Monday, December 20, 2010


Janet Evanovich is a literary treasure. Not only has she sold more than 75 million books worldwide, but her last 11 novels have made their debut at number 1 on the N.Y. Times bestseller list.  Her first Stephanie Plum novel is becoming a movie in 2011 starring Katherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum.  She's funny, self-deprecating and allows her fans to choose the name of her upcoming novels.  She was also reckless enough to stop by and play 5 questions with me.

1- Your 1993 novel, "One for the Money," is finally becoming a film. Is this a big deal to you, or do you feel it's a bigger deal to your fans?

I think it's great and from the mail we get, I think my readers are looking forward to it, too.

2- Is there something precarious about Stephanie Plum becoming a visual image on a large screen rather than the unique image in each particular reader's mind?

I suppose that's always a risk. However, most people know that a book is a book and a movie is a movie and they are very different. People still read James Patterson's Alex Cross series, Robert B. Parker's Spencer and Robert Ludlum's Bourne books despite the fact that well known actors played them in the movies and on TV. In the long run, I don't think much damage is done.

3-What percentage of Stephanie Plum is your alter ego?

In terms of klutziness, it's about 100% With regard to being able to come up with snappy rejoinders off the cuff and having the energy of a 30-year-old, the similarities diminish.

4- Do you always feel your latest book is your best or do you have favorites?

I usually think my latest is my best. I'm currently at work on the next Plum -- Smokin' Seventeen -- which will be out in June. I really like it. I should also say that I'm really excited about the new series featuring the character Diesel. The first of that series, Wicked Appetite, was published this past September and I can't wait to get to the next book.

5- With the emergence of the digital age, how do you see the publishing world looking in ten years?

Good question. I don't have a crystal ball, but I'd say that e-books are going to continue to grow and become a big factor in publishing. Maybe I'm a Pollyanna, but I don't think traditional books will disappear. While a number of my readers come to my book signings and ask me to sign their e-reader covers, most folks who wait patiently in line say they love paper and ink and don't have plans to convert anytime soon.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Have you ever been to a bookstore and rummaged through a bunch of books, reading the first paragraph or two until you found one you liked? Of course, we all have.  Well I'm hoping to cut down on your time by doing some of the legwork for you.

Since I began this blog I've offered a monthly writing contest to showcase talented new writers who wanted a new platform for their work to be seen.  I know of at least three literary agents and a couple of publishers who routinely check the results of the contest.  It's always rewarding to see people get noticed.

Now for the different part.  I'm going to attempt to highlight some lesser known or Indie authors work.  These will be writers who have either an e-book or print book for sale.  I will work with the authors to offer free books to some of our readers.  The details aren't finalized, but will be soon.

Stay tuned.  As a reader you should discover some talented new authors to follow.  As a writer you should find new eyes for your work.  I'll continue to post interviews and insights from the industries best and brightest, but I began this blog to help fellow writers get noticed and that commitment will not change.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Below is the guest post by Jennifer Chase. Jennifer holds a bachelors degree in police forensics and a masters degree in criminology. She's a freelance writer, a criminologist and award-winning author of the very succesful Emily Stone series.  She took time out of her busy schedule to post a blog about criminal profiling. Who better to speak to that subject than a bonafide criminologist.

What’s the Real Deal on Criminal Profiling? 

Criminal profiling is not a type of psychic or intuitive paranormal ability. It is a behavioral analysis used as a practical scientific resource in criminal investigations. Criminal profiles should never offer quick estimates, guesswork, or academic statistics. That technique is not a “real” criminal profile and doesn’t have any value in an investigation. That’s the cold, hard facts of the matter.

The goal of the criminal profiling process is to objectively analyze and infer traits of an individual through scientific behavioral and physical evidence. It helps to identify an individual(s) who have committed a specific crime or set of crimes in order to narrow the suspect list and to move the investigation process forward. This is an important investigative tool and it is especially important during the deductive profiling phase of behavioral evidence analysis.

Deductive profiling entails a criminal profile or investigative report that reviews and describes relevant physical and behavioral evidence patterns within a crime or related crimes. A profiler must possess “absolute objectivity” in searching for “facts” and be able to interpret the findings in preparing a complete criminal profile.

There are two types of effective profiles used: threshold assessment and complete criminal profile.

A criminal profile shouldn’t take the place of solid investigative work; however, it should be one of the pieces available in the criminal investigation arsenal. No two crime scenes occur in the same way, or are ever exactly alike. This is where it’s important for the investigator/profiler to use his or her analytical and deductive reasoning skills in an objective manner.

According to criminal profiler and forensic scientist, Brent Turvey, a “threshold assessment” refers to a document that reviews the initial evidence of crime behavior analysis, victimology, and crime scene characteristics of a particular case or a series of cases. This scientific procedure is the evaluation of what is understood to be fact about a particular case or series of cases, and does not render the conclusions or opinions of a full criminal profile report.

A “threshold assessment” should include the following:

1. Overview of established facts of the case.
2. Overview of established facts relevant to the victimology (thorough study of the victim).
3. Overview of established facts relevant to the crime scene.
4. Initial hypothesis of motivational behaviors.
5. Initial hypothesis of offender characteristics.
6. Suggestions of further facts needed to be determined or analyzed.
7. Suggestions of further facts needed through victimology.
8. Suggestions and potential strategies for suspect development.

All of this information is helpful in creating a full, complete criminal profile.

A complete criminal profile refers to a “court-worthy” document that incorporates all of the physical and behavioral evidence relating to the known victimology and crime scene characteristics of the offender responsible for the crime or series of crimes. This document concludes with the opinions and conclusion of the profiler of the most logical suspect for the case or series of cases.

Criminal profiling shouldn’t be limited to just homicide investigations; it can used for burglary, rape, and arson investigations as well. In fact, unsolved burglary and rape cases would absolutely benefit from criminal profiles in order to close more cases.

Below is the link to Jennifer's latest novel, "Silent Partner."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Congratulations to Derek J. Canyon for winning November's contest.  When the poll closed last night Derek was tied with Robb Grinderstaff for the lead, so I extended the contest another 15 hours to determine the winner.  It was a tough battle, though. Robb is a terrific writer and it's obvious he's got the talent to compete on any level of competition.  Did I just sound like a football analyst?  Sorry. Congrats to Robb and Derek for the fun ride.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Below are the four finalists for November's contest.  All four were diverse, yet powerful in their imagery.  I'll be switching it up next month by posting scenes from Indie or lesser-known authors who have books available to purchase.
Now take your time to read these strong scenes and vote for your favorite on the poll to the right.  The winner will receive a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card and jealous glares from their fellow writers.

A- Robb Grindstaff

I took the baby from Daniel. She was red and smelled like smoke, but she was crying full throttle so she could breathe okay. At the end of the long gravel driveway, boys and girls from age five to twelve cried and huddled together. We had to go to them.

Flames danced out all the windows on the top floor. The loft was engulfed. The roof over the master bedroom end of the house buckled and the fire poked skyward. I reached for Daniel’s hand.

“I tried,” Daniel sobbed. “I couldn’t get to them. I got the baby, but Ma and Pa wouldn’t wake up and I had to get out. I tried to go back but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.”

I pulled him with me to the end of the drive. We had to do a head count. Including Daniel, the baby and me, thirteen of us waited for the fire trucks and the police and the neighbors.

Thirteen of us waited for official word that our foster parents didn’t make it out. Thirteen of us waited for Child Protective Services to take us somewhere else.

B- Shannon Lee

She reached under the table and brought out a rusted pipe. The movement was so fast, Janet plunged the pipe into the man’s chest. She shattered ribs and tore through his lung. Never had I heard such a pitch escape the lips of a mortal man. And yet, I couldn’t bring myself to turn away. Janet withdrew the pipe and blew through the clean end of it, forcing out the organ and tissue that was lodged. She was quick to place it back into the mortal’s chest. The blood began to flow out as Janet led the mortal to the table. Anchored into it’s sides was a hallowed out meat grinder, a forceful shove brought the metal pipe into the grinder’s entrance. I was ill to see blood and chunks of flesh gush, until an even flow of blood began. Mugs were placed, under the grinder to catch the drippings.

