Thursday, December 2, 2010


I believe in taking some time off.  Refueling. Sinking your toes in the sand.

But 7 years!

Has Tom Clancy been in witness protection?  Has it taken this long to count all his money?  Talk about the sum of all successes.

Ah, silly stuff to ponder.  The only important thing to grasp is that on Dec. 7, Clancy's first offering since 2003's Teeth Of The Tiger, comes out.

I haven't been given an advance title of Dead Or Alive (What the hell!) but I am looking forward to reading it.  Some familiar faces are back after all this time.  Jack Ryan, Jack Ryan, Jr., John Clark and Ding Chavez weave their way through intrigue as part of a secret US counter-terrorism organization known as the Campus.  The goal is to take down, by any means necessary, a sadistic terrorist called the Emir who plans to bring America to its knees.  Okay, the storyline sounds familiar but I wager it will be told with a technical insight that Clancy perfected, which should make parts of the book compelling.

Full disclosure, I've contributed to the Clancy treasure chest over the years, buying and playing for hours his various video game offerings.  Almost forgot the dude wrote books that could sometimes double as a weapon.  Executive Orders was 874 pages!  Somewhere Ken Follett is laughing.  Skip the gym and pick up Fall of Giants.

Dead Or Alive is written in collaboration with US Navy veteran Grant Blackwood, an author of several books himself.  If his name is on the tip of your tongue, it's probably because he's assisted Clive Cussler on a couple of projects.

I haven't seen a book tour for Clancy.  No satellite opportunity has crossed my desk.  For some, he isn't exactly 'Mr. Warmth' so that could be a wise decision by some savvy exec.

In the spirit of the holiday season, Penguin is providing the first two chapters much like the small samples of cologne you get when you make a major purchase.  Question is, will you be gift wrapping Dead Or Alive this season?  Here's a link to the sample... Don't get killed along the way.

Monday, November 22, 2010



No more queries for this couch potato! Well, the couch is actually a chair in the man cave, seemingly chained to a desk and computer.


Something magical happened on Tuesday, November 16.  A long process of getting someone to believe in my 92 thousand word espionage thriller payed off.  I now have a literary agent!

Thank you Kate Folkers of the Martin Literary Management Agency.

Is it coincidence that a Field Of Dreams is on right now?

I realize this is just another phase of a continuing process, but it feels awfully damn good right now.  Of course, for all the hard work leading up to this moment, there remains plenty to accomplish.  Getting a book deal is no guarantee.  Over the past few months, I felt I was close to securing representation and I have all the rejection letters to prove it.  From the early stages of form written setbacks to letters of encouragement, some of which offered sound advice. 

Thanks to a connection with author Sara Paretsky, agent Dominick Abel gave me a phone call during the early stages of my search.  He offered sound criticism that I took to heart, leading me back to the dark, lonely days of rewrite, rewrite.  I'd come up for air to try again, only to realize I wasn't there yet.  The thought of giving up though, never crossed my mind.

Along the way I discovered the Guide To Literary Agents blog, a tremendous source of updated information.  I also stumbled across Thrillerfest, which I attended for the first time in July.  Talk about an invaluable learning experience!  I've interviewed Presidents, A-List actors and world class athletes but nothing was as terrifying as having to prepare for a pitch session before some the industry's best and brightest.  To help get me there, I owe a huge thanks to the kindness and advice of people like authors Shane Gericke and Lisa Gardner.  They were warm and inviting during a reception the night before as were a number of other authors.  JJ Cooper, my Down Under friend, thanks for the encouragement!  If you write thrillers and haven't yet sampled Thrillerfest, you really must give it a try.  Besides, it's in New York!

So why did Kate Folkers decide to offer me representation?  Why did I decide to sign with her?  From my end, it was a comfortable connection.  She got what my book was about.  She took the time to delve into it, offering both praise and criticism.  She was honest and had a plan.  I also was impressed with her multi-faceted background which I believe in the long run will pay off.

