Thursday, December 24, 2015



Chapter 8 – Emily Stone


Emily and Rick secured the two men inside the storage building. Their wrists and ankles were fastened with zip ties and then affixed through metal rings on the wall. The men weren’t going anywhere before cops arrived. They remained quiet and rarely looked at the couple.

Emily thought it was strange that they complied so easily and did not protest.

“You good?” Emily asked Rick. She was anxious to leave the property.


“I’m going to search the house for anything about the girls,” she checked her ammunition out of habit rather than necessity. “Give me a few minutes before contacting the cops and FBI.”

She hurried toward the door.

“Okay,” Rick slowly replied, still staring at the two men. “Em?” he said and shrugged.

Emily stopped and turned.

“Be careful,” he warned.

She thought it was out of character for Rick to express that sentiment in the middle of their investigation.

Emily forced a smile and then jogged to the main house.

It was actually a manufactured home, which had been set up on property in several pieces. It was more of a rectangle box that had uneven connections at the outer corners. It appeared to have been assembled recently. There were stickers still attached to the trim areas and windows.

Emily slowed her pace on approach.

She stood for a moment and surveyed the house.

Nothing unusual.

Taking a moment to jog around the structure, Emily made sure that there weren’t any type of cameras, booby traps, or security devices.

It seemed staged.

Automatically she retrieved her Glock and took the safety off.

Emily stood at the front door, grasped the doorknob with her left hand, and turned it. Pushing the door slowly open, the interior was dim and stuffy. None of the windows were open and no air conditioning flowed.

A light flickered in the corner from a muted television.

Emily cautiously entered the house and quickly cleared the living room, kitchen, and the two bedrooms. There was no sign of the missing girls, or any incriminating evidence that they were ever at the location.

How could their information have been so wrong?

Dishes in the sink, cigarettes in an ashtray, sparse thrift store furniture, and empty liquor bottles were the only remnants of anyone living in the house. Closets and cupboards were empty. The beds did not look slept in recently.

Who did these guys work for?

These thoughts plagued Emily as she moved closer to the TV. The regular program was interrupted by a news report.

It read across the bottom of the screen in bold letters: Breaking News from Washington DC as FBI Bomb Squad searches a local city bus.   

The story unfolding caught Emily’s immediate attention. She watched as video clips showed different angles of the bus, bomb squad techs, bystanders, a young anxious teenager, and an agitated FBI Agent talking with another agent.

Emily holstered her weapon. She saw the TV remote on the coffee table, snatched it up, and quickly activated the sound.

A field reporter interrupted the chaos and narrated with a cheerful voice, “As you can see behind me that the DC Bomb Squad has been called in to investigate an allegedly suspicious briefcase that had been left on the city bus, but we have been informed that there was no bomb and no indication of a terrorist threat.”

The young dark-haired reporter pressed her earpiece firmly with her fingers and listened for a moment, her eyes wide. She continued, “Our news station has just received an update from an anonymous source that the briefcase has possibly a connection to two teenage girls that went missing from San Jose, California three days ago. We do not have the girl’s names at this time, nor do we know if they are connected in any way to the briefcase on the bus. We will keep you informed as new information becomes available.”

Emily’s heart pounded as she listened to the reporter.

It had to be a mistake or a joke.

She and Rick had been covertly searching for Maya Reynolds, 15, and Sydney Atherton, 14, who disappeared from a mall in San Jose, California three days ago. Their investigation and solid leads brought them to this property in Iowa where there was no sign of the girls.

Emily felt anxiety rise from her core and it made it difficult to breathe—the restriction made her slightly dizzy.

She tossed the remote and retreated from the house to meet Rick. They had to leave the property as soon as possible.

It wasn’t just a dead end in the investigation—it was a possible trap and they walked right into the middle of it.

Monday, December 21, 2015


                                               Chapter 7: Nick Bracco


They cleared an entire city block while the bomb squad sent a robot onto the bus.  Nick spent most of his time interviewing the one kid who remained until the final stop, while Matt interviewed the bus driver.  The kid was suspicious of everything Nick asked and wanted to lawyer up until Nick convinced the youngster he didn’t care if he was carrying drugs or weapons.  Nick would not ask to search his backpack under any circumstance.

 “I wasn’t doing nothing wrong,” the boy said with conviction.

 “We know,” Nick said, kneeling down next to the boy while he sat under the shade of a tree.  “There was a very bad man on that bus and that’s who we’re chasing.  It’s very important that you tell me everything you can about him.”

 “Which one?”

 “The dark-haired guy who got on the bus at 4th street.  He was carrying a briefcase.”

 The was recognition on the kid’s face.  “You mean the guy who got on the bus and the left?”


“Is that what he did.  Did he come onto the bus and leave before the bus took off?”

 “Yeah, he acted like he’d forgotten something and got off right away.”

 “Did you happen to notice him carrying a briefcase?”

 The boy seemed relaxed now that he was convinced the conversation wasn’t about him.  “Man, I do remember the dude walking past me with a briefcase, but now that you mention it, I don’t remember him leaving with it.  Is that important?”