His hands were the first to lose strength, as they turned pale, his face slowly drained of color as his pleading eyes begged me to help him. I nearly did, until he stopped breathing. His corpse remained on the table as drinks were placed. Janet took hold of hers and drank. “Sorry about the pulp”

C- Derek J. Canyon

Thring bends down and snarls at me. I see his rotten teeth, sticking out

like tombstones in his mouth. Apparently, the genetic engineers who
designed him cut some corners on dental. He licks his lips.

"I'm talkin' to you, pissbag."

It's time to put this guy in his place. I'm the resident psycho and
ice-cold killer in this bin, and I don't want anyone else getting their
noses into my routine.

"You're blocking my sun, boy," I say softly.

Despite his technological ancestry, the racial slight has the desired
effect. His face contorts in anger as he grabs my shirt and lifts me with
ease to a standing position, the muscles on his arms rippling in barely
controlled tension.

"I'm gonna kill you!" This guy's real original. His breath is stale and
musty, like a puff of air escaping from a just-opened coffin.

I look around. The other cons watch closely, waiting to see what will
happen. Well, I won't keep them in suspense. As the psycho, there is only
one thing for me to do.

D- Joyce Yarrow
The walls, covered with graffiti, scream in undecipherable defiance. The window gate is open, and I climb onto the fire escape, gulping in fresh air, clutching the railing. Below me, treetops in the back yard sway in the slight breeze, oblivious to the violence perpetrated above them. On the platform, a canvas beach chair and a towel hint at better days. A glint of metal in the corner catches my eye. Pulling a pencil from my purse, I use it to retrieve the chain, which is attached to a miniature replica of the Empire State Building and a small key. I insert the key into the padlock on the outside of the window gate and it turns with a smooth click. I know I should leave this evidence where it is, but on impulse, I place the key chain in my pocket. How easily years of training can go down the drain.

I force myself to re-enter the bedroom, knowing I have only this one chance to investigate before the police secure the scene. I'm calmer than I'd expect, but all my experiences tracking deadbeat dads and scam artists haven't prepared me for the ugliness of violent death. This is my first murder victim, my first corpse.


Friday, November 19, 2010


I was recently interviewed for David Wisehart's blog, Kindle Author, and he questioned me about the research I'd done for my novel, "A Touch of Deceit."  In the book a Sicilian FBI agent recruits his Mafia cousin to help him track a terrorist.  Well of course I mentioned how I interviewed FBI agents and local law enforcement to get a good idea of how the bureau worked.  But for the Mafia part I had to think--what research had I really done?

Then it occurred to me.  I'm Sicilian.  My father was Sicilian.  He also owned a candy store in Brooklyn where the Mafia would run numbers.  It was more like a Luncheonette with a counter for soda and sandwiches.  When I was sixteen I began working weekends by myself.  Well, of course, I was young, so my dad's Sicilian friends offered to keep an eye on me while I was working alone.  Guys with names like Max and Tony would stop in frequently during the shift and make small talk.  We became very friendly.  We talked baseball, their kids, everything.  They would buy coffee and overtip me.  Eventually we set up a signal with the bar across the street where the Mafia guys would hang out.  If I turned off the neon ice cream sign in the window it meant someone suspicious was in the store.

Late one night just before closing a kid around twenty-one came in, sat at the counter and ordered a Cherry Cola.  He sat there sipping it like it was hot tea.  Then he looked around and asked me questions like ‘where’s my help’ and ‘how much money does a place like this keep in the register?’ So I clicked off the ice cream sign and within two minutes five Sicilians came in and surrounded the kid. They never touched him, but he practically ran out the door and I never saw him again. These guys were very loyal people and treated me like royalty.

I told that story in my interview with David Wisehart and when I finished, I asked, "Does that count as research?"  Something tells me I learned more from my youth with the Mafia then I ever did over the phone with an FBI agent.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


There are times when a writer, like me, will have those far away eyes. You know what I mean, one minute you’re having a conversation with a writer, then they seem to check out for a few minutes. Where do they go? I’ll tell you. They’re tying up that latest plot twist. They’re trying to remember what you call that ramp you walk down to enter a plane. They’re figuring out how their protaganist is going to get out of the latest jam they put him in. It’s always in the back of a writer’s mind. It’s all part of the process. You could spend a lifetime trying to explain it. If you’re a close friend or family member this will happen more frequently. Why? Because they feel more comfortable doing it with you than an acquaintance which could cause some uncomfortable moments.

Be understanding when this happens. The writer can’t help it, their brain is wired to manufacture scenes in their mind before it reaches their keyboard and if they wait until they're sitting in front of the computer to get it done, it’ll take a decade to finish a chapter. So they wander. They take that excess time we have each day to unwind and turn it into a productive business meeting. Consider it a conference call for the imagination.

So the next time you’re driving in a car with a writer and notice them staring out the window. Don’t be surprised when you ask them what they’re doing and they turn to you and say, “I’m working.”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Congratulation to Nicole Scheller for winning October's contest.  Her scene was scene A in the post below this.  The readers voted her the best scene and she's a deserving winner.  Even though she had to cut this scene down to make it fit into the parameters of the contest, the writing was powerful and dare I say---Strong.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Below are the three finalists for October's contest.  A real diverse group of genres.  Use the poll on the right to vote for your favorite scene.  The winner will receive a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card, plus at least one literary agent will read the winning submission.  Good luck and vote.

A- Nicole Scheller

As if she feels your stare, she lifts her head. In the dimmed light you can't make out the title, but the fact that she sits here alone on a Friday night, holding a book, makes her attractive enough.

She smiles at you. Her far too perfect lips reveal a set of white teeth. You know it's rude, but you can't hold her gaze. Ashamed, you look away, into your glass. When you take a sip, you sense her eyes scanning each inch of your body.

Another sip. It feels warm, comfortably warm. Slow, but confident footsteps on the wooden floor. You listen carefully, your grip tightens. Five, six, seven, eight. Then, they stop. The scent of flowery, expensive perfume penetrates your nostrils.

'You are waiting for someone?' she asks. Her voice surprises. It is nothing like you thought it would be. Much deeper – not displeasing, though. A faint accent gives away she is not a native. It sounds inviting. You shake your head in response to her question.

'Would you mind me sitting here?' Without waiting for an answer she lays down her book and takes a seat. Its author is no-one foreign to you.

B- Wayne C. Rogers

I’m going to die, he thought.
Then, everything changed as Freeman heard the most wonderful sound in his entire life.
It was Betty’s loud, ferocious bark.

She’d somehow managed to get her leash untied from the post and had come racing to his rescue.
God, he loved that dog.

The stranger in the overcoat heard her bark, too, but reacted too late as the dog leaped into the air, knocking it off her master’s back with the sheer force of her weight.

Freeman heard a shrill cry.

The dog was tearing into the creature, going for any part of the body she could sink her teeth into.

Pushing himself up to a sitting position, Freeman lifted the .45 with his good hand and took aim. That was when he saw the creature grip Betty’s snarling mouth with both of its hands. In an unbelievable feat of strength, the stranger tore the lower jaw from the dog’s mouth and then bit into her throat, tearing at the flesh like a starving animal, shaking its head wildly from side to side.

Blood flew everywhere.

“No!” Freeman shouted.

C- Kirsty Logan

Painted and smiling, I balance on my trapeze. Luka is poised ten
metres away, his muscles shining under the lights. The ringmaster, his
moustache oiled to needle-sharp points, announces glory and wonder. I
pull sawdusty air into my lungs and start to swing. As I build up my
momentum, I smile down at the crowd stacked up in the tent: blinded by
the lights, all I see is a mass of teeth and eyes and restless limbs.
From the corner of my eye I see Luka, hanging from his knees, patting
his hands together so the talc can absorb the sweat of his palms. I
wait for the twitch of his thumbs that lets me know he’s ready.
I curl my toes around the painted bar, spread my arms like wings, and let go.
For two seconds I’m weightless, as helpless as a newborn with its cord cut.
Then Luka’s hands are on my wrists, calloused and hot, swinging me
round. Below me the crowd gasps, claps, cheers. I look at the world
below us: the restless crowd, the glare of lights, the motes of
sawdust in the air.

Then I let go.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


There are only a handful of fictional characters which are universally known by a single name--Frankentstein, Tarzan and of course Rambo.  When David Morrell created the Rambo character in his novel, "First Blood," back in 1972 he was an English Professor at the University of Iowa.  Now he is considered the originator of the modern action thriller and one of the most prolific authors of the past thirty years. He has currently agreed to publish 9 of his backlisted novels exclusively on Amazon as a Kindle E-book, as well as a new novel, "The Naked Edge."  He was very gracious with his time and very thoughtful with his answers.  Thank you David.