Since November 16, I've had plenty of time to come down from Mt. Small Achievement.  There's hopefully a book deal out there and I've got plenty of polishing up to do.  At least I'm not doing it alone anymore.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


John Carr, aka Oliver Stone is back
 Best-selling thriller writer David Baldacci has bested me again.  In releasing Hell's Corner today, he now has 20 published books to my 0!!!

Whew, I've got some catching up to do in the second half!

In the meantime, I spent a few good minutes with David this morning discussing his latest release, where he writes and how he combats writer's block.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Until you actually go through the process of trying to secure an agent and get published, the majority of newbie authors have great expectations.  Walking by a bookseller and seeing your work displayed through the window is the stuff dreams are made of.  What's that? New York Times Bestsellers' List!

Count me dreaming!

Ah, but they're not called dreams for nothing.  The truth has a way of slapping you back into reality.

Terry McMillan's latest novel
Overnight sensations are rare.  Rest assured a number of successful authors spent countless months in rejection land.  In September, Terry McMillan stopped by upon the launch of her latest novel,
Getting To HappyThe book is the long overdue and awaited sequel to Waiting To Exhale.  After achieving blockbuster gold with Exhale, most would put a rush order on a followup.  Strike while the literary fire is white hot.  McMillian waited more than 15 years!  She wrote several books in-between but none achieved the same legendary status.

So why the delay?  McMillian told me she never gave most of the characters in Exhale too much thought after it was released.  The countless chatter, interviews and "when are you going to write a sequel" questions distanced her even more.  Finally though, Savannah, Gloria, Bernadine, and Robin won out.  Characters who's advancement in life had to be told.

I hadn't seen Terry in a couple of years so it was nice to catch up.  When I remarked to her that I had written a novel and how frustrating it was to secure an agent, she asked how long I had been looking.  When I told her since the end of July, she crossed her eyes and threw out a well placed "Child please."

I don't recall the name, but she mentioned a guy who'd won a Pulitzer Prize that couldn't land an agent for a couple of years before it finally happened.  The message was clear.  Keep plugging away and if it's something you want bad enough and you're talented enough, a breakthrough will eventually come.

So, I'm looking forward to exhaling myself one day.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I was at Costco the other day bulking up when something caught my eye.  It was subtle, but left me with a warm feeling.

Adjacent to the clothes, cold cuts and cheeses, was a long table filled with various books.  Good old hardcovers and paperbacks with numerous people thumbing through them.  I was hit with one of the glaring design flaws of eBooks, a huge advantage that paper books have held for years.  Go to Amazon and the books that allow you to "see inside" have the same drawback.  You can only scan through the first several pages!  Even as a kid, I enjoyed not only glancing at the beginning of a book but turning to the middle and toward the end to see if the writing was consistent. 

Most published writers today know how to craft the first couple of chapters but what happens in the meat of the book?  Is the writing just as compelling?  How often have you excitedly started a novel only to be letdown by say page 50 or 100?  With a hardcover or paperback, I can flip through the pages.  It's more of a gamble with an eBook.

For me also, there is just something about holding a book and turning the pages.  My eyes suffer enough during the course of a day staring at various computer screens.  Sure while on vacation it's cool to lounge by the pool or beach, reading an iPad, Kindle, etc but I don't want to be in panic mode if it slips out of my hand or begins to run out of juice.

I can only imagine being on the edge of a cliff hanging moment when the battery power is about to run out on my eReader.  "Honey, I have to run back to the room and charge up!"

If I drop my book in the sand, no harm, no foul, and as long as I've got sunlight, I'm good to go.  If I'm not paying attention for a moment and suddenly my book is gone, there's no panic.  I don't mind spending less than twenty bucks to get another copy if need be.  Lose that iPad and I'm forming a search party!

I realize eBooks have recently been outselling hardcovers but call me a purist.  I'll always favor and have a soft spot in my heart and hands for good old paper.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


It was not unlike a clandestine meeting.

On each end, someone else was responsible for us getting together in 1983.  There was never any direct communication.  No one with notoriety passed through St. Thomas without a set of eyes upon them. 