 The kid looked over Nick’s shoulder at the bomb squad technicians wearing their protective gear.  Oversized Kevlar with titanium shields.  He said, “Is that what they’re looking at right now?  Did he leave a bomb on the bus?”

 “That’s a possibility, yes.”

 “Aw, dude, I had no idea.  I would’ve kept closer attention.”

 A beefy bomb technician wearing a bulky blast suit stiff-legged his way over to Nick.  When he was a few feet away, he removed his full-face helmet and said, “The bus is clear, Agent Bracco.  There’s no bomb inside the briefcase.”

 “Whoa,” said the kid.  “That’s good.”

 “So what’s inside the briefcase?” Nick asked.

 The bomb tech handed Nick a slip of paper.

 Nick opened the paper and read the note:

 I know where Stone’s missing girls are.


Thursday, December 17, 2015


Chapter 6 – Emily Stone

The increasing fatigue travelled down her arms as Emily gripped the gun.
She anticipated the assault.
The heavy gunfire ceased with only a small spray of bullets in several directions around her before it stopped completely. The men stopped their pursuit; it appeared they reevaluated their search.
The rising humidity fought against Emily’s awareness as she quickly wiped her sweaty hands on her cargo pants. She pressed her back harder against the cool rock to steady her nerves and focus on the imminent danger.
The landscape became quiet— unnervingly quiet. The birds were silent, no wings fluttering in the trees, and the breeze ran out of energy, not a leaf moved. The only constant thing was the humidity, which remained high and invading.

Emily licked her dry lips waiting in expectation for the next heavy barrage of bullets.
She tried to readjust her headset, hoping to hear static or the sound of Rick’s voice, but she only heard silence. Daring to peek around the rock formation, Emily eyed the trail of approach.
Where did they go?
She strained to hear any sound out of the ordinary, footsteps, crunching of leaves, winded breathing, soft conversation—anything.
What are they doing?
Still staying in a crouched position, Emily moved carefully from her location to gain a better vantage. The trees and surroundings looked normal. She stood up straight, still with her weapon directed and ready, cautiously sidestepping to move into another area away from the previous path.
She gained momentum and a confidence, hurrying down a makeshift pathway to view building location. She knew that she should continue uphill and move west to meet Rick, but her drive and concern to locate the missing girls overrode strict protocol.
Emily’s internal conversation was interrupted by shouts—first it was several men’s voices. She immediately recognized Rick’s authoritative tone. “Drop your weapons and show me your hands now!” he yelled.
Emily hurried downhill, careful not to stumble and fall. She ran as fast as she dared to in order to reach Rick. Disturbing thoughts raced through her mind of what might happen if she did not reach the location in time.
Reaching the bottom, Emily saw Rick holding one of the automatic weapons directed at the men—his shotgun lay on the ground next to him. The men were on their knees with their hands laced behind their heads.
“Rick,” Emily said breathlessly. “How’d you…”
“I had them in my sights after the alarm went off.”
Emily kept her Glock trained at the men. “Where are they?” she demanded.
The two men looked straight ahead, not moving, and ignored Emily’s question.
“I said…” she began as she confronted the first man by pushing her weapon into his face. “Where are the two girls?”
The man remained quiet.
“Em, secure them.”
“I want to know where the girls are!”
Rick lowered his tone, “Secure them and we’ll search the property before we alert authorities.”
Emily let out a breath clearly frustrated. She pulled several plastic zip ties from her cargo pant pocket and restrained the men—both wrists and ankles. She didn’t care that she pulled the ties too tight and hoped that it was uncomfortable.
“Keep an eye on them. I’m going to check this storage building.” Emily knew that the alarm was deactivated and there was no chance of a repeat of events.
Rick nodded and stood guard, taking the situation very seriously.
Emily hurried to the building. She stood at the entrance for a moment, hesitating, before she moved toward one of the tarps. 
She flung back the covering and revealed various types computer parts. It was not entire computers like laptops and desktops, but boxed parts of motherboards, internal drives, memory cards, and various controller drivers.
Emily quickly documented the inventory with her phone and personally viewed everything in the storage area. There was no sign of the missing girls or any indication that they had been there.
She returned to Rick and reported, “No sign of the girls.”
“What’s in there?” he asked. “More weapons?”
“No, computer parts, all kinds,” she stated. She watched for any reaction from the two men.
“What the hell… why are they storing computer parts in a secure building?”
Emily added, “We need to find out who is behind this and where the girls are.”

“The bigger question is what were they going to do with the computer parts and explosives?”

Monday, December 14, 2015


                                                     Chapter 5: Nick Bracco


  There were flashing red and white lights in the distance charging toward the bus.  In his peripheral vision Nick could detect unmarked sedans maneuvering around slow-moving city traffic .

                “What’s going on?” Matt asked, gripping the steering wheel with clenched fists.

                Nick was immediately on his phone.  “What’s happening,  Walt?”

                “We received an email bomb threat five minutes ago,” Walt Jackson said.  “I can’t allow innocent people to get in the way of our operation.  Go get him now.”

