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

Bad Moon Giveaway Part II

Posted on by Todd Posted in Giveaways, Just For Fun | 4 Comments

It’s time to give away an advance copy of BAD MOON. Last week, I said I was going to put all the names of those who “like” my Facebook page into a hat and draw one at random.

I lied.

I actually put the names into a very large bowl. And all my Facebook friends were not eligible. To be fair to others, I left out family members and people I see on a daily basis. This giveaway was for fans only.

Still, that left a large pile of names to choose from. And the winner is….

Jamie Cotner Moretz!

Congrats, Jamie! You can send me your mailing address at and I’ll send you a copy of BAD MOON.

A big thanks to all of you who were eligible. There’ll be more giveaways soon, so stay tuned.


Writing With … Norb Vonnegut

Posted on by Todd Posted in Writing With | Comments Off on Writing With … Norb Vonnegut

Today, I welcome Norb Vonnegut, who writes thrillers set on Wall Street. His first, TOP PRODUCER, was a featured pick on Today. His latest is THE GODS OF GREENWICH, released last month by Minotaur Books. It explores the dark side of hedge funds and how far one man will go to join the glitterati of money management. A board member with the American Foundation for the Blind, Norb bicycles whenever possible. Visit him online at

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

I’ve completed two novels now and am well into a third. All three started with a big idea. In THE GODS OF GREENWICH, I became obsessed with two questions. What would you do to keep up with the Joneses if you run a hedge fund and your life’s ambition is to join the glitterati of money management? How far would you go?

But look. I write fiction, not exposés about money management. In THE GODS OF GREENWICH, thriller fans will focus on Rachel Whittier. She’s a pretty young nurse with a Texas twang. Rachel is almost adorable — except that she runs around the pages whacking nice people in their seventies. Readers will ask why. And how does she fit into a war between a hedge fund in Greenwich and a really nasty bank in Iceland?

I tell the story through the eyes of Jimmy Cusack, a guy enduring the tough times we understand all too well since 2008. Cusack’s company collapses. He falls three months behind in his mortgage. And the bank initiates foreclosure proceedings the day he learns his wife is two months pregnant.

When Cusack joins a hedge fund in Greenwich, he thinks his problems are solved. His cash flow picks up, and life is good. So it seems. The reality is that he just landed in the Bermuda triangle of money management.

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

THE GODS OF GREENWICH was a great book to research, in part because Greenwich, Conn., is such a lovely place. The town cares about details, from the unique trashcans that resemble squat, doublewide mailboxes to the black lampposts that look like exclamation points for everything perfect.

Inside Two Greenwich Plaza, an office building outside the train stop, there’s a statue of two wings mounted on a heavy base. The work is entitled “Pegasus.” And because I’m a sucker for mythology, I looked up the genealogy for the winged horse. Here’s what I discovered and subsequently wrote:

“Down in the lobby Cusack headed past a chest-high sculpture of disembodied wings. The artist named the work Pegasus after the horse from Greek mythology whose father was Poseidon the god of everything underwater and whose mother was the snake-headed Medusa. Jimmy thought the lineage a fine choice for a building full of hedge funds.”

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

I’ve been telling stories all my life, as a kid at the dinner table, and later as a stockbroker building a business that peaked at $10 billion in assets in-house. I have a million anecdotes: the misadventures of my mother’s world-famous shrimp casserole; the hornets that ate my first novel; or the most embarrassing author experience of all time. Writing novels seems like a natural progression.

There are short vignettes woven into all my books. In TOP PRODUCER, you’ll meet a stockbroker who takes clients to a strip bar and sees his nanny on stage. And wait until you read about the $1,700/night divorce suite in THE GODS OF GREENWICH or the recipe for Spaghetti Bolognese.

Maybe I should stop here.

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

I bicycle. Rhode Island is a great place to ride. The shoulders along the roads are extra wide, so I don’t worry about drivers on cell phones inside their SUVs. Not much anyway. My training loop goes from Narragansett to Wickford, about 27 miles with great ocean views. It just doesn’t get any better.

My wife and I once biked 1,500 miles across Europe. We started in Copenhagen and zigzagged our way to the Loire Valley in France. It was one of the greatest adventures of our lives.