I had only been living and working on St. Thomas for a couple of months when a fellow co-worker at the Virgin Islands Daily News informed me that my favorite author, Robert Ludlum, often vacationed there.  I told him I'd be interested in doing an interview.  He knew people who knew Ludlum and therefore, he'd see what he could do the next time Jason Bourne's creator was on the island.

Robert Ludlum
I'd forgotten about the conversation when out of the blue one day, I was told Ludlum agreed to the interview.  But, there was a condition.  Now this was the part that as a journalist, makes you take a seat. 

What's the condition?

"You can't disclose to anyone where he's staying and you can't run the interview in the paper until he's gone."

Now, this was the part that as a journalist, makes you jump out of your seat and say, "Is that all?  Yeah I agree to that."

Secret Harbour Beach Resort
A couple of days later, anxious as hell, I knocked on the designated door at the Secret Harbour Beach Resort.  Now the next part is a little fuzzy in my memory.  Come on, it was over 27 years ago!  What I can't remember is whether he or his wife opened the door.  In any event, I was welcomed in and led to the patio.  The backdrop was a breathtaking stretch of white sandy beach and a cove that fed into the Caribbean Ocean.

For nearly an hour I sat with Ludlum, picking his brain, listening to every word, hoping to not only gather material for a good article, but to possibly pick up pointers for the day when I got serious about writing my own thrillers.

One skill you learn over time is how to read upside down.  While on vacation, Ludlum would often write passages of his next project in a simple spiral bound notebook.  There it was, open on the table.  The makings of the next novel.  I started to read it.  Hey, he left it open!  I asked to be sure.  "So, you're working on your next book?"

He acknowledged my observation but wouldn't let me read it.  Now was that being hospitable!  I believe that notebook turned out to be The Aquitaine Progression.

When I was done, it was just as much a treat to discover Ludlum was a gracious, nice person.  I of course, honored our agreement and a few months later, a note addressed to me arrived from him.  He didn't have to, but essentially Ludlum took the time to say thanks.  I cherish that correspondence to this day.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I had to attend the funeral of good friend yesterday.  Though painful, I have to live with the fact that I'm responsible for his death.  It became obvious that his demise was necessary.  I fought for him time after time, and my wife bit her tongue for the longest time before admitting he should go.  It was tough for her to come forward with her feelings because she knew how much he meant to me.  When I got the feeling literary agents couldn't get past him either, I reluctantly knew it had to be done.

His name or circumstance doesn't matter.  Getting rid of him required a great deal of thought and a measurable amount of reworking but now that he's gone, I'm glad.  Truth is, I'm missing him less and less.

Such is the nature of rewriting and examining a manuscript over and over.  It's a tedious, sometimes ugly process.  Sort of like looking in a full length mirror and recognizing the areas that need work.  It's easy to walk away but that doesn't solve anything.  You've seen the reality and the question is, what are you going to do about it?

The writing process is reminiscent of one of my favorite childhood cartoon series -- The Rocky And Bullwinkle Show.  I loved when the narrator would sometimes tease alternate previews at the end, setting up the next episode.  When you tuned in again, the beginning was not without its drama as well.  Here is an example from the show, not that different from creating drama in a thriller novel.

Narrator: Well, today we find our heroes flying along smoothly...

Rocket J. Squirrel: Flying along smoothly?

Bullwinkle J. Moose: You're just looking at the picture sideways!

Rocket J. Squirrel: Actually it's like this!

Narrator: Oh... OH GOOD HEAVENS! Today we find our heroes plunging straight down toward disaster at supersonic speed!

Bullwinkle J. Moose: That's better.

Couldn't have written it better myself.  One example ends in rejection.  The other keeps your interest.  Mix in the right character development like Boris Badenov and  Natasha Fatale and we're talking signed to major deal category.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


What works for you?  How do you get what's in your head out? 

Are you a Apple or Windows person?  Anybody old school and using a typewriter?

I don't really know the answer why, but I have a collection of fine point ink pens scattered throughout the house.  I use them to jot down notes or write short passages when I'm either away from my PC or don't feel like firing up Word just to record the brief ideas filtering from by brain.  Thank goodness none of the pens are over four dollars and I usually get them from drug stores or whichever office supply place is closer.