                Nick  put the phone down and watched a cascade of sedans with flashing lights converging on the bus.  One sedan pinched the bus toward the curb while five others surrounded the vehicle in a random display of power.  Plainclothes FBI agents jumped out of their cars with guns drawn,  crouched low and ready for the hostage situation to develop. 

                Nick and Matt hopped out of the SUV and carefully approached the bus from the door side of the transport vehicle.  The bus driver was a round figure behind the wheel  sitting still with his head on a swivel searching for the danger he knew was present.    

                Nick was close enough now to see that the only visible passenger was an African American male who stood with his arms in the air as if he were guilty and didn’t want to be shot.  He moved to the doorway of the bus and shouted, “Please don’t shoot!”

                Something was wrong.

                Nick quickly ran to the kid’s side and put his arms around the frightened teen.  “Relax,” Nick said, “no one’s going to harm you.  You’re safe.”

                “Please, I didn’t do nothing wrong,” the kid stammered.

                “We know,” Nick said, escorting the kid away from the bus.  “You’re not in trouble.”

                “You promise?”

                “I promise,” Nick said, watching Matt lead the team onto the bus, his gun out and ready.  Once the kid was far enough away from the action, Nick asked, “Who else is left on the bus?”

                The boy’s eyes were wide with anxiety, as if any wrong answer would cost him his life.  “Just me and the driver.  That’s all.”

                Something was definitely wrong.            

                Nick saw the bus driver waddle down the ramp while two agents helped him to the curb.  There were agents shouting to pedestrians to move away from the scene as Matt made quick-twitch moves inside the tight quarters of the bus, searching for the assassin. 

                Nick’s temple pounded as he watched Matt duck down, then raise up, checking under each of the seats.  Nick handed over the frightened teenager to another agent instructing him to protect the kid until Nick returned.

                That’s when Matt scurried backward toward the front of the bus, shoving a team member to move quicker  as he kept glancing over his shoulder.

                When Matt finally jumped out of the bus, he screamed, “Call the bomb squad!”

Thursday, December 10, 2015



Chapter 4 – Emily Stone

Emily’s strength dwindled from her arms as her legs weakened. Her ears buzzed with a strange hypnotic sensation. Shock and disbelief took hold of her. After realizing she held her breath, Emily immediately let out a burst of air. 

She stared at the crates and the word explosives unable to move. 

“Em?” Rick interrupted over her headset. “Emily, can you read me?”

“Yes,” she said slowly. Gaining her composure, she reported, “Negative on the girls.”

“What’s going on?” he persisted.

She hesitated for a full minute before answering.

“The building is filled with crates and heavy-duty black cases.”

Emily moved around the area to confirm that indeed the entire inventory was what it appeared – and it was.

There was a pause on Rick’s end.

“Rick, there are military weapons and explosives,” she managed to say.

“Get out now. Back track to the west side of the property and I’ll meet you there.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Get out now Em. This is not our area of expertise. I’ll forward everything to the FBI and let them handle it.”

“No,” she insisted. “I have to make sure that the girls are not being kept here. They are running out of time.”

Emily gained control of her emotions and documented the inventory with her cell phone with both photos and a quick video. She decided to treat the investigation like any other and move forward. Sending the photographs to Rick’s cell phone, she prepared to move to the next building.

“Dammit Em,” Rick’s voice responded.

Emily ignored his concern and focused on the next search. She eased back to the entrance, squeezed through the door, and carefully replaced the lock to appear engaged.

Whispering, Emily said, “I’m moving to the next building.”

Rick was silent on the other end.

Emily stopped and listened. She heard only birds chirping in the trees, but no voices or footsteps.

Daring to move, she kept her body close to the backside of the buildings and inched forward. 

The next structure had two windows on the backside. Emily moved in that direction hoping to catch a glimpse inside. She approached the windows, which were large enough to see the interior.

Standing up straight and straining her neck, Emily peered inside. More large tarps covered items around the interior. It did not appear like the same formation as the weapons shed. The farthest corners were dark. She could not ascertain if something moved or not.

Emily took a step backward and refocused her eyes. She looked inside again.

Something moved in the corner.

Without wasting any more time, Emily hurried to the door with two sliding deadbolts. She slowly flipped up the bolting mechanisms and slid both locks aside.

As she opened the large door, a screeching alarm sounded.  

Emily silently reprimanded herself for not checking for signs of alarms or infrared devices.

“I’m heading north…” was all that Emily could say before heavy static filled her ears. The connection with Rick was lost.

Shouts from the pursuing men advanced in her direction.

With no other choice, Emily ran into the wooded area heading north on the property.

Several rounds of gunfire expelled into the air like warning shots.

The alarm continued to blast.

Loud voices kept increasing in volume competing with the blaring alarm, and the men continued to close the gap between the buildings and Emily.

Emily stopped to catch her breath, trying to calm her pounding heart rate. The escape route was up hill zigzagging around overgrown trees.

Emily continued to climb to safety. Her leg muscles burned with overexertion and increasing fatigue.

The alarm abruptly stopped, leaving a strange silence for only a moment.