1-     What runs through your mind when you're introduced as the man who created Rambo?

In my writing book, THE SUCCESSFUL NOVELIST, I mention that one of the hardest tasks for an author is to have a subject matter or an approach or a character recognizable to readers.  At a party or a similar event, when people learn that someone is an author, almost the first thing they say is (note the negative), “I don’t suppose you’ve written anything that I’ve read.”   When they say this, they almost always shake their heads from side to side.  In my case, even if they haven’t read FIRST BLOOD or seen the film based on it, they’ve heard of the character.  There are only about 5 action characters that are recognized pretty much anywhere around the world—Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, James Bond, Rambo, and Harry Potter.  It’s a strange feeling to have created a character who is in that group.  At the same time, whenever Rambo is mentioned in the media or wherever (which is almost every day), it always takes me a moment to remember that I’m the creator of the character—he became so much a part of world culture that he’s like a son who grew up and out of the control of his father.  In fact, I sometimes autograph books as Rambo’s father.

2-     Rambo was a violent, guilt-ridden character--were you happy with the way Sylvester Stallone handled the complexities of your character on the big screen?

The film FIRST BLOOD went through 5 studios and 26 scripts before Carolco finally produced it with Sylvester Stallone in 1982.  Some of the reasons are due to miscasting.  While it sounds like a great idea to have Steve McQueen as Rambo, the director who was assigned to that possible production, Sydney Pollack, told me that it took them 3 months of preparation before they realized the fatal flaw—that Steve McQueen was in his mid 40s.  In 1975, there weren’t any 45-year-old Vietnam veterans. Other possible productions emphasized the violence of my novel as well as Rambo’s anger, and that caused producers to be hesitant—they wanted to soften the character. Finally the Carolco script by William Sackheim, Michael Kozoll, and Sylvester inserted the scene at the beginning where Rambo speaks to the woman whose son was in Rambo’s Vietnam unit and who died from Agent Orange. The intent was to make Rambo a victim, which is a different interpretation of the character but an effective one for film purposes.  Many years later, when Sylvester was preparing the fourth Rambo film, he phoned me and said that he didn’t think any of the previous films truly captured the character as I wrote him and that the fourth film would have more of the angry tone of the original novel. As for Sylvester as Rambo, Richard Crenna told me that in his long career, only two actors really knew what to do in front of a camera, with regard to their eyes and their use of props—they were Steve McQueen and Sylvester Stallone.

3- What made you decide to publish The Naked Edge and 9 other backlisted novels as Kindle books?

Amazon came to my agent, Jane Dystel, and asked if I’d be interested in offering a lot of my backlist in exclusive Kindle e-book editions. As it happens, I’d been thinking a lot about e-books and the current broken state of publishing.  Printed books currently have a shelf life of 6 weeks. The hardback is given 18 months in a warehouse before the copies are remaindered. The paperback lasts a little longer.  But an e-book doesn’t go out of print, and in the Amazon Kindle model, it can be available within a minute almost anywhere in the world.  Australia, Japan, Germany, France, on and on.  It’s mind spinning to think of how quick and easy it is for a reader to have access to an e-book—and I repeat, the access is global, not dependent on creaky warehouse procedures or smoke-spewing delivery trucks. I’m not turning my back on printed books. Not at all. I collect books by certain authors and want signed copies of each one.  I love to give books as gifts. I prize the books that are on my shelves. But as an author, I need to realize that it is sometimes difficult for readers to buy physical books.  To give one example, I once had a novel for which a warehouse screw-up caused the books to arrive in stores 3 weeks after the publication date, long after my publicity tour and the expense of the print ads and 40 radio interviews that each averaged 20 minutes in length. Then almost immediately the books were shipped back to the warehouse. So much waste. Many other authors have similar stories. To draw attention to the e-books of my backlist, I decided to go all the way with the experiment and add a brand-new, never-before-published novel, THE NAKED EDGE. No established author ever did that before. Then I decided to experiment with the e-book format and add 18 color photographs of fine-art knives that are mentioned in THE NAKED EDGE. These include the most expensive knife in the world, Buster Warenski’s solid-gold replica of King Tut’s dagger. In a printed book, the 18 color photographs would have pushed the price to $50.  But in an e-book, that sort of extra material can be added easily and with no extra cost.  Similarly, my novel THE TOTEM exists in two drastically different versions. For the e-book, we put both versions together. A printed volume that contained both versions would have been huge and costly.  But not the e-book.

4- Amidst all the great reviews on Amazon for The Naked Edge, I noticed one disparaging remark from someone in the print industry who clearly never read the book but used this platform to remark how the digital world is destroying jobs for hard-working individuals.  Have you received any flack from people within the industry about your decision--or was this simply a matter of an individual Horse and Buggy driver shaking his fist at a Model T?

Some readers said they were old-fashioned and would always stick with printed books.  We’ll see.  Current predictions are that e-books will amount to 50% of book sales within the next five years.  I personally think it’ll be closer to 60% for e-books and that it’ll happen sooner.  When was the last time your readers bought a music CD as opposed to downloading something?  On my FACEBOOK page, I did a survey, and the vast majority hadn’t bought a CD in years. Tower Records went out of business.  Best Buy and Sam’s Club and the chain sores reduced the space they devote to CDs.  The music business is the model I think publishing will follow. I’m not saying this is good or bad. I’m saying it’s reality. As for the one-star review on Amazon, it came from someone who readily admitted that he hadn’t read the book.  He said he was in the print industry and that the e-book trend would put him out of a job and that it was un-American. I understood his frustration. In my many years, I’ve never seen cultural changes happening this fast. But I wish he hadn’t condemned a book that he’d never read.  That didn’t seem right to me.

5- Your best guess--what does the publishing industry look like in ten years?

Barnes & Noble told mall developers that it was going to reduce the size and number of its physical stores.  The model they envision is a kiosk store that emphasizes their Nook e-reader.  As the chains downsize, I think we’ll also see more independent bookstores close (some of this is due to atrophy as owners age and retire).  After that, I believe that the surviving independent bookstores will do well—because they can offer signed copies of printed books to a dedicated clientele.  Audio books will be almost entirely in a download form. E-books will dominate the general market.  In that form, distribution will be global even more than it is now.  I recently heard from a U.S. soldier in the Persian Gulf.  He has a Kindle, on which he can store a thousand books—and he can get those books the day they are published, even those he’s on a remote military base.  That’s what he did with THE NAKED DGE.  Wow.


Books have been around in virtually the same form for thousands of years. It’s old school. Very old school. So when someone from the younger generation mentions something about reading a book, believe it or not, it’s met with scrutiny more than envy. Bottom line–it’s not cool to read books. I’ll never forget a few years back my then 14-year-old daughter was setting up a profile for some social webpage and when the profile’s question was “Which books have you read recently?” My daughter’s comment was, “Very funny.” Go ahead and frown, I did. I’m a writer. She was too embarrased to even admit she might have read a book because it’s uncool. Book-readers are nerds, right?

Enter the Kindle and iPad. The epitomy of cool. I think the iPad even comes with a pair of shades. Because these new digital devices are so cool the kids are gobbling them up. Now they can discuss what they’ve read recently because it wasn’t done on an archaic, dusty piece of brown paper, but their new digital thing which they can hear music on or surf the web. But what they’re really doing with a lot of these devices is reading. Even if it’s a webpage or a text–it’s still reading. And we all know what reading texts leads to–reading books. Okay I made that up, sort of like smoking pot leads to heroin addiction. But maybe, just maybe, if owning an E-reader is such a cool thing, possibly it may just lead to reading. And we all know reading leads to eternal happiness–or an addiction to morphine, I forget how that works.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Congratulations to September's winner Ross Cavins.  Out of 189 votes he received 120.  I felt he had tough competition and yet still received over 60 % of the vote.  Robb and Suzanne have nothing to be ashamed of, their scenes were terrific.  You just never know which genre will capture the interest of the readers that month.  Thanks for another successful contest.  Good luck in October.

I'm also including a link to Ross's book page for those interested in seeing more of his work.;

Friday, September 24, 2010


Here are the finalists for September's Strong Scene Contest.  Please vote to the right for your favorite Scene.  The winner will receive a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card.  Congrats to all the finalists.

