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.