I've been a Windows man ever since we came out of the dark DOS age.  I look at the occasional screen freeze or slowness of operation as sort of a life metaphor.  From time to time you're going to have some ups and downs.  Just go with the flow and clean out the junk that's weighing heavily on you.

I must admit, damn you Steve Jobs, that I do long for one of those 27-inch screen, fully loaded iMac desktop computers.  As soon as I can gather enough funds to overthrow a third world country, I'm diving in!

Finding the right time to be creative and get the juices flowing has been tricky.  Sure, I could do my best John McEnroe and scream at my six-year old when he wants something.  "YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!  CAN'T YOU GET YOUR OWN DAMN SNACKS BY NOW!  DON'T YOU SEE DADDY'S BUSY WRITING A BESTSELLER!"  Of course, I'd spend the rest of the evening dealing with all the crying and guilt feelings. 

I find that early evening works best for me in terms of being creative.  The kids are busy in the their own world and my wife is getting her True Blood updates or scouring the internet looking for discounted Christian Louboutin shoes.  As if they're ever going to be that magic 59.99 price which would make me say, "Go ahead, get crazy.  Buy three pair honey."

I'd write after the kids went to bed if I didn't have to get up just past 3AM to get ready for the job that actually pays me.  Where's my "major deal" signing announcement in Publishers Marketplace!

I also try to get creative after coming home from work.  It's generally quiet except for when the dogs decide it's time for them to play Tom & Jerry around the house.  They have to be fed, let out, let in and let out again.  Before you know it, I've eaten lunch and gone over several pages or notes, only to realize it's time to pick the kids up from school.

Ah, there's always the weekend.  A pot of coffee and a fresh start.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Having recently taken my 14-year old son to a Comic Con convention (one day pass, okay!), I was a little leery of registering for my first writer's conference.  But darn it if Thrillerfest V  in New York doesn't sound like fun.  It's a collection of some of the best murder to paper minds in the world gathering at one place.  If Agatha Christie were alive, she'd have a field day:  Murder At The Grand Hyatt, A Hercule Poirot Mystery.

For an aspiring author like myself (hello mystery agent, my novel is finished), it's a chance to network, schmooze, learn a lot, and kiss plenty of literary agent backside.  First drink is on me.  Second, third, fourth and so on if one decides to represent me. 

Ken Follett

From what I've read, Thrillerfest seems like a loosen your tie experience.  For thriller writers and fans of the genre, I can certainly see the appeal.  In Hollywood terms, it's like the Golden Globe Awards.  New authors are recognized and established pros like Ken Follett will receive special recognition.  Ken if you ever read this, you should know the copy of World Without End you left behind at the studio has enough fingerprints on it to shut down a CSI department.

I'm looking forward to meeting authors I haven't interviewed or spent time with as of yet.  The opportunity to pick their brains would be amazingly beneficial.

Brad Meltzer, who's also scheduled to attend, don't forget you owe me!  I look out for you, you look out for me.  Capeesh?  I also promise not to rag on the Michigan Wolverines.  And sorry I was on vacation when you stopped by to promote Heroes For My Son.

So I'm fine tuning my game and getting excited about heading to the Big Apple.  I'd love to one day belong to that exclusive community known as the International Thriller Writers.  But, if Thrillerfest turns out to be anything like the William Shatner episode on SNL, my wife will never let me hear the end of it.  That is if her stomach would ever stop hurting from laughing so hard.

Star Trek TOS - William Shatner SNL - Get A Life - MyVideo

Monday, May 24, 2010


... seeking representation.  At the expansive cherry wood bar in the center of the establishment is a glow of light and force of energy that makes the beam on Lost look like a flashlight app for the iPhone.

The writer nearly loses his grip on the one hundred thousand word, rubber band wrapped stack of paper.  The challenges of maintaining a marriage, family, friends and work added unseen weight to the bundle.  Alleviating the burden was simple.  Instead of taking a step forward, turn around and walk away.  Return to the life he knows.  Shelve the dreams once and for all.

No!  He'd come this far.  He secured the manuscript in his sweaty hands, and decided to expose his heart.

