The Tao of Doo

In his kind and generous review of my first mystery, DEATH NOTICE, author James Reasoner said the plot was vaguely reminiscent of something found in Scooby-Doo, only played seriously. He meant it as a compliment and I took it Read more


Another October, another release date. Since BAD MOON is my second book, you would think I'd be used to it. But nope, I'm not. BAD MOON's publication date feels as surreal as DEATH NOTICE's did last year. For readers, the Read more

Writing With ... Louise Penny

I am thrilled beyond words to welcome one of my favorite writers, Louise Penny, whose Armand Gamache mysteries have appeared on bestseller lists worldwide.  Her last book, BURY YOUR DEAD, won the Ellis for best mystery in Canada, and Read more

Is Browsing Dead?

I'll be the first to admit that I was a nerdy teenager. Not pocket protector nerdy, but no sports star, either. I was bookish, I guess you could say. I read A LOT back then, and nothing pleased me Read more

Why We Left Earth

Outer space has always been a mystery. Even before mankind fully grasped its vastness, they wanted to go there. Early astronomers, fascinated by the stars, invented ways to get a closer view. Think Copernicus, Galileo, Cassini. Writers not content Read more

Notes on Thrillerfest

Posted on by Todd Posted in Musings | Comments Off on Notes on Thrillerfest

I returned yesterday from Thrillerfest, a multi-day extravaganza of books, writers, panels and sleep deprivation held every year at the Grand Hyatt in New York City.

If you’re a fan of mysteries and thrillers, I recommend you go at least once. You’ll get the chance to meet many of your favorite authors, hear them talk about the writing process, have them sign books and even be crammed into an elevator with some of them.

If you’ve written a mystery or thriller, then you absolutely must go. Not only will you learn things from the pros, but you’ll get to meet fellow authors, both legendary and just starting out. Writing is a very solitary act — full of frustration, disappointment and much beating of foreheads against battered keyboards — so it’s extremely fun to spend a few days chatting with people who know what you’re going through.

Since Thrillerfest lasts several days and has so much going on, it’s impossible for two people to have the same experience. So I’m not even going to try to write about my two days there and pretend it’s indicative of the entire Thrillerfest experience. It’s not. These are simply brief snapshots about my time there.

WAKE-UP CALL: I wasn’t going to stay at the Grand Hyatt. I live in New Jersey, an hour or so train ride from Manhattan. My goal was to get up at 5 a.m. both mornings, catch the 6:30 a.m. train and return the same way once my Thrillerfest day was done. That lasted until about 5:45 the first morning, when I realized I’d never be able to function that early two days in a row. So I booked a room by 6 a.m., packed by 6:30 and was on the road at 6:45.

A ROOM WITH A VIEW: My room had an amazing view of the statues that grace the entrance to Grand Central Terminal. Had I been smart enough to bring my camera, I would have taken a picture.

FREE BOOKS: The perks of going to a writing conference is that they give you a tote bag that contains free books. It’s a sad fact that you can’t keep all of them. (Nothing weighs your suitcase down more than free books.) But there are always a few keepers in the bunch. This year, I was lucky enough to get a hardcover copy of ADRENALINE by Jeff Abbott. I’ve heard great things about this book. Can’t wait to read it.

NO SLEEP TONIGHT: The Grand Hyatt is a lovely hotel. In addition to the view, my room was recently renovated, funky and comfortable. Unfortunately, the doors at the hotel are incapable of closing without making a massive slamming sound. Making matters worse, the interior walls are as thin as wax paper, allowing you to hear EVERY SINGLE SOUND coming from the hallway. This is not a good combination when the large tour group of teenagers in matching blue shirts staying on your floor insist on room-hopping in the middle of the night. Nor when there’s a toddler shrieking in the hallway at 2:30 a.m. Why any parent in their right mind would let a toddler emit siren-like wails in a hotel hallway at that hour is a mystery that not even the pros at Thrillerfest could explain.

AUTHOR, AUTHOR: I got to meet/chat/hang out with so many great writers. Some of them — Brad Parks, Lynn Sheene, Sophie Littlefield — have been kind enough to answer the Writing With … questionnaire on this blog. I hope to convince others — Hilary Davidson, Carla Buckley, Alma Katsu, Jennifer Hillier, Emily Winslow, Meg Gardiner, Rochelle Staab, Taylor Stevens — to do the same in the near future. (A special shout-out to Chevy Stevens, Wednesday’s featured author, who won the Thriller Award for her debut, STILL MISSING.)

DEBUT BREAKFAST: One of the things that makes Thrillerfest special is that it takes time out each year to celebrate authors who have recently made their debuts. I was lucky enough to be among this year’s “class” being honored at the annual Debut Author’s Breakfast. This means getting up insanely early to sit on a raised platform and have a ballroom full of people watch you eat while you talk about your book. Because I was nervous (and because I chew like a cow) I skipped the food and just had coffee. But my presentation went off without a hitch, I didn’t make an ass out of myself and the audience response was great. A big thanks goes out to author Avery Aames for her great tip about holding the microphone. It helped. A lot.