Gunshots rang out.  Bullets whizzed in Emily’s direction cutting through vegetation and tree branches. The firepower was no match for her Glock.

Emily knew that she wouldn’t make it to the top of the hill without being struck by at least one bullet.

             Emily dropped down and took temporary cover. She sat with her back against a large rock formation shielding her from immediate attack.
With her weapon drawn, she waited for her fate.

Monday, December 7, 2015



                                                               KILLER ON THE LOOSE                                                                

                                                              Chapter 3: Nick Bracco

                 Matt stayed a block behind the bus, while Nick scrutinized the passengers with his binoculars.

                “Nothing suspicious,” Nick answered Matt’s silent question.

                “Can you see him?”

                “No,” Nick said referring to Karl Saxon, the assassin they suspected was on the bus.  Saxon’s nickname was, The Ghost, so the two agents kept a sharp eye on the vehicle as if he could evaporate at any moment.

                “I don’t like it,” Matt said.  “He must know we’re following him.  Why not make a move?

                After more than a decade of partnering together, Nick’s mind was rummaging through the same exact thought.  “Maybe he’s preparing to take a hostage and wants the bus to thin out first.  Less people to control.”

                “Yeah,” Matt said, gripping the steering wheel with clenched fists.  “But the longer we wait, the more time he has to prepare for us.

                The thumping sound of a helicopter became too conspicuous and Matt stretched forward over the dashboard.  “Tell Lincoln to get the chopper out of here.  I don’t want Saxon to spook.  The less hostages, the better.”

                Nick called Agent Jack Lincoln to instruct him bring the chopper to a higher elevation, but continue his surveillance.  When Nick placed the phone back on his lap and looked through the binoculars, he said, “As far as I can tell there’s only seven passengers left.”

                They were still on Pennsylvania Avenue, just before the White House and watched the bus make a left turn to head back south where they had begun.  At the first light the bus pulled over at a stop and Matt crept toward the curb to double-park.  Nick almost jumped from his seat when the car behind them honked the horn.  Matt opened his window and waved his arm to encourage the driver to go around, but there was already a line of cars too close for the driver to negotiate the turn. 

                Another long honk.

                Nick could feet his temple pulsate with pressure.  He opened the car door.

                “Hey,” Matt said.

                “I’ll be right back,” Nick said, then jumped out and stomped over to the car behind them.  The driver was a young male with a buzz cut and a gold earring pierced through his lower lip.  Nick went over to his window and slammed his FBI credentials up against the glass so hard he thought it might break. 

                The guy’s eyes widened.

                “Get out of here!” Nick shouted.

                The guy jammed his gear into reverse and slowly rolled backward, causing the rest of the cars behind him to do the same. 

                Meanwhile Nick moved behind the SUV for protection and scrutinized each passenger as they exited the bus, his fingertips lingering on the grip of his gun.  There was a woman with two children.  A businessman.  A young kid with red headphones dangling around his neck.

                The bus began to pull out into traffic and Nick hopped back into SUV.  When he shut the door behind him, Matt said, “There’s two left.”

                Nick scanned the interior of the bus with the binoculars.  “This isn’t good.  I’m getting backup.”

                Matt glanced down at the bus route displayed on his phone sitting on the console.  “There’s one stop left on the route.  Have Walt bring the crew to 14th and Constitution.”

                Nick made the call, then returned his attention to the bus, examining the pedestrian traffic to assess the risk involved with the imminent confrontation.  His head began to pound as he withdrew his pistol and examined his chamber with a quick slide out and snap back into place.

                “You getting ready for a shootout?” Matt asked.


                “Well don’t, you’re scaring me.”

                “What, you think I’m trigger happy?” Nick asked putting the binoculars to his eyes. 

                “No I think you’re target challenged.”

                “Very funny.”

                “I’m serious.”

                “I miss a target by three inches and right away I’m target challenged.”

                Matt looked over at him.  “You were twenty feet away when I had—”

                “Stop,” Nick said, squinting through his binoculars now.  “Something’s happening.”

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Chapter 2 – Emily Stone

Emily Stone deliberately slid down the rocky hillside and cautiously approached the house.  The heat and humidity of the summer bore down on her. The dense trees on the large 200-acre homestead made for a convenient camouflage as she approached the first building. 
She checked to make sure that her Glock and Beretta were still secured in her hip and ankle holsters.  
Adjusting the listening device, she whispered, “Rick, you read me?”
“What took so long?” he replied.
Ignoring his irritated response she stated, “I’m at the first storage building on the west side of the property.”
“I don’t need to remind you of our protocol?” he pushed.
“Of course not.”
“And?” he curtly interrupted.
Emily could hear the growing tension in his voice, and could imagine his usual dark stare and clenched jaw.  “Just locate and observe,” she sighed.  
Of course, she knew the protocol.  They had tracked serial killers and abductors on many occasions, all with covert anonymity and shadowing of law enforcement. 
Their search and investigation brought them to the rural location near Mason City, Iowa to find the three missing girls taken from a suburban neighborhood in California. 
Footsteps approached.