They were all seated at the bar, barely a spot left.  Superstars all of them.  He'd read their blogs, seen their names numerous times on acknowledgement pages in books he read.  Janet ReidDaniel Lazar.  Molly FriedrichScott MillerNancy YostStacia DeckerAaron PriestLiza Dawson.  His mouth salivated as he continued to run down the list.  They were the literary agents who could take his hard work to the next level.  As if seeking a hung jury, he only needed one to believe in him.

He'd already pleaded his case to some of them.  They in turn, had no clue as to who he was, having discarded his internet submission with little fanfare.  It wasn't personal.  They had busy lives too.  He was not a quitter though.

He straightened his tie, took a deep breath and cradled his novel like holding his first born all over again.  He then stepped toward the bar with a smile on his face, knowing it was only a matter of time.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I started reading thrillers, mostly spy fiction, before I was a teenager.  Anybody out there old enough to remember the Nick Carter series?  Killmaster ring a bell?  Had my mom really thumbed through some of the pages, she would have been as surprised as I gladly was.  Guess the innocent looking covers were a nice misdirection.

As time passes, you read and read and certain books influence or stay in your mind as ones you could read over and over again. 

Here, in no particular order, is my Magnificent Seven list.

1.  The Day Of The Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

      I said there's no particular order but I have to confess this is the book that set the standard for me.  The subject came up once during an interview with Tom Clancy and he agreed with my assessment.  Forsyth created a masterpiece in both plot and character development.

2.  Marathon Man by William Goldman

      I've never liked the dentist and this book created a phobia that exists to this day.  Perhaps you've seen the movie but reading it first-hand, late at night... who can forget...

      "Is it safe?"

      "Yes.  It's very safe.  It's so safe you wouldn't believe
      it.  There.  Now you know."

      "Is it safe?"

3.  Six Days of the Condor by James Grady

     If memory serves me right, this was the first book I ever read in one day.  It was short but one hell of a page turner.  A very well thought out and unique plot.  Robert Redford did a good job in the movie version and Max von Sydow - special.

4.  The Matarese Circle by Robert Ludlum

      That I got to meet and interview Robert Ludlum at a time when I was a huge fan, makes this book special.  Most people know about Jason Bourne but the lead character in this offering, Brandon Scofield, is a bad man.  He has a Russian counterpart and they hate each other but as fate would have it, they are forced to join forces to snuff out an organization known as The Matarese.  Good stuff.

5.  The Eiger Sanction by Trevanian

     Jonathan Hemlock was in interesting character.  A professor of art, skilled mountain climber and a free-lance assassin who often killed in order to acquire precious works of art.  Shame this character was only operational in two books.

6.  Consent to Kill by Vince Flynn

    I have had the pleasure of knowing Vince for several years and he serves as an inspiration since he had to self publish his first novel when no one would give him a serious nibble.  Several bestsellers later, it proves the literary world can miss out on talent.  Flynn's CIA assassin is Mitch Rapp and after all the killing he's done, it stands to reason that one day, someone would come looking for revenge.  That day comes to light in this entertaining read.

7.  From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming

     Another book I shouldn't have been reading when I did was this James Bond offering.  SMERSH sets up a lavish trap to kill Bond and they have trained the perfect killer in Red Grant.  How can you go wrong a writer who brought an entire genre to the forefront.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I've found that working on a novel is like getting exercise.  Unless you're a world class athlete, you can always do more and should be concerned about shedding excess everyday.  The truth is, I don't work out everyday.  Hmmm, Michelob Ultra -- only 95 calories.

I awake on weekends thinking about how I can make my finished work leaner and tighter.  During the week, when I don't dose off in front of the computer screen (the perils of getting up shortly after 3AM for work) I try to master my craft.  Can that description be better?  Is the dialogue right for the setting or am I working on the long lost episodes of Magnum P.I.?  I find myself either working on the novel or plotting my strategy for securing the perfect agent.