Q. What are you reading right now?

Actually, I’m listening to THE FIFTH WITNESS by Michael Connelly. Love it. I’ve listened to thousands of books on tape through the years, which is one reason I got involved with the American Foundation for the Blind, where I am a member of the Board of Trustees. The AFB was the first organization to make audio recordings, although we sold that business a few years ago. We’re about to celebrate our ninetieth anniversary.

Oops, sorry to get off track and plug the AFB. But I care about the organization deeply. Think about all the wonderful hours we spend reading. The AFB makes that experience far more accessible to the visually impaired.

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

Don’t shipwreck me without a box of pencils and a really thick, empty notebook. I’d go crazy. Okay, that said, here are my five:


Anything by James Lee Burke, but I’ll go with THE TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN

SKIN TIGHT by Carl Hiassen

THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini


Q. What’s your favorite movie?

Tough, tough question. I love movies. In college I took a course from Alan Trustman, who wrote Bullitt and The Thomas Crown Affair. It was my favorite course of all time.

Where to begin? At various intervals during my life, I would have answered The Great Escape or Cool Hand Luke. With complete conviction, I can also answer The King’s Speech, The Godfather, Schindler’s List or North by Northwest.

Right now, I’ll go with The Departed as my favorite movie. There’s just something about tough guys with Boston accents. The cast is terrific — Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Sheen. But I think Dignam (played by Mark Wahlberg) is my favorite character in the movie. I like his line about the mushroom school of management.

Q. What’s your favorite food?

Spaghetti Bolognese. We whip up a big batch every Sunday night for dinner. We can’t afford the recipe I describe in THE GODS OF GREENWICH.

Q. Cats or dogs?

Dogs. There’s something wrong about pets that cough up hairballs. My apologies to cat lovers out there.

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

I almost hired an inflatable eighteen-foot union rat to picket outside Morgan Stanley, one of my previous employers. Instead, I exercised discretion and vented my frustrations inside the pages of TOP PRODUCER.

Why I Don’t Wing It

Posted on by Todd Posted in Featured, Musings, On Writing | 4 Comments

I have done nothing to prepare for writing this post. In fact, I only came up with the idea for it, oh, five seconds ago. I’m just going to let my thoughts flow from my brain to my fingers to my keyboard — hoping it makes a modicum of sense in the end.

I am, for better or worse, winging it.

This is something I normally don’t do. I like to know where I’m going at all times, whether it’s driving out of state, navigating an unfamiliar city or even going to a shopping mall. I’m this way about a lot of things. I don’t go to packed restaurants without a reservation. I never show up at a movie theater without having picked a movie first. At amusement parks, I sure as hell know which roller coaster I’m going to ride first.

In short, I need a plan.

The same is true of writing. If I don’t know where my story is headed, I tend to get hopelessly lost. This is especially true when I reach the middle of the book. Beginnings, for me, are easy. I have come up with a plot and now I’m setting it in motion. Endings are a breeze, too, because I’ve known all along whodunit and why. Middles, however, are like wandering a rainforest at night. It’s dark. It’s confusing. There are any number of ravenous creatures ready to jump out and sink their teeth into your posterior.

If you thought I was roaming the metaphorical rainforest at the end of that paragraph, you were right. I was, and the results weren’t pretty. This is why I don’t wing it. Quite the opposite, I plan everything out. Chapter by chapter. Scene by scene. With some description and dialogue to make it easier on myself. The outline for BAD MOON was seven pages long, single spaced. I might have spent more time hammering out the plot in that outline than I did actually writing the book. Seriously.

It’s the only way I work, and I suspect a lot of mystery and thriller writers are the same way. We have research to do, after all, and clues to place and red herrings to let swim around the pages of our books.

Yet there are those who don’t. I remember being shocked by an interview with Louise Penny in which she said her first drafts were a complete mess, with characters and subplots that go nowhere or vital bits of information she forgets to include. At Thrillerfest last year, I listened to a panel of writers discuss the pros and cons of winging it. Some outlined. Others did not. Espionage writer David Liss might have put the best spin on it, saying that he didn’t want to deny himself the pleasure of being surprised by his books.

Clearly, their attempts at winging it work for them. For me, not so much. There might come a day when I write an entire book in the same way I just banged out this post. But I doubt it. I need my outline. After reading this, I suspect you’d agree.

So tell me, fellow scribes, how do you like to write? By the seat of your pants? Or with thorough plotting? As for this post, which was dashed together with no prior thought, how did I do?