“10-3,” Emily whispered, alerting Rick to radio silence.    
She moved stealthily away from the building, deeper into the wooded area.
Voices ensued and the words became clearer.
Emily strained to hear the conversation, but realized that they were speaking another language – nothing that she had heard before. 
She crouched low and tucked herself completely out of view. 
Retrieving her cell phone from her pocket, she pressed the recording app and held it in the direction of the unknown men, hoping to catch some of their dialogue for later translation. 
The two men talked excitedly in their foreign dialect with a few interjected English words.  They stopped at the front of building.
A cigarette butt landed on the ground near Emily, still smoldering before it eventually extinguished. 
Emily leaned forward and craned her neck to get a look at the men.  They were dark-haired, one with a beard, and both were dressed in casual dark kakis and t-shirts.  One man carried an automatic rifle, while the other had a large hunting knife sheathed on his right hip.
Several times Emily heard the English letters “DC” and word “train” or “trainer”.
The shorter man unlocked the large doors, swung them open, and disappeared inside for a couple of minutes.
It remained quiet.  No conversation, no movement, it was as if everything had stopped.
When the man finally returned, he seemed agitated swinging his weapon erratically as he spoke.  After engaging the padlock, both men left.
  Emily waited for a few more minutes until she could not hear the conversation between the men anymore. 
She updated her partner, “Two suspects, one AK-47, one hunting knife, heading east in your direction toward the main house.” 
“I can see them.  Two suspects,” responded Rick.
“I’m checking the building now.”
“Copy that,” he replied.
Emily emerged from her hiding place, taking a moment to survey her surroundings for traps or possibly another suspect.  She eased forward and noted there were no windows located anywhere on the building, nothing to give her an idea what was inside.
The small padlock was secured, but not impossible to break.
Emily searched around the area and found wooden boards from an old fence discarded in a neat pile.  She dug deeper, but kept alert.
“Em,” her earpiece crackled.
There were nails and pieces of wire hiding beneath the old fencing.
“Em?” Rick said again.
She had almost given up her search when she spotted a piece of steel resembling some type of rebar.
“What?” she stressfully whispered.
“I’m getting ready to break the lock and look inside, out.”
She knew that Rick worried about her safety, and he had told her on countless occasions that she took too many risks. 
The risks during the search for missing children were necessary.
She took the metal bar and inserted it into the lock at an angle, taking the extra precaution to make it as quiet as possible.  Leveraging the bar, Emily used all of her strength to break the lock, but it wouldn’t budge.
She took a step back.  It would have been much easier to shoot the lock off, but she would have had only seconds to escape the barrage of bullets.  The men’s firepower was no match for her.
With determination, she sucked in a breath and forced the bar downward. 
The padlock finally snapped, released, and fell to the ground.
Emily stood still, body rigid, listening, and half expecting an alarm to sound.
She then carefully opened the door barely wide enough to slip inside.
Large tarps covered the majority of the area, the shapes underneath appeared symmetrical and about six feet high.  Emily’s eyes adjusted to the dim lighting as she grabbed one of the corners of a white tarp and flipped it up.
Her skin prickled turning icy despite the mugginess.
Approximately 25 large wooden crates along with several heavy black plastic suitcases were exposed. 

Emily had never seen anything like it in any of her searches, but the symbols on the sides of the crates were unmistakable.  The containers held military weapons and explosives.


Sunday, November 29, 2015


Breaking News: I'm very excited to announce a collaboration with Award-Winning author Jennifer Chase. Each Monday I will post a Nick Bracco chapter and each Thursday I will post the Emily Stone chapter from Jennifer Chase. Please check out Jennifer's webpage:                                             