A- Ross Cavins

Bobby counted off a hundred, then four more hundred, and made a show out of sliding the chips into the pot. One of two things would happen now. Either it would spook Blue or embolden the man to dig in.

The two players stared at each other, reading faces, trying to pick up the slightest hint what was going on in each of their minds.

"Well?" Bobby said, looking Blue hard in the eyes. He kept his face blank, raising his left eyebrow a hair, daring Blue to do something, playing to the man's ego. "Shit or get off the pot." It was his best poker joke.

Blue counted out four hundred and pushed it in the middle, then shoved in another four hundred right behind it, staring at Bobby the whole time. "Four more to you," Blue said.

Bobby pursed his lips together, narrowed his eyes, and bent the edge of his cards up so he could see them again, pretending he was considering what to do next. It was all part of the game. He slid a thousand in chips out, saying, "I'll raise."

Blue's mustache twitched and he gave Bobby the hardest look of the night. It was coming. Bobby could sense it; he could feel it on his head, like peppermint ants were having a family picnic up there, all of them scurrying around to make sure everybody got some food.

"What you got over there?" Blue said.

"It'll cost you to see."

B- Robb Grindstaff 

Getting through security took longer than Glenda expected. Sure, lots of former blonde beauty queens pushing two infants were terrorists. The carry-on, the briefcase, and diaper bag. Double-wide stroller which security scanned and patted down for hidden compartments. The screening by the TSA lady behind the curtain.

“What’s this?” TSA lady lifted a small, hand-held device with a suction cup on one end.

“It’s my breast pump.”

TSA lady crinkled her nose and put it back.
“These liquids are more than three ounces.”

“They’re milk for the babies. The sign says I can bring more than three ounces of milk for the babies.”

“Ma’am, the sign also says the milk has to be in the original containers.”

The stress of the past two days, getting the babies and her packed for an overseas flight, traffic snarls on the way to the airport, and now this. The stupidest woman on the planet delaying her further while her flight called for boarding.

Glenda began unbuttoning her blouse.

“What’re you doing, ma’am?”

“Showing you the original containers.” With a flourish, Glenda ripped the blouse open, letting the last two buttons fly, and dropped the flaps in the front of the nursing bra.

C- Suzanne Senden

Clara stood in the desolate field as the chilly December wind whipped about her. The fields were barren now. Broken corn stalks, once so full of potential lay scattered the wind tossing them about as it played in the ruins of the harvest.

She felt that the land was a metaphor for her life.

She sighed, her frosty breath enveloping her for a moment before it faded.

A light snow began to fall.

She loved the smell of snow, a cold dryness that tickled her nose. Usually the frigid fragrances of winter wafted on the wind long before the snow began to fall. She looked up as the flakes fell from a flat, leaden sky. She had heard someone call it Winter’s Communion if you put your tongue out to catch the flakes.

She could hear the chunky flakes as they plashed into the earth, landed on her shoulders and nestled into the hair.

Snow began to accumulate in the rutted furrows, transforming the land covering the broken stalks, making them over into something fairy tale wondrous. Soon the bleak land would be covered in a beautiful mantle of white, transforming everything.

If only her life could transform as easily.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Elmore Leonard's "Freaky Deaky"-- A Strong Scene

Below is the last part of Chapter 1 from Elmore Leonard's
"Freaky Deaky." To me this is a strong scene because
of the finish.  Leonard delivers the ultimate ending
to this scene.
Two bomb experts, Jerry and Chris get called
to a gangster's house to remove a bomb from
under a chair cushion which the gangster is sitting on.
If the gangster tries to get up, the bomb explodes. See how
Leonard crafts this scene so naturally:

"I couldn't get in the Jacuze quick enough, huh?"

"I doubt it."

"His feet might stay on the floor," Jerry said,
"remain in the house."

Chris agreed, nodding. "Yeah, but his ass'd be
sailing over Ohio."

Jerry moved from behind the chair to the French
doors. "We better talk about it some more."

Booker's head turned to follow Chris. "Where
you going? Hey, motherfucker, I'm talking to you!"

Chris stepped out and closed the door. He moved
with Jerry to the far edge of the slate patio before
looking back at the French doors in the afternoon
sunlight. They could hear Booker in there, faintly.

They crossed the yard, Jerry offering Chris a cigarette.

He took one and Jerry gave him a light once
they reached the driveway and were standing by
the three-car garage, alone in the backyard. Jerry
looked up at the elm trees. He said, "Well, they're
finally starting to bud. I thought winter was gonna
run through May."

Chris said, "That's my favorite kind of house.

Sort of an English Tudor, before Booker got hold
of it."

Jerry said, "Why don't you and Phyllis buy

"She likes apartments. Goes with her career image."

"She must be jumping up and down, finally got
her way."

Chris didn't say anything.

"I'm talking about your leaving the squad."

"I know what you meant. I haven't told her yet.
I'm waiting till I get reassigned."

"Maybe Homicide, huh?"

"I wouldn't mind it."

"Yeah, but would Phyllis?"

Chris didn't answer. They smoked their cigarettes
and could hear fire equipment arriving. Jerry
said, "Hey, I was kidding. Don't be so serious."

"I know what you're saying," Chris said. "Phyllis
is the kind of person that speaks out. Something
bothers her, she tells you about it."

"I know," Jerry said.

"There's nothing wrong with that, is there?"

"I'm not saying anything against her."

"What it is, Phyllis says things even some guys
would like to but don't have the nerve."

"Yeah, 'cause she's a woman," Jerry said, "she
doesn't have to worry about getting hit in the

Chris shook his head. "I don't mean putting
anybody down or being insulting. Like we're at a
restaurant, one of those trendy places the waiter
introduces himself? This twinkie comes up to the
table, he goes, 'Hi, I'm Wally, I'm gonna be your
waitperson this evening. Can I get you a cocktail?'
Phyllis goes, 'Wally, when we've finished dinner,
you gonna take us out and introduce us to the
dishwasher?' She goes, 'We really don't care what
your name is as long as you're here when we want

Jerry grinned, adjusting his Tiger baseball cap.

"That's good, I can appreciate that. Those guys kill

They drew on their cigarettes. Chris looked at
his, about to say something, working the butt between
his thumb and second finger to flick it away,
and the French doors and some of the windows on
this side of the house exploded out in a billow of
gray smoke tinged yellow. They stood looking at
the shattered doorway, at the smoke and dust thinning,
settling over glass and wood fragments,
shreds of blackened green-and-white debris on the
patio, silence ringing in their ears now. After a few
moments they started down the drive, let the people
waiting in front know they were okay.

Chris said, "Yeah, the twink comes up to the
table, says he's gonna be our waitperson. But you
have to understand, Phyllis wasn't trying to be
funny, she was serious. That's the way she is."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Internet (Guest post by Claude Bouchard)

I first met Claude Bouchard through Twitter. He was a fellow writer and seemed socially nimble, able to speak fluent writer's language, yet have a prankster mentality all at the same time. I decided one day to read his very first novel "Vigilante," and boy am I glad I did.  It's a terrific read.  He's now an experienced author of four Barry/McCall novels which began with "Vigilante."  Claude has been in the publishing trenches for many years, so when he has something on his mind, it's only right to give him a forum for his views.
He currently lives in Montreal, Canada with his wife Joanne and their two cats, Krystalle and Midnight.  Claude is represented by Tribe Literary Agency.

The Good, the Bad and the Internet:

When I started writing in 1995, any required research was done using reference books, encyclopaedias, maps, etc, as well as onsite visits if one hoped to write with accuracy. When it came time to query agents, the process was done by snail mail, with SASEs included, hopefully for a request for a partial or full manuscript but more often than not, a ‘thanks but no thanks’ letter sent with the stamp I paid for.

Then cometh the Internet; Slow at first, hardly user-friendly navigation on most sites and without necessarily a wealth of information. However, time does fly and we found ourselves nearing the year 2010, then beyond, with today’s Internet. Millions upon millions of users, sites, blogs, references, dictionaries, modes of communication, digital photos, videos, satellite maps and more, a researching writer’s dream. With works I’ve written in recent years, no longer was I required to head downtown to scope settings for exactitude, nor did I have to drive around North America or fly abroad to ensure that locations were as I described. Rare has it been that I couldn’t find that bit of information that I absolutely needed to make something just right. With finished works, the Internet allowed me to self-publish and make my novels available to the masses. It also allowed me to tell the masses, through social media platforms and other advertising, that my books were there for them. Thanks to the Internet, I even found my amazing agent without having to buy one stamp. Others whom I’ve met have had similar experiences and have produced wonderful works of literature as well. This is all good.

