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.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


After a 30 year career in the advertising business, Ira Berkowitz decided to try his hand at writing fiction.  Boy was that a good decision.  His novel, Family Matters, the first in the Jackson Steeg mystery series, was published in 2006 and won the Washington Irving Award for literary merit.  Since then, he's published two more in the series, the latest one is Sinners' Ball.  He was kind enough to spend a few minutes to play 5 questions with me.

1- Were you a big reader of crime fiction before you began the Jackson Steeg series of novels, and if so who were some of your favorite authors?

The first crime novel I remember reading was Mickey Spillane’s, I, The Jury. Pretty racy stuff for a young kid. And I was hooked. From then on, it was a process of discovery. Chandler, Hammett, Lawrence Block, Ross and John D. MacDonald. Martin Cruz Smith, Robert Parker, and James Lee Burke. And each brought a special delight. I love Block for his innate sense of justice, Parker for his dialogue, and Burke for his poetry. But the writer that made a lasting impression on me was Hubert Selby, jr. His Last Exit to Brooklyn is a masterpiece.

2- Your protagonist, Jackson Steeg, is an ex-NYPD cop and a no-nonsense kind of guy. Did you find it easy to relate to his sense of making things right, no matter the consequence?

My wife often says that when I die, the cause listed on the death certificate will be The New York Times. In a world of asymmetrical justice, making things right – something Jackson Steeg does very well in a damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead kind of way - is extremely gratifying, and the only thing that keeps me sane.

3- Do you ever imagine a time when you decide to end the series--or have you even thought that far ahead?

No doubt I will write other books dealing with characters and themes that interest me, but life without Jackson Steeg is unimaginable. My first book, Family Matters, was written as a stand-alone. But very quickly, Steeg disabused me of that notion. He took over my life, and refuses to let go.

4- How did you come to be published after getting such a late start on the world of crime novels?

Two reasons: Luck, and a valuable lesson I learned during my career in advertising - never take no for an answer. Fifty agents rejected my first attempt at writing a crime fiction novel. But a few were encouraging. They were enough to keep me going. Then one night while watching television I heard the name Steeg during a commercial break. And the Universe kicked in. The first book in the series was all there in my head. A little over three months later the book was finished. Two agents offered to represent it.

5- What are your thoughts on e-readers and their future in the literary world?

E-books have radically changed the publishing business model. And I’m not sure the industry knows how to deal with this new environment. But they’re here to stay, and will only get better as the technology improves. But I expect there will always be people like me who love the smell of a book, the feel of the pages, and the sense of intimacy it brings.


Click the link below to see the latest review of A Touch of Deceit.  Tiffany Harkleroad runs a terrific blog which reviews books.  Thanks, Tiffany for the wonderful words. 


Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I'm very excited to announce Kate Mayfield as the winner of May's Strong Scene Contest.  Literary Agent Robert Brown chose her submission as the strongest scene, although he said he had a difficult time choosing because the writing was so strong.  Daryl Sedore's piece was a close runner-up.  Congratulations to Kate.  You can read her submission in the post below this.  It's submission #2.  I have more to reveal about this piece soon, but I need confirmation first.
Congrats to all who entered, it was a pleasure to read your work.