                                            Killer on the Loose

                                        Chapter 1: Nick Bracco  

                “Is it him?” FBI Agent Nick Bracco asked.
                His partner, Matt McColm, craned his head forward and squinted through the powerful binoculars at the man sitting on the bus stop bench with a briefcase on his lap.  They were on the third floor of the FBI’s Washington DC Field Office when Nick thought he spotted a familiar face below them.
                Matt pulled the binoculars down and turned away from the window with a confused expression.  “How?”
                Nick shrugged.  “I thought you killed him in Cairo?” he said to the FBI’s three time sharpshooting champion.
                “I did.  He was three hundred yards away and I had a perfect angle.”
                Nick stared out the window and noticed a bus approaching the bus stop.  He grabbed Matt’s arm and said, “Let’s go.”
                They ran into the stairwell and scrambled down the stairs two and three steps at a time, Nick’s head pounding with the thought another threat this close to home.
                “What’s he doing in DC?” Matt’s voice echoed off the cement walls.
                “No idea.”
                “And what’s in the briefcase?”
                “That’s what I’m worried about.”
                They ran down the stairwell toward the front door and two agents in the reception area immediately ran up and asked if they needed support.
                “Yes!” Matt shouted.  “It’s a Redball on the bus stop across the street.”
                The two agents followed them out the front door into the bright sunlight and the muggy summer heat.  As they ran to the curb, the bus was pulling away from its stop. 
                Nick stared at the empty bench.  “Shit.”
                Matt looked at the other two agents and said, “Get a bird in the air, quickly. ”
                The two agents hustled back into the federal building while Nick examined the numbers on the back of the bus.  “That goes down Pennsylvania Avenue.”
                Matt began to run toward the underground parking garage and glanced back at his partner.  “C’mon.”
                “No,” Nick said, beginning to jog across the street.  “You get the car and I’m going to try to stay close on the sidewalk.  Pick me up along the way.”
                Matt sprinted down the street, while Nick negotiated the traffic with quick bursts of speed and a couple of hip checks around slow-moving vehicles.  He ran onto the sidewalk and tried desperately to track the bus which was already a couple of blocks ahead of him.  He needed help from a stoplight or passing police car.  Something that could give him hope.
                 But when the bus turned down Pennsylvania Avenue and began pulling away, he slowed to a jog.  The heat, the humidity, the years of chasing criminals, everything conspired to work against him.  Nick was bent over catching his breath when he heard a horn and saw Matt’s SUV in the right lane with his partner waving for him to get in.
                Nick jumped into the black Explorer and slammed his door shut.  He leaned back against the headrest.  “What’s he doing on a bus?”
                “With a briefcase?” Matt said, pulling into traffic and flipping the emergency lights on the grill.
                “Well,” Nick said, “the good news is he’s an assassin, not a suicide bomber.  Whatever’s inside that case probably isn’t a bomb.”
                “Good call,” Matt said, accelerating into the middle lane for turns and flying around a group of cars waiting at a light.  He jammed on the brakes momentarily until he saw it was clear, then quickly sped through the intersection. 
                “There it is,” Nick said, pointing to a distant bus just as Matt pulled around a large panel truck.
                Matt’s heavy right foot found more speed as he urged the cars ahead of him to move.
                Matt jerked the steering wheel from side to side while Nick grabbed onto the safety bar and braced himself with his feet against the floorboard.  “I’d like to be alive when we catch that bus.”
                “Don’t get greedy.”
                As Matt rushed along the left lane, Nick grabbed his arm.  “Hold on a minute.  If he spots us we’ll turn this into a hostage situation.  We need to wait him out.”
                “Too risky,” Matt said, still rocking the SUV between lanes.  “We can’t afford to lose him.”
                Nick flicked off the emergency lights.  “Slow down, buddy.  We’ve got time on our side.  He won’t get away.”
                Matt pursed his lips, then pulled his foot off the accelerator.  “If you’re wrong about this—”
                “It’ll be a first.”
                Matt grinned.  Over a decade of partnering allowed Nick the freedom to call the shots.  “Okay, but you’d better get on the phone and tell Walt what’s going on.  And to keep everyone out of the area.”

                Nick pushed a button on his phone, then put it to his ear.  “Because I’ve got the cowboy with me.  What could possibly go wrong?”     

Monday, September 28, 2015


Robert Bidinotto, Cheryl Bradshaw, Allan Leverone, and Jonas Saul are four of todays hottest thriller writers with all kinds of credentials to back their status.  Robert Bidinotto has over 100,000 books sold in his Hunter series with just 2 books in the series so far.  Recently he’s had the series translated for sale in Turkey as well.  Cheryl Bradshaw is the NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Sloane Monroe mystery series. Her novel Stranger in Town was a Shamus Award finalist for best PI novel of the year in 2013.  Allan Leverone is also a NY Times bestselling author and recently had one of his books rise inside of Amazon’s top 100 in Ebook sales.  Jonas Saul is an extremely prolific writer who straddles the line between thriller and horror.  At one point Jonas was ranked #1 in the Top 100 Horror Authors, ahead of that Stephen King guy.  All of these authors have plenty of experience inside the publishing world and each one was kind enough to spend some time with me to answer questions for my readers.  So here they are:

1- What is your writing routine?  And how long does it normally take to create a novel from start to finish?

Cheryl Bradshaw: I start each day off handing the business side of things: I manage my promotions, reply to emails, touch base with my assistant, and look at what I can do to keep improving my brand. Once this is all taken care of, I try to shut off all notifications so I can write in peace for at least three or four hours each day. Most of the time I'll pause to do research, but I still consider it part of the writing process. My novels take an average of three or four months to complete, and sometimes even less if I'm trying to hit a specific deadline. If I'm writing a 20,000 word novella, I can usually finish in about three weeks. 

Robert Bidinotto:  Gary, my “routine” actually occurs in stages. Unlike many authors, my stories grow from some theme or idea, rather than from a character or event. So before I start writing, I spend a long time, months, thinking about the implications of the theme. First, I develop two conflicting positions or viewpoints. Then, I conjure opposing main characters who advocate or embody those clashing positions. Then I figure out how to put those opposing characters into conflict: What clashing personal goals are they going to fight about? That’s the germ of my story. After that, I flesh out the plot by adding escalating confrontations and new characters, who represent variations on the main theme.