Because of the Internet and, more specifically self-publishing service providers, anyone can now call themselves a writer and I do, unfortunately, mean anyone. In the last year or two, I have come to realize that many of these ‘writers’ do not know what a writer, or a novel for that matter, actually is. Self-publication does not and must not mean that one can simply have stuff written, printed and bound in a book format. Yet, this is what many people do. Improper formatting, horrendous grammar, typos, poor or no research, spotty or lacking storylines all contribute to giving self-publication a bad reputation which it doesn’t deserve. I’ve read such books and given my opinion, with examples, to such writers to be told that, “That’s the best that I can do, I’m not a professional, I have no one to help me, I can’t afford an editor…” The list goes on. Writing is an art form and if one doesn’t have the talent to do so, one should not call oneself an artist, nor have the gall to expect the masses to pay for substandard work. When one does, this is all bad.

The Internet and the abundance of possibilities it offers are amazing resources but should be used as additional benefits and tools without letting established publishing standards slide.


Monday, August 30, 2010


Congratulations to Suzannah Burke for winning the August 2010 Strong Scenes Contest.  Her scene was voted on by the readers and chosen among some tough competition.  Thanks to everyone who participated. I received over 100 submissions so there were some worthy efforts who didn't make the finalists.  Suzannah's scene can be read below, hers was the first one, letter A.  Although her scene was certainly creative, I would suggest you think twice before accepting an invitation to meet her anywhere near a swamp.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Once again I received a great wealth of remarkable writing.  This is what I imagined might happen when I came up with this concept.  The hardest part is narrowing it down to just four.  Ali Koomen probably deserves a lifetime achievement award, it seems her work is a constant fixture as a finalist.  She deserves it, she's a terrific writer. 
Okay, I'm going to let the readers decide the winner again this month.  I'm posting the scenes below with a letter next to the name--go ahead and vote for the strongest scene on the poll to the right.  Thanks to everyone for your submissions.  Good luck.

A- Suzannah Burke:

"Oh dear, Ben, you mustn't die on me just yet. You have more to look forward to. I'm afraid I've been a naughty, naughty girl." Samantha whispered, leaning down and very gently brushing the hair back from his face. "I never did learn not to eavesdrop on phone conversations; men are such fools."

“Can you ever forgive me?” She laughed delightedly as she kicked off her high heels. She grabbed Ben under both arms, and dragged him the short distance to the creek. Two crocodiles lay close-by, silhouetted in the moonlight. She looked down into Ben's terrified eyes, and gave him a quick kiss on the forehead.

"You won't be lonesome, Ben. You see, most of the others are here as well."

Sam walked back to the table, filled her champagne glass, and returned to watch the action, standing a safe distance from the water.

"Here they come, Ben!" she called gaily. "Say hello to momma for me."

Sam turned and walked away, smiling happily as she heard his agonizing scream of good-bye.

She sat down, poured another glass of Bollinger, lit up a smoke, picked up her pen, and began to write. WANTED: Male Ranch Hand...

B- Charlie Wade:

His long hair bouncing around, Red Arrow searched for the package. Hands soaked with perspiration fumbled with the office drawer.

“Where is it?”

Slumping to the floor, he cradled his head in his hands.

“What have I done?”

Looking round the office, there was two hiding places: drawer and filing cabinet. The locked cabinet should have been its home, but Red remembered putting it the drawer.

Though paid to hold various packages, it wasn’t really Red’s thing; he preferred undercover work though never seemed to get any.

“Filing cabinet.” He looked inside. Moving papers around, stacking, separating and eventually removing everything didn’t help. It just wasn’t there.

Crashing to the floor, his own heavy breathing filled his ears.

“I’ve lost it?”

The package was only a small jiffy bag. Red didn’t know the contents, he never did. That wasn’t relevant; he was paid enough to not ask questions. This jiffy belonged to his best and most fearsome customer.

It was also his only customer.

And, he wasn’t a customer, he was a psychopath.

Red hadn’t met him, but he’d been warned: never mess up.

He’d messed up.

Gulping another breath, Red forced himself to think.

“Where is it?”

C- Ali Koomen:

With trembling fingers, Hope turned the page, then the next. Horrifying images assailed her. A sacrificial ceremony too realistic to have been drawn from imagination. A conflagration, with faces pressed to windows in a rictus of ecstasy. An eviscerated corpse being skinned. . .

Suddenly, the source of the leather cover became apparent. With a shudder of disgust, she shoved the book away from her. A page came loose and drifted to the floor. She bent to pick up the errant sheet, opened it and let out a moan.

A charcoal drawing of her son stared back at her.

It was impossible. The paper was yellowed and brittle; it had been drawn years, if not decades ago. But why? How? A noise came from the cellar, a murmuring sound, but one with cadence, like a chant heard from a long ways off. Running to the door, she secured the top bolt. The sound stopped.

Hope ran to the kitchen phone and picked up the receiver. It had no dial tone, just a faint, far-away crackling sound. Underneath it all she sensed the amusement of whoever. . .whatever. . .was on the line. Slamming it down, she screamed out her son’s name.

D- Tom Hart:

The door ripped away and flew out to the airstream beyond the aircraft, and a rush of cold air struck him with the chill scream of a banshee looking to claim its victims. Somewhere deep within him a tiny spark of hope let him believe he could make it. Colonel Lucky Larson, noted pilot, makes it three in a row. The only man alive to walk away from three major crashes. He tried desperately to scramble through the opening as klaxon horns blared from every side. The pavement outside rushed toward him with its angry, earthly fist of concrete, and Larson became vaguely aware of his involuntary relaxation followed by a spreading warmth inside his flight suit. His eyesight began to dim, then blur and then darken entirely as the cacophony dissipated and grew silent. It seemed as though he had found a way to make it three, but reality suddenly propelled him back to the interior of the doomed aircraft. He couldn’t hear himself scream as the aircraft sliced into Highway 73-75 and burst into a huge fireball.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Judith L. Pearson has that rare ability to be creative yet entrepreneurial.  She's published two hugely successful biographies about war heroes who've flown under the the radar--has had her books optioned for films, has been the guest speaker to a group of CIA agents at CIA Headquarters and has commanded thousands of dollars for speaking engagements around the world. What gets lost sometimes is just how talented a writer she really is.  She was kind enough to take a few minutes to discuss projects new and old.

1- What inspired you to write your first two books about two entirely different types of war heroes in the second World War?

The war played a key role in stories my dad told me as a child. He had been an Air Corps pilot and we would often watch WWII movies together, with him explaining the intricacies of espionage and warfare. I loved the movies, I loved the music, I loved the way the country came together as one.

I was a freelance newspaper and magazine writer when the story that became BELLY OF THE BEAST fell into my lap. It was such a powerful story, with real life heroes, I realized it was more than an article, it had to be a book. Looking for another WWII story after that was a little harder. But as happened the first time, the story of Virginia Hall fell into my lap, and writing WOLVES AT THE DOOR was an enormous personal success. Spies don’t write letters or leave diaries. Digging up the info became a quest.

2- What doors have been opened for you because of the incredible success of those two books?
A secene from WOLVES was selected as the subject of a painting to be hung in the Central Intelligence Agency Fine Arts Collection. The painting was unveiled at the French Ambassador’s residence in Washington D.C., and I (being an ex-advertising agency exec) wrote my own press release about the event. It was picked up by the Associated Press, which in turn turned into interviews with media outlets worldwide. That led to contacts from Hollywood. The book is now in option with Out of the Blue Entertainment for a major motion picture.

The producers, Sid and Nancy Ganis, have asked that I consult on the script writing and on set. Think I’ll get to rub elbows with any celebs? Depending on the stars involved, I may want to rub cheeks as well!

3- What are your daily writing habits?
That’s a funny question at this point in my career. I am, by nature, very disciplined when it comes to writing. But 18 months ago, life intervened. I met a wonderful man, fell in love and married him two months ago. Over the course or our courtship, I was starry eyed, and not terribly driven to write. The teenager in me returned in full force. Our meeting and the events leading up to it were so sweet, I’ve had lots of folks tell me it’s the stuff of romance novels. Just one more book to write.