SHE SLAYED THEM: The keynote speaker during the debut author breakfast was Karin Slaughter. She was gracious, insightful and funny as hell. It was a pleasure to hear her speak about her journey from unpublished writer to international bestseller.

THE FUTURE: It’s impossible to go to a writing conference and not get sucked into a conversation about the future of publishing. It’s a scary/exciting time of endless possibilities. Most writers just want our books to be read. We’re not very concerned about the particulars. And since e-books are on everyone’s mind, it was interesting to see demonstrations of two new ways to “sign” e-books. On is Autography. The other is iDoLVine. Both were fascinating to see and have great potential.

MARGARET ATWOOD: Speaking of iDoLVine, one of the people heavily involved in the program is literary legend Margaret Atwood. The author of THE HANDMAID’S TALE, CAT’S EYE, THE BLIND ASSASSIN and dozens more demonstrated the technology. Afterward, I had the pleasure of meeting her in the hallway outside the conference room where the demonstration took place. It was a brief chat — a few minutes at most — and something she has likely already forgotten. But I’ve been reading her for two decades now, and being able to tell her how much her work means to me was the biggest thrill of this year’s Thrillerfest.

Were any of you at this year’s Thrillerfest? If so, I encourage you to share some of your stories from this year’s fest in the comments section below.

Writing With … Chevy Stevens

Posted on by Todd Posted in Writing With | Comments Off on Writing With … Chevy Stevens

I’m super-psyched to welcome author Chevy Stevens to the blog. Chevy grew up on a ranch on Vancouver Island and still calls the island home. Her first novel, STILL MISSING, was a New York Times Bestseller and was nominated for an Arthur Ellis Award and the International Thriller Award. Her second novel, NEVER KNOWING, was released Tuesday by St. Martin’s Press. You can find out more about Chevy at

Q. Tell us about your book and what inspired you to write it.

Several years ago I was a Realtor working at an open house and a horrific thought came to me: What if I was abducted and held captive for a long time? Could I survive such a brutal experience? Can you be so hurt, so broken and so damaged that there’s no putting you back together?

In STILL MISSING I explore all of these questions as my character, Annie, struggles to come to terms with what happened to her. I’ve always been drawn to stories of survivors, of people who overcome tragic events, terrible childhoods and monstrous indignities. So many people never recover and remain locked in their pain. I wanted to know about the ones who rise above and succeed despite everything that’s been thrown at them.

Q. Did you need to do any special research for the book? If so, what’s one of the most interesting facts you discovered?

I used a lot of my own emotions and life experiences for Annie’s story. I did some research on narcissist personalities and PTSD, which I found fascinating. I also thought learning about the differences between Canadian law and American law was interesting. For example, Canadians don’t have Miranda rights. Instead, if you were arrested you’d be read your Charter of Rights.

Q. Many people are content to just be readers. How did you become a writer?

I’d always dreamed about being a writer, then one day the idea for STILL MISSING came to me and I “heard” my character’s voice in my head. Then I became consumed with writing her story.

Q. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I like to take nice long walks with my dog, or collapse in front of the couch with my husband, a good movie and a big bowl of popcorn.

Q. What are you reading right now?

I have a few on the go but haven’t been able to find any time to read lately. Waiting for me are Lisa Gardner’s new one, PRAY FOR SILENCE by Linda Castillo, Tana French and some classic Stephen King.

Q. If you were stranded on that proverbial deserted island, what five books would you want to have with you?

“How to get off a Deserted Island in Less Than Five Days”
“Twenty Ways to Crack a Coconut”
“Live off a Banana for Weeks!”
“Knots That Will Save Your Life”
“Building a Raft with Driftwood and Vines”

Q. What’s your favorite movie?

That’s a hard one. I have a few favorites, but if I had to pick one I’d say Rudy.

Q. What’s your favorite food?

Popcorn and peanut butter (not at the same time)!

Q. Cats or dogs?

Growing up we had many animals but I was usually seen carrying a cat under one arm and a book in the other. As an adult I found Annie, the dog of my life, and everything revolves around her. Though I still appreciate cats and all animals, Annie doesn’t want to share.

Q. Name one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you.

I’ve read both of Russell Brand’s memoirs and MOTLEY CRUE, THE DIRT.

Short-short story contest

Posted on by Todd Posted in Just For Fun, Wonderful Web | Comments Off on Short-short story contest

The other day, I was doing a Google search for a topic that I now completely forget. But one of the images Google retrieved was this vintage science fiction cover. It was so cool that I just had to share it.

I’m a sucker for octopi. I’m also a sucker for giant man-eating animals. This cover is the best of both worlds. It makes me want to read that story. Heck, it makes me want to write that story. Other people, I assume, feel the same way.

To that end, I’ve decided to hold my first writing contest.

Here’s how it works. Write a short- short story (500 words or less) about that giant octopus. Send it to I’ll pick the winner and post it on the blog in one month’s time. Entries must be received by Wednesday, July 27.

Need more incentive? The winner will also have an octopus adopted in their name via The World Wildlife Fund. You can learn more about the WWF by going here.

So get writing, Internets! Be creative. Have fun. Impress me. Because if you do, you just might save an octopus.