During those months of mulling and outlining, I do little actual writing. I stare into space a lot, jot down notes, write little essays to myself. I insert all of that stuff into my novel-writing software, a great program called “Write It Now,” and then begin to outline the events of chapters and scenes.

When I am finally satisfied that I have the whole story pretty much figured out, then I settle into a writing routine. I usually begin a session by going back over what I’ve written the previous day, editing and polishing it. That gets my head back into the story. Then I forge ahead into drafting the next scene. Since I’ve outlined the story in advance, I know basically what is going to be necessary in the scene. But as I write, the characters spring to life and their dialogue and activities constantly surprise and delight me.

I try to complete a scene or two every writing session, which usually amounts to 2,000 to 3,000 words. But when I’m on a roll, especially during the latter stages of the book, the clock and the calendar no longer exist for me, and I continue on a tear that can only be described as “binge writing.” I’ll knock out 4,000, 5,000, even 7,000 words at a sitting. Sometimes I won’t go to bed until the wee hours. I’ve worked as long as 18 hours straight. As I near the end of the book, I’ll crash out for a few hours’ nap, then get up and do it again. It’s utterly insane. I’ll miss meals, never get out of my bathrobe, and generally annoy my wife by being so preoccupied that it’s like living with Howard Hughes during his final reclusive days.

It’s not a “routine” I would recommend to a single other writer on the planet, Gary.

Allan Leverone: For the first time in my writing career, I actually have something resembling a regular writing routine. Up until the last couple of months, I would simply try to carve out writing time wherever I could, which often meant writing during my breaks at work.
Now, however, I have a job where I work mostly nights, so I usually try to devote two to three hours of writing every morning before getting ready for work. I share a cup of coffee with my wife, and then head for my computer to write. And, of course, guzzle more coffee.
My goal every week is to write six out of the seven days, and to create fifteen hundred words of new material when I’m working on the first draft of a novel. Sometimes life intervenes and I’m not able to meet those goals, but I can usually come pretty close, and when that’s the case I can typically finish the first draft of a new novel in two months, give or take.
Then comes self-editing and rewriting, which can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month. Then comes professional editing, which can add anywhere from a week to another month, depending on how much work the book needs.
Add it all up and it works out to approximately four months for a novel, start to finish. That estimate is very approximate, however. I’ve written books in considerably less time, and I’ve also had others that took quite a bit longer. A lot depends on how well or how poorly everything flows once I get into the nuts and bolts of the project.

Jonas Saul: I always begin a novel on a Monday. I’m religious about it. I write 4,000 words on that Monday, and each day of the week thereafter until Friday when I have 20,000 words written. I take weekends off and repeat that process on the following Monday until the book is done three to four weeks later. If something comes up during any given week that prevents my word count to hit 20,000 on Friday, then I write Saturday as if it’s a weekday. I never start the next Monday without having reached the previous week’s word count.

I outline and research extensively prior to writing a single word in a new manuscript. I know the entire plot, the beginning, the middle, and the end before I start writing the first draft.

Based on this writing routine, my novel’s first draft takes 3-4 weeks to write.

The entire process, from idea, to notes, to research and outlining, to writing and sending the manuscript to the editor, beta readers, and finally setting up the preorder on Amazon, takes months, sometimes six months. I’m always two to three books ahead, though. Covers, titles and storyline are usually outlined far in advance.

In the past I’ve done it faster (5,000 words per day) and I’ve done it slower (2,000 words per day), but I’ve found the 4,000 word per day count works the best for me.

2- What is your ideal writing place?

Cheryl Bradshaw: If I could write anywhere full time, I would either write at a hotel that offers room service or somewhere with inspiring scenery, such as a beach house or a cabin in the mountains . Writing at home is difficult because I'm easily distracted by the mundane daily rituals like laundry, dishes, making dinner, etc. I've noticed when I'm away from home my productivity doubles, so if I'm really behind, I'll take off for a week or so. It's a great excuse for a vacation! 

Robert Bidinotto: I don’t know if it’s “ideal,” but I work in a cluttered second-floor office on a desktop computer. My desk and a work table right beside it are arranged in an “L,” for easy access to whatever I need. They are piled with notes and file folders. I can’t work with distractions, so I don’t listen to music. I keep my Keurig coffeemaker downstairs, so that I have to get up occasionally and stretch my legs.
Allan Leverone: A little over a year ago, my wife and I did some much needed renovations on our house. One of the projects involved transforming our old family room into an office for yours truly. It’s a terrific space, quiet and private, and I owe my wife a lot for handing me my own little fortress of solitude when our home is not exactly a gigantic mansion.
But that office is now my ideal writing space. It’s equipped with a big L-shaped desk, my printer/fax machine and shredder right where I need them, my treasure trove of signed books in a special glass-fronted bookcase behind me, and lots of shelf space for books, CDs and everything else it takes to make me feel at home.
It’s an awesome space. But I’ve been writing fiction seriously since late-2006, and until July of last year I had no space dedicated to writing at all. I toted my laptop to wherever I could find a quiet place to work. Sometimes it was a bedroom, other times the kitchen, occasionally the front seat of my truck. I love my office, but it’s not necessary to have a dedicated space if one’s not available. As I mentioned before, for years I lugged my laptop to work and wrote whenever I could carve out the time on my breaks.