I did a satellite interview with my man David Baldacci last week.  I asked him if he needed me to arrange an intervention and force him to take a vacation since his latest work, Deliver Us from Evil is out, a scant six months since his previous novel, True Blue.  I understand though.  When you're hot, you're hot.  And when those ideas just pop into your head, you have to put them on on paper.

The shameful moment on my part was when I told David that his agent, Aaron Priest, had yet to respond to my query letter.  He said he'd see him that afternoon.  Still haven't heard from Aaron and it's getting to the point where I might soon need to see a priest!

Thanks to author Sara Paretsky, agent Dominick Abel provided me with a sound critique of my first couple of chapters.  I debated changing them but I've always had an open mind and he has sold countless novels while I'm still trying to get noticed.  His advice centered on disposable characters and creating the real feeling of despair and danger in a thriller.  As writers, we all fall in love with our created universe and the people we put in them.  A character I love and took the time to cultivate may not be one the reader embraces.  The result is, like in a movie, a number of scenes will end up on the editing room floor, never to see the light of day.

It's a reality that makes rewriting a tough, but valued necessity.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Dog Days of Writing

By now, I expected to be in the midst of a book signing tour, answering tough and insightful questions about my novel, smiling through the pain of writer's cramp.  Instead, I'm having an Ernest Hemingway moment, knocking back my favorite go to beverage, a rum & coke with lemon.

My novel is done and yet, each literary agent rejection or no response sends me back into tweaking mode. those rejections sting at first but I look at them as merely a test of conviction and perseverance. I think what I've written is good and worthy of print. It's sort of like dating. You just have to find the right agent and hope you make a good enough impression that your feelings are returned.

The one good feeling you can return to time after time is that you've actually finished a novel. No small feat by any measure. Doing so often means you've neglected your family and friends for a period of time. The disappointment comes when you have nothing to show for your hard work. My wife, sensing my frustration of not securing an agent yet, remarked: "Not as easy as you'd thought it be,eh?"


That was not me slapping my wife, but instead reality going upside my head for anticipating success quickly. I've been a journalist for 28 years so I know how to write, interpret facts and deliver a story. Convincing an agent of that is as college football analyst Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast my friend." My novel, Operation Sandstorm, is a spy thriller and I've come to realize a majority of agents are hesitant to take on a first-time novelist in that genre because publishers are concerned about taking the risk of getting enough books sold to cover their cost.

Now, if I wanted to write a book that fit into the YA (young adult) crowd, which is highly popular now, I'd probably peak an agent's interest. Or, if you have a vampire detective investigating killer werewolves with a shape shifting assassin on the loose, you're as good as gold.

Those topics don't work for me. I grew up on spy thrillers. I started reading Ian Fleming long before it was age appropriate for me to do so. I transitioned into a series of escapism novels perfect for a budding teenager known as Nick Carter: Killmaster. Thank goodness for EBay because I tracked down a number of the titles and they're now part of my library.

Because of my profession, I've had the unique and wonderful opportunity to meet and interview writers in the thriller or mystery genre that I respect and enjoy reading. An inspirational moment came years ago when I lived in St. Thomas of the United States Virgin Islands. Robert Ludlum, my favorite author at the time, was vacationing on the island. He was informed that I wanted to interview him and he agreed. He invited me over and we sat out on the terrace overlooking the ocean for a couple of hours as he let me explore his mind. A cherished moment made more special by the personal note he sent me weeks after, expressing his delight over the interview. I still have that letter tucked away in one of his books.

So when I chat with the contemporaries; Vince Flynn, David Baldacci, James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell, Sara Paretsky, and so forth, I long to join the club. My favorite book of all time is The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth. I went overboard in thanking him for writing such a masterpiece when I interviewed him but I'm not alone in that assessment as Tom Clancy agreed when the topic came up in conversation.

If you've written anything that hasn't sold yet or haven't found someone to represent your work, I'm sure you've had the experience of going to the bookstore and thumbing through the pages of those who've entered the kingdom. You're often left with that feeling of 'This person is published and I can't get a nibble! What the hell!' But, don't give up!

I'd love to sit around and chat some more, but there's tweaking to be done and a few more agents to target. Somebody out there has got to like me!