That aside, in general (and you have my word, from this point on!) I get up, work out, clean up and hit the keyboard. I have an office in my home, so I venture downstairs to fix lunch and take it back to my office. I work until 3 or 4, depending on what the rest of my life holds that day.
Writing non-fiction is a little different than fiction in that there’s a great deal of research involved. That includes interviews, books, internet searches, trips to libraries and archives, and more. I never feel I’m really “working” unless I’m actually putting words on paper. But of course, that’s not true. Often, I take books or my laptop to bed, reading with one eye and watching TV with the other. My husband does the same, and we agree on “quittin’ time.” Otherwise I’d be surfing and highlighting all night.

4- Why did you choose to write and speak specifically about women's courage?

As a result of writing two books about very courageous people, one a man and one a woman, I realized that women behave very differently when frightened, stressed or facing obstacles, the very times we most need our courage. But courage has always been measured by a male yardstick, involving lots of physical acts that most women can’t accomplish. Women see that and assume they’re not courageous, and with that attitude, are far less inclined to tackle things that might require courage.

My interest in the subject morphed into speaking engagements around the country. And the speaking launched the idea for the book I’m working on now. Don’t you love this segue to the next question?

5- What's on the horizon for you? 

Glad you asked, Gary! I’m currently at work on a book entitled A DIFFERENT KIND OF COURAGE. It weaves together current gender/brain research (yes, we DO behave differently than you do and no, we CAN’T help ourselves), and anecdotes of women who’ve been courageous in various walks of life. These include business, government and politics, on the front line, facing chronic illness, in education, in violent situations, and more. Each story is accompanied with cutting edge research results explaining why women behave as they do when stressed and frightened, and why working together rather than against men in these situations is a good thing.

The book will also include the results of a nationwide survey. I would invite all your female readers to take the survey on my website at And expect the book early next year.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Congratulations to Leah Petersen, the winner of July's Strong Scenes Contest.  Her submission was scene "A" below.  Take a moment to view her work, it really had a lot going on for such a short scene. I had the readers vote this time and they did a great job.  It was very close though, mostly due to the solid entries I continue to see month after month.  Congrats to all the finalists as well.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


This month I'm going to try something different--mix it up a little.  I'm going to post the 4 top finalists, then let the readers decide which one should win.  This is an experiment, so let's see how it turns out.  Depending on how it goes, I might keep it this way or switch it back or change it again, who knows.  Inevitably my only goal is to give writers a place to get their work scene. Deadline is Saturday, July 31st.

Below are the 4 finalists and there's a poll to the right with the corresponding letters to vote for.  Good luck to the finalists and thanks to all who submitted there was some terrific scenes which didn't make the final 4. 

A- Leah Petersen:

She brought her lips to his again. “I love you,” she murmured, her lips whispering against his.

He stiffened and pulled back just enough that she could see his face. His eyes were wide.

And why not, at such a shocking declaration? She was young, and beautiful, and heir to lands and titles and fortunes. And what was he?

He was dead.

His body slid to the floor with the gracefulness she’d loved in him. The life in his eyes was already gone. It had been very quick. She was accurate in everything she did.

She slid her knife from his breast and wiped it clean on her own skirt. All of the other times she had used the clothes of her victim and what did it matter to them? But this time it mattered, to her.

Matthew would make her pay for this, make her howl until she had no more voice and still he would hurt her. She hadn’t failed, she had defied him.

She could have made the boy suffer, as she’d been told. She could have made him die slowly and in terrible pain. She knew she was capable of it. So there was some victory in this. That she had killed her lover quickly and painlessly not out of weakness, but by choice.

She stood and looked down at him.

One tear escaped and she brushed it away, not realizing that she’d replaced the tear track with a smear of his blood.

B- Lindy Rahn

They picked up her things and began along the pier towards the Sydney Aquarium, holding hands. Luke’s grasp made her feel safe and comfortable. It was the one thing that had been missing and now she had it back.

‘How did you find me?’ she asked, curious. After James, Flora had made very sure that she would only be found be those she wanted to find her. A very small list of people had access to her whereabouts.

‘As soon as Juli cancelled the wedding, I ditched my job and went back to Perth only to discover that you’d taken leave and were off travelling. I’ve been following you ever since with the help of PJ and Louise. They forwarded me the emails you sent to them.’ He held up his Blackberry waggling it in the air. The wonders of modern technology. Then he regarded her sternly, ‘you know, if you were a regular twenty something it would have been easy to find you… I could have just checked your Facebook status or sent you a text. But not you. Tell me again why you don’t have a mobile phone?’

Flora was silent. They both knew she didn’t trust mobiles anymore. Still, she smiled, ‘Well, it’s lucky I’m not a regular girl. Then you’d never have loved me.’

‘What do you mean ‘loved?’ I love you more than I ever did, even though I never said it… and Flora?’


Luke fell to his knees. There, in the middle of the queue to see the seals, he gazed up into her aqua eyes as the crowd around them began to clap and cheer. ‘I don’t ever want to be apart from you again. I want to marry you.’

Flora could feel the tears welling. ‘Is this the part where I say ‘yes’?’


‘Hmm. Well, alright, but on one condition.’

‘Oh God.’ He hoped she wasn’t going to make him dress in some stupid top hat and tails or something. ‘What?’

‘We need to go back to Enrico’s before the wedding so you can learn to waltz. Your timing really sucks.’

C- Cyndi Tefft

A hazy sheen of smoke was visible in the moonlit room, wispy tendrils silently jostling one another for space on the ceiling. “Oh shit!” I cried, my mind finally coming up to speed. I leapt out of bed and raced down the stairs. The acrid stench of smoke filled my lungs and burned my eyes as I grabbed the fire extinguisher from behind the refrigerator. I batted at the smoke with my free hand and it taunted me, moving away and then quickly circling back. I pulled the pin on the extinguisher and squeezed the handle, praying that it would work. A spray of white foam poured from the container and I swept it back and forth over the base of the flames.

My eyes were watering uncontrollably and I squeezed them shut, focusing all my energies on putting out the fire. My arms and legs began to shake as the extinguisher spit out its final droplets of foam. I scrambled over the floor toward the door, tripping on the footstool and knocking my forehead against the hardwood floor. Crawling on my hands and knees, I strained to make it to the door to the outside deck. The suffocating pressure in my chest held me in place and I reached out in desperation before my arm fell limp and all strength was gone.


I called to him in my mind with my last conscious thought, then surrendered to the dense grey fog that consumed me.

D- Ali Koomen

“Is it you? Is it really you?”

The girl nodded. “My name is Mallory, and you are my mother.”

Geneva’s hand went to her mouth. It was impossible to take her eyes from her daughter’s face. Eventually, she recalled Scott’s presence and turned to him. “Scott, I don’t—”

“Please, don’t be angry with him,” Mallory said. “I knew I was adopted--when I was twelve, I found the adoption papers. I have always known something was missing. I’ve always wanted to find my birth parents, and now you have found me.” She paused, her voice heavy with tears. “Scott told me about how young you were, and how he wanted you to get an abortion. But you were so brave, travelling to a country halfway across the world. I’ve had a wonderful life, almost a fairytale existence, something I would not have known had you not been so courageous. Thank you, for loving me so much, for being so selfless.”

Geneva looked at Scott. “Thank you,” she whispered. He nodded his head in acknowledgement.

Mallory looked from one to the other. “I think that you two need to continue to find your way back to each other. If nothing else, could you do that for me?”

Scott looked at Geneva, and she could see the old daring-do in his eyes. She turned to her firstborn, and said what parents have said since the beginning of time, when they’re not completely certain of the outcome:

“We’ll see, dear. We’ll see.”

Sunday, July 18, 2010

WAITING (Guest Post by Luke Romyn)

Here's what you need to know about Luke Romyn:  He lives in Cairns, Australia, between the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. He's an extremely talented writer (I read The Dark Path and slept with the lights on for two weeks).  He spent 15 years in the security business only to jump into the most insecure business available--publishing.  Below are his thoughts on the subject of WAITING: 


Every writer who has tried to get their work published in any way, shape or form knows what I’m talking about.