Jonas Saul: The only place I write is in my segregated office. I never write new words unless I’m behind my desk at my home office. I’ll reread a novel, perform edits and outline outside my office, but new words are always written at my desk. 

3- What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received, or seen in a magazine or an interview?
Cheryl Bradshaw: In 2009 I started a blog, and I was fortunate enough to have some really fantastic authors guest post. At the time, I was trying to publish my first book traditionally and was not open to doing it any other way. That logic went out the window when I interviewed Deed to Dead indie published author D.B. Henson, who was among the top twenty-five authors on Amazon that year. She pushed me to give indie publishing a try, and I'm glad I did. It's shaped my career faster and opened more doors for me in the traditional publishing world than I ever could have done waiting for a contract I may have never received. Four years later, my work speaks for itself. I have now signed my first foreign book deal, and have more offers on the horizon. It's a good place to be.

Robert Bidinotto:  Lee Child once told me, in an interview, to “ignore all advice.” Well, Gary, I wouldn’t go that far. In fact, I’ve read a bazillion how-to books on writing and learned many tips. But after internalizing many of them, I’ve concluded that all the so-called “rules” of writing good fiction really add up to just one, which I’ll call The Golden Rule of Fiction Writing:

Your job as a storyteller is to draw the reader down into your fictional world, then make it so compelling that he remains rooted there, spellbound and turning pages, completely forgetting the real world around him and that he is merely reading a book.

By that rule, a “good” fictional device or technique is anything that helps you maintain the “spell” and illusion of your fictional world. And, as a corollary, the Mortal Sin of Fiction Writing is doing anything to break that spell and distract the reader back into the real world.

That sin could be sloppy writing: bad grammar, misspellings, typos, factual errors. It could also be distracting the reader from the story spell by showing off: by “clever” yet jarringly intrusive turns of phrase, or by putting your vast knowledge on display with distracting “information dumps,” all of which call attention to your presence as The Author. If the reader is distracted by errors or bad writing, or if he becomes aware of you the author, then he is jarred out of your story world and suddenly reminded that he is just reading a book. That is when you lose him—when he yawns and closes the book to get up for a cup of coffee, or starts wondering what’s on TV.

Your primary responsibility as an author of fiction is to keep your reader down in your Story World, glued to his chair, turning pages and losing all track of time and place. Every other rule or technique of literary craft is merely a means to that end.

Allan Leverone: If you want to be seen as professional, and especially if you’re an Indie writer who wants to be seen as professional, you have to continually strive to improve. If you’re not getting better, you’re falling behind, and it doesn’t matter how good you are or how good you think you are for that to be true.
I’m realistic about my work and I understand not everyone is going to like it. If you offer your work for public consumption, there will be people who are going to hate it. There will be readers/reviewers who will eviscerate you just for sport. If you can’t find a way to deal with that, you’re probably better off just keeping a journal, as opposed to offering your words for sale.
However, while you have to accept the fact that a certain percentage of people are going to dislike your work, you should never use that as an excuse to stop trying to improve. I know there will always be writers who sell more books than me, and there will always be writers who make more money than me and have more fans than me.
But one thing I can’t stomach is the thought that a writer might be working harder than me. There is little in this business you can truly control as a writer, and one of the only things you can control is your level of effort, your commitment to being professional and to offering every single reader the absolute best product you’re able to muster.
If I can get to the end of the day and honestly tell myself I’ve done that, then I’m satisfied, regardless of how many books I sold that day, or what sorts of reviews my work received that day.
It’s important for a writer to write, but it’s more important for a writer to write well.

Jonas Saul: Below is the entire quote from Philip Pullman that moved me when I read it. It’s the last line that got me the most. That’s how I write 4,000 words per day. I get up in the morning, head to my office with my coffee and do my job. I don’t care if I feel like it or not. That’s what I do for a living. I’m a writer, a storyteller. So I tell stories.

“Writer's block … a lot of howling nonsense would be avoided if, in every sentence containing the word WRITER, that word was taken out and the word PLUMBER substituted; and the result examined for the sense it makes. Do plumbers get plumber's block? What would you think of a plumber who used that as an excuse not to do any work that day? 

The fact is that writing is hard work, and sometimes you don't want to do it, and you can't think of what to write next, and you're fed up with the whole damn business. Do you think plumbers don't feel like that about their work from time to time? Of course there will be days when the stuff is not flowing freely. What you do then is MAKE IT UP. I like the reply of the composer Shostakovich to a student who complained that he couldn't find a theme for his second movement. “Never mind the theme! Just write the movement!” he said. 

Writer's block is a condition that affects amateurs and people who aren't serious about writing. So is the opposite, namely inspiration, which amateurs are also very fond of. Putting it another way: a professional writer is someone who writes just as well when they're not inspired as when they are.”

Check out more about each of these talented authors at:
Cheryl Bradshaw:
Robert Bidinotto:
Allan Leverone:
Jonas Saul: