terrorist death of his wife (Drop By Drop).  I’m still telling the story of an ordinary man confronted by extraordinary circumstances -- what could be more extraordinary than a Palo Alto businessman given the chance to save a world hurtling toward nuclear war?  What makes A Fine and Dangerous Season different from my other books is that it’s not set in the present day, it’s a historical thriller, and I try my best to fit its action in the interstices of history.  A Fine and Dangerous Season describes something that might well have happened if only we could have had the right vantage point to watch events unfold.

So what novels by what writers influenced me in the writing of the book? Here’s a top 5 list:

1.  The Winds of War by Herman Wouk.  After writing a few chapters of A Fine and Dangerous Season, I picked up this tome to see how a master interweaves history and fiction.  Wouk puts a navy captain on the main stage of history.  FDR sends Captain Henry to weekend with Goering and negotiate with Stalin.  The Winds of War together with its sequel War and Remembrance constitute a big sprawling saga, though, while A Fine and Dangerous Season focuses on a few October days in 1962.  Still, my character Nate Michaels accepts a dangerous assignment from President Kennedy as the country hurtles toward war during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Following Wouk’s lead, I did research in archives and primary sources to make sure I got the historical background as right as I could.

2. Seven Days in May by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey.  I have Nate Michaels, the protagonist of A Fine and Dangerous Season, carry a copy of the then-bestselling Seven Days in May with him as he flies to the White House in the fall of 1962.  Seven Days unfolds over a week in May.  I try to move even faster in A Fine and Dangerous Season action with the action compressed into five days.  Heck, I even thought of calling my book “Five Days in October.”

3.  The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson.  Unlike the first two books, I did not re-read this one before writing A Fine and Dangerous Season.  Nevertheless, I vividly remember the flashbacks that took suburbanite Tom Rath back to his service in World War II.  Rath behaved irresponsibly in his personal life because he figured it didn’t matter -- he wasn’t going to survive the War anyway.  In A Fine and Dangerous Season, I used flashbacks of Nate Michael’s experience as a B-17 pilot and infused them with that sense of wartime fatalism.

4. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan.  Richard Hannay, just a regular chap who’s stumbled on a deadly diplomatic secret, is chased hither and yon by foreign agents in this 1915 novel.  Because A Fine and Dangerous Season is set in D.C., I have Nate skipping across townhouse roofs instead of the Scottish moors.  Perhaps influenced by Hitchcock’s 1935 movie version where Hannay is handcuffed to a beautiful woman who makes no appearance in the novel,  Nate is accompanied in his leaps between buildings by a beautiful Russian spy.

5. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carré.  This one may be a bit of a stretch, but how could I leave it out?  I take inspiration from Le Carré’s theme that the same human emotions and motivations inspire both sides in the Cold War.  While writing my book, I remembered how Le Carré writes characters that operate and even love in a hall of mirrors where nothing is as it seems.

Keith Raffel’s stints as counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee and Silicon Valley entrepreneur inspired him to try his hand at writing mysteries and thrillers.  His first novel, Drop By Drop, was published by Midnight Ink and deemed "without question the most impressive mystery debut of the year” by Joe Hartlaub of  His fourth, A Fine and Dangerous Season, is available now as an ebook from Amazon and Barnes and Noble just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Check the latest on what Keith's up to at