Aspiring authors, prepare yourself for the wondrous world of limbo which exists between completing your work, polishing it to perfection, submitting it to whatever or whoever you have chosen will be honored with receiving such a wondrous gift of imagination and skill and –




Sometimes you’ll get that letter. You know the one. It’s the stamped, self addressed envelope you sent away with your submission, which you yearn to open and yet dread to see what it’ll say. We always open it, hoping it’ll say our dreams are about to come true.


Your world crashes down around you and you never, ever want to write another thing ever again, but being the eternal optimist you are you send off another submission the next day… and the next time… and every time you get that rejection. Because you’re a writer.

Writers are not only people born with perfect diction, nor are they always fantastical wordsmiths who can create vistas beyond the imaginings of mere mortals by threading their multi-syllable words together in such ways to break through new barriers in the art of articulation.


A writer is something else entirely. A writer wakes each day yearning to express themselves through words, their mind and imagination screaming for release through the power of strikes on a keyboard or the scribbling of pen on paper. Other skills which they may require can be learned, but the heart of a writer remains the same, regardless of their background, ethnicity, education or religion.

Because they are the ones who will fight through those rejections, battling self doubt and endure the endless –


– forever with the hope that one day, just one time, that letter will contain the one word which will have made all the pain and stress worthwhile. Three letters each and every writer universally yearn to hear:


Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Over the years I've seen discussions in magazines and on blogs about the intrinsic difference between a short story and a novel.  This might seem trite but the answer is more than just length.  A short story is usually one or two scenes.  That's it.  And don't waste your time telling us he had green eyes and brown hair and a cute mole on the tip of her earlobe.  The clock is ticking.  You need to begin with a conflict.  The protagonist has to overcome a challenge and we'd better discover that pretty soon.  Normally short stories are around 2500-3500 words, so don't dilly-dally.  I'm not saying you can't set the scene with a full moon or a distant howl from a coyote.  That's okay, as long as it's taking us somewhere. 

I've been fortunate enough to have published quite a few short stories (many are available in full on my website) and everyone of them starts with dilemma.  A clairvoyant patient visits a psychiatrist because she hears aliens discussing the destruction of the planet.  A man gets arrested because he can't handle the stress of his job and that's the only place he can find respite.  These are just two of the ideas I turned into stories. 

The novel, however, requires an entirely different pace.  Now just because you have more time to develop your characters please resist the temptation to describe your protagonist through a glance at a mirror, or someone commenting on their green eyes, brown hair, or cute mole on the tip of her earlobe.  You'd better start with some form of conflict pretty quick and keep that tension going throughout the novel.  The difference is the conflict probably won't get resolved for a few hundred pages instead of fifteen.  Does anyone know what Jack Reacher really looks like?  We know he's big, and that's about it.  Lee Child doesn't waste time with such insignificant details.  We know the shape of the road he's travelling because it will become useful at some point forward.

Now all of this pertains to most genre fiction, so don't get all tangled up trying to make sense when it comes to romance novels, because that is a completely different animal all together.  Let's face it, the details of someone's anatomy are usually the most important part of the story.

Of course the best advice is to study the short story before churning one out.  There's plenty of great fiction in today's literary magazines and journal's.  Just remember, start strong and finish strong.  What did you think I was going to say on a blog named Strong Scenes.  

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Congratulations to Kent Ostby for winning the Strong Scene Contest for June 2010.  Check out Kent's scene below, his was scene # 1.  Literary Agent Cari Foulk was the honorary judge and she really enjoyed all four finalists.  In the end she felt Kent's scene had a simple, yet realistic feel to it.  Also she found the ending very impressive.  It was a hard choice for her as she asked for extra time to really give these scenes a good look.  Congrats to Kent and a big thanks to Literary Agent Cari Foulk with Tribe Literary Agency.  

Thursday, June 24, 2010


June's contest asked for action scenes.  The response was terrific and I want to thank everyone who participated.  I also want to thank our judge, Literary Agent Cari Foulk.  There's an abundance of talent out there and I enjoy showing it off.  Congrats to the finalists.  Feel free to vote for your favorite scene-->

1: Kent Ostby

Fear like an ugly, black bile, rose in Duke’s throat as he ran. The
bear gave chase on its three good paws, dragging the other like a
useless set of razor blades.

Duke drew his knife from the scabbard at his side, wondering if he
could make a miracle throw that would save his life.

The bear was on him in an instant and Duke had just enough time to
slam the stick into the bear’s jaws before it bowled him over.

Time slowed.

Like a deadly cartoon, man and bear rolled round and round. Duke
thrust his knife over and over while the bear racked his body with
teeth and claws. The black bear rolled onto Duke’s leg, snapping it
loudly. Duke screamed as the bear reared up on his hind legs and
started to come down on Duke again. Duke shoved with all his might
pushing the knife deep into the bear’s chest.

The bear pulled back, tearing the knife out of Duke’s hand.

As the bear rolled onto its side, fighting for breath, Duke saw frothy
blood on its muzzle. 

Duke began to crawl, fighting pain that emanated from every part of
his body. The river’s voice beckoned Duke and he turned toward it.

Behind him, Duke heard movement and saw the bear dragging itself
forward. Whatever damage Duke might have done to the bear, it still
had a massive set of working jaws. Duke saw another stick and grabbed
for it, pushing his weight off of his injured leg as another scream
tore from his lips. The snow was coming down in torrents as Duke
limped toward the river and dark eyes drew closer to him.

Duke wasn’t sure if he could stay conscious for much longer. The water
swirled near the top of the bank, flowing hard and heavy as the snow
disappeared into it. Duke turned and the bear was only ten feet from

Suddenly, the black bear rushed, looking surreal with the haft of
Duke’s knife sticking from its chest.

With a last look, Duke stepped forward and was swept into the current.

2: Sandra Cormier

A man lounged against the rough wall, smoking a cigarette. A spray of climbing roses almost obscured his features, yet he looked familiar. My mind's eye caught a wisp of a memory, of a scarred face stretched across high cheekbones. He was the guy I'd bumped into last night.

Cradled in his arm was a gun. A big one.

I let out a startled squeak and clapped a hand over my mouth. Before I could move, the man's gaze rose and locked with mine.

He shouted and raised his weapon. At the same time, the pale man in the window opposite followed the gun's line and stared at me across the short distance.

With a shriek, I slammed the window and dropped to the floor. I pressed my hands over my ears as an explosion bounced around the courtyard and shards of glass blew into my room.

I curled my body tight, heart pounding as I crouched on the floor. The shots ceased and shouts rang from the courtyard mixed with the frightened cries of the tourists.

What do I do? They saw me. I have to get out of here. I stooped low and scurried across the room in my bare feet, avoiding bits of glass.

More voices, this time in the hallway. Shit. I expected the door to burst open with splintering wood, but all I heard was a polite knock.

What the Hell? What kind of terrorist knocks? Maybe it's the police. I crept to the door and reached with a shaking hand toward the lock. I hesitated, thought better of it and shrank against the wall beside the door. I held my breath, praying that they would go away.

The knob turned and rattled, then the door exploded inward. Fuck. Not the police.

3: Diana Alkema

Tonight I waited for him to return from his secret rendezvous with my best friend. What he thought was secret anyway. I waited for his lies, then for his excuses. Waited for him to tell me I was wrong, to tell me I got it all wrong. That it was not what I thought it was. That he loved me, that he had never loved anyone like this, that we should have never had that abortion.

Now I am waiting for the ambulance. I sit next to him on the floor, he lost consciousness at the first sight of blood. I waited a whole minute before I called the ambulance. It was a wonderful minute in which time stood still. I just looked at him, absorbed every detail. He looked so peaceful.

The blood slowly spreads on the on my birch wood floor. Deep red and glistering in the moonlight that comes in through the high windows. It feels warm to the tip of my finger. I draw eights in the pool of blood and then I write Orion, over and over again.

I do hear the voices and the noise, I just don’t react to them. Not when they kick down the door to my apartment. Not when someone grabs me under my arms and pulls me up. “The jacket is on backwards,” I want to say but what does it matter. My arms are pulled around my body as if to hug myself and are secured behind my back.

“Wait here!” the voice says.

I hate waiting.

4: Cyndi Tefft

The radio crackles with the voice of the dispatcher. “Suspect heading southbound on I-5…” I flip on the lights and head for the on-ramp as Jake calls in our location. Cars part like the red sea as we weave our way through rush hour traffic to the freeway, siren blaring. We emerge from the tunnel and the target speeds past along the shoulder, sparks flying where the car’s side door scrapes against the metal railing. I hit the gas and follow him, the thrill of the chase building in my blood.

Damn, I love this part. C’mon sucker, let’s go.

The patrol car jerks as we ricochet off the railing in hot pursuit but I don’t notice. The perp is in my sights, the tantalizing nectar of victory sweet on my tongue. The lanes narrow as he crests the bridge, the gap too small for him to wedge past. A Mini Cooper is his unfortunate victim, the little car flung into the next lane with the impact. The sound of wrenching metal pierces the air, punctuated by the wailing siren as the suspect’s vehicle grinds to a stop.

He bails, fleeing on foot, but I can tell he’s injured. I’m a hair’s breadth in front of Jake as we follow, focused intensity sparking within me like a Tesla coil.

You’re mine.

“Stop!” I shout and draw my weapon. The suspect freezes and I slow my approach, my senses on high alert. “You’re under…” I begin, but he spins around and I catch the glint off his gun a split second before the bullet tears through my shoulder. The force knocks me backward and pain explodes in my head as my skull cracks against the railing.

I expect to hear Jake’s answering gunfire but instead there’s a scuffle: heavy footsteps, fists connecting with flesh, grunts and the sound of crunching bones. The sharp tang of blood burns my nostrils, the perp’s body odor mingling with the taste of copper in my mouth, and I fight the urge to retch. Then I’m being lifted and my synapses begin firing again. He’s throwing me over the bridge! Snarling, I claw at him to try and get purchase but he slips through my fingers and I’m falling. Fear eats me alive, the sound of the traffic below calling my doom.

I’m going to die.

Jake snakes out a hand and my descent jerks to a halt. Hope flares in my chest. “Pull!” I scream and Jake’s eyes meet mine, steely with determination.

“Had to make it look good, partner,” he says with a smug curl of his lip.

He lets go.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Author Mike Lawson might not be the first engineer to switch careers, but when it comes to writing thrillers he might be one of the best.  He was kind enough to spend a few minutes with me while in the middle of a current book tour for his latest novel, "House Justice."

1- Your plot lines are very realistic, do you ever swipe actual scenes from your years as a nuclear engineer for the Navy?

Only one of my books, The Second Perimeter, contains material from my old job as a nuc engineer for the navy. The actual idea for the book, however, came from a real life incident at the Los Alamos National Laboratory where some computer discs containing classified data were supposedly stolen by the Chinese. Scenes in The Second Perimeter that discuss the naval shipyard in the book were based on my experience at that shipyard - but nothing in the book is classified, of course. I do draw heavily in my books from my experience working for the government and time spent in D.C. All my books pretty much begin with something I read in the paper. My fifth book, House Justice, was inspired by the real life Valerie Plame case. My third book, House Rules, started with an article I read about the no-fly zone around D.C. The reason my books are set in D.C. is that it's a "target rich" environment - there's always some god-awful thing happening back there in real life that's fodder for political thriller writers.

2. Your protagonist, DeMarco, was so developed right from the first novel, The Inside Ring, is he a more daring version of yourself?

DeMarco is - sorta - me. That is DeMarco's thought process about a lot of things and the way he reacts to situations is a lot like I would probably react - and, like me, DeMarco's not exactly the hero type. And we both enjoy a vodka martini. Also, and this is a different story, DeMarco's father had mob connections. Believe it or not, my grandfather, an old fedora-wearing Scilian also had few connections to some shady mob people.

3- DeMarco's sidekick, Emma, is such an insider--did you mold her after anyone in particular?

I didn't mold Emma after anyone person. Emma in a sense is a "device". I wanted the books to have a strong female character - but I didn't want the character to be a love interest for DeMarco. I didn't want to deal with the boyfriend-girlfriend thing which, I think, can get rather tiresome after several novels. But the main thing about Emma - and this is the device part - I wanted a character that would be a true D.C. insider in terms of having access to places like the CIA, the Pentagon, and the FBI - and with Emma's past as an operative for the DIA, she provides that access. Lastly, I wanted Emma as a counter-balance to DeMarco - she's more moral, more straight-laced, more inclined to make DeMarco play by at least a few rules

4- Is writing work for you, or would you do it even if there were no readers out there?

Particularly after my old job - working on reactor plants for navy nuc ships - writing definitely doesn't seem like work. I love to write - I feel like I'm getting paid to have the best hobby in the world. And to answer you question, if my current publisher dropped me - although I don't think that's going to happen - I'd keep writing. I'd be trying to find another publisher, of course, but I think I'm so used to getting up every morning and writing that I'd keep doing that whether I had a publisher or not. It's fun making up stories.

5- How are you adapting to the digital age of publishing--are you going fighting and clinging, or are you more accepting of the changes?

I have no control over a lot of the things that impact the writing business - the demise of newspapers, good independent bookstores disappearing, the advent of e-books, etc. That's the world we live in. I just keep writing and hope my publisher and others on the business-side of the books will keep me in the game whether the reader is reading my books on paper, his I-pod, his I-pad, or his Kindle. The only thing I really regret is seeing the small, neighborhood indepdent stores disappearing because they can't compete with the big box stores and folks like Amazon. But that's the way things are - we all just have to keep adapting - like you're doing with your blog.

Monday, June 14, 2010


I began this blog a couple of months ago with the thought that I'd start a writing contest and give new and emerging writers a place to get exposure.  I'm blessed to have a literary agent and have contacts with one or two others who were willing to help my project.  It was a good idea and will probably continue in one form or another.  If someone received attention from this blog which netted them an agent or a publishing deal I would be over-the-moon excited.

Then I thought I'd give some content as well.  Bring the reader some interviews with well-known authors like Tess Gerritsen and Catherine Coulter.  They were both gracious enough to allow me to interview them with my 5 questions segment.

Which one of these would bring more interest? Well, I'm surprised to say Tess Gerritsen and Catherine Coulter don't hold a candle to our own little online writing community.  Both NY Times bestselling authors barely registered a blip on the comments while awards and blogs about "The Cure for Writers Block" drew serious interest.  Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, look at what American Idol has done to us.  Not that I've watched ten minutes of the program.  I'm too much of a music fan. 

So my conclusion is that people don't want simple information, we want emotion.  I should know, I'm a writer who excels at the concept of showing, not telling.  I barely describe my protagonist, but his gyrating adams apple speaks volumes.  I will continue the contest and interviewing authors big and small, but I'll also be focussing on other more emotional issues.  Like maybe why I turned down a print book deal to publish my novel as an E-Book first.  Now there's a post waiting to happen.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


It's hard to believe Catherine Coulter has written 65 novels and virtually every one of them has been a NY Times Bestseller.  It's been over a decade since she began her FBI Suspense Thriller series and her latest, "Whiplash," is due out June 15th. This will be the fourteenth novel in the series.  She's driven, goal-oriented and an avid football fan.  She's also a terrific sport to take time out of her busy schedule to play 5 questions with a loon like me.  Thanks Catherine.

1- After 59 NY Times bestsellers, do you still get jittery the night before a book is released?

No, I never get jittery before the book comes out, but on the Wednesday two weeks after the book is released -- half my brain is always focused on the call that will come that afternoon from the publisher to tell me if I hit #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List.

2- Are you competitive with your sales, trying to attain certain goals with each book?

Yes, my goal for a long time was to make #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List -- I've done that. My goal now is to stay at #1 on the list longer. You've always got to look up, always, because your publisher does.

3- Are you ever surprised at a reaction from fans about a particular scene or book you've written? Could you give an example?

I find myself both pleasantly surprised and Whoa! surprised, but it's never been about a single scene that I can recall, rather it's how the book has affected them personally, e.g., helped distract them through a bad time or really set them off because they hate a character, such as Blessed Backman, who, I swear, has a very polarized fan club -- those who really get off on his talent and how way-out there he is and those who think him a monster and scold me for creating him. It is fiction, I write. This is not about your next door neighbor.

4- You obviously love to write, but would you still write novels if you were the only one left on the planet and there were no readers?

If I were the only person left on the planet, I wouldn't be writing, I'd be trying to find a taco.

5- How did you become such a football fan?

I was raised on football, was a huge Cowboy fan (my folks were friends with Tom Landry) until I moved to San Francisco and learned the first requirement of a 49er fan was to hate the Cowboys. Not a problem.