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 I

Posted on by Todd Posted in Giveaways, Just For Fun | 1 Comment

Although my second book, BAD MOON, doesn’t hit stores until October 11, I’ve got an advance copy to give away.

Here’s how I’m going to do it: Next Friday, I’ll put the names of everyone who follows my Facebook page into a hat and randomly pick one. Don’t follow me on Facebook? You can do it right here.

I’ll announce the winner in this very spot next Friday. Good luck to all who are eligible.

Writing With … Wallace Stroby

Posted on by Todd Posted in Writing With | Comments Off on Writing With … Wallace Stroby

The next writer to tackle the Wednesdays With questionnaire is Wallace Stroby, another veteran of The Star-Ledger. He spent 23 years working in daily newspapers, ending in 2008. He’s the author of four novels — COLD SHOT TO THE HEART, GONE ‘TIL NOVEMBER, THE HEARTBREAK LOUNGE and THE BARBED-WIRE KISS, which was a finalist for the Barry Award for Best First Novel. A graduate of Rutgers University, he’s a lifelong resident of the real Jersey Shore. (Don’t get him started on that.) Visit his website at

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

I’ve always wanted to write a novel where the hero, for want of a better word, was a career criminal. I came close a couple times, especially in GONE ‘TIL NOVEMBER, where half the book was told from the POV of an aging black hitman. But with COLD SHOT TO THE HEART I was able to go all out in that direction, with a lead character — Crissa Stone — who was not only a professional thief, but a woman struggling to make her way in a man’s world.

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

Research was tough. I read some magazine/newspaper articles about high-level thieves, and I found a couple books, including a scholarly text titled “Armed Robbers in Action,” that were very useful. I  learned that in almost all cases, women who were in the criminal life had been led into it by a man, usually a lover. That gave me another insight into Crissa — that she would have an older lover in prison whose freedom she was trying to buy. And that relationship made it all the more interesting for me.

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

When I was a child, I was obsessed with classic Universal horror films (still am, to a certain extent),  which were then airing late at night on New York-area TV. In those pre-video days, once you saw the film on television, that was it. You had no further contact with it until they decided to air it again one day — if they ever did. So the first writing I can remember doing — which would be about age 8 — is taking sheets of white, lined paper, one per movie, and writing a synopsis of each film, just to relive it in my head. I think the first one I did was “The Wolf Man.”

By age 10, I was publishing a little mimeographed fanzine called “Speaking of Monsters,” which featured film reviews, trivia quizzes, etc. A mention of it appeared in the legendary FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine, and I got about 100 letters in response, from monster fans all over the world who wanted to subscribe. I published seven issues over about a year and half, and then eventually had to give it up. It was just too much work (hey, I was only 11). I still have a couple copies around somewhere.

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

I don’t know, but I’d love to find out.

Q. What are you reading right now?

Jean-Patrick Manchette’s FATALE, a semi-comic existential French noir. On deck are Lawrence Block’s A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF and an ARC of George Pelecanos’ THE CUT. They’re two of the best crime writers working today.

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

Baltasar Gracian’s THE ART OF WORLDLY WISDOM, to help guide my relations with other people, if any should happen to come along. MOBY-DICK, because it would fit the maritime theme, and last a while. The other three would be THE U.S. ARMED FORCES SURVIVAL MANUAL, BOAT-BUILDING FOR DUMMIES and a flare gun manual, preferably with flare gun attached.

Q. What’s your favorite movie?

TAXI DRIVER. I have an original one-sheet poster from it framed in my living room. You thought I was going to say LOVE, ACTUALLY?

Q. What’s your favorite food?
Chicken and sausage gumbo, if it’s prepared well. Other than that, almost anything southern that’s guaranteed to clog my arteries.

Q. Cats or dogs?
Dogs, though I don’t own either. You can wrestle with a dog, make friends with it. All they want is attention. Cats couldn’t care less.

Q. Name one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you.
I’ve been to more than 100 Springsteen shows over the years, but I’m also a huge fan of minimalist composer Philip Glass. I have dozens of his CDs. His music – especially his film scores – was almost all I listened to while writing COLD SHOT. It seemed to fit the mood.

(A) Grudge is Good

Posted on by Todd Posted in Musings, On Writing | Comments Off on (A) Grudge is Good

“This could be a major thriller,” says the voice on the phone. “It has so much potential.”

It’s a May afternoon in 2007 and I’m sitting in my car in the parking lot of the newsroom where I work. The windows are up and I’m sweltering. My face is slicked with perspiration and I can feel the fabric of my shirt dampening under my arms. I’m going to be a sweaty mess once I actually roll into work. But I don’t care. This surprise phone call is too exciting. Because on the other end is an honest to goodness literary agent telling me how much she likes my manuscript, DEATH NOTICE.

“It’s great, but it could be better,” she says. “What I’d like is for you to rewrite it.”

She gives me a long list of things that will make my book better. It feels like a lot of work. Again, I don’t care. At last, I have an agent who might be interested in representing me. I’ll rewrite the whole damn book if she wants me to. I don’t even mind that she wants exclusivity, meaning I can’t submit to other agents until she says yes or no. I agree. To everything. When I end the call, I’m filled with boundless optimism.

Four months later

I wake up early, sore and exhausted from a terrible and restless night. My nerves are shot, as they have been for days. The only thing occupying my thoughts is the fact that my exclusivity period with that agent ends today. I’ve rewritten the book to her specifications. I’ve added characters and subplots and thousands of more words to make her happy. Now it’s decision time. Today she’ll be telling me whether it’s a yes or a no.

Only I don’t hear from her that day. Or the next. A week goes by, and I hear nothing. My e-mail regarding the status of my submission goes unreturned. I don’t dare pick up the phone and call. Like a spurned suitor, I come up with scenarios as to why I haven’t heard anything. She’s insanely busy. She’s horribly sick. Oh my God, maybe she died!

But as the days pass, I know that’s not the case. She’s listed on Publishers Marketplace as just having made a major deal for another author. There’s no news of her demise. I finally take the hint that she has no interest in representing me. My book, while filled with freaking potential, just isn’t good enough. I have been rejected in the coldest of ways — by not being rejected at all.

Four years later

I’m sitting at my computer, writing this blog post. On the desk next to me is a hardcover copy of DEATH NOTICE. It might not be a major thriller, but it’s good. Very good, if the critical and reader response is to be believed. A few book bloggers called it one of the best of the year. Translation rights have been sold in four countries. Even better, it’s mine. No matter what else I do in my life, I’ll always have that book with my name on the cover.

And I have that agent to thank.

Because while waiting to hear from her, during that rose-colored exclusivity period, I made the decision to abandon the book if she said no. After all, if this woman who had liked it so much didn’t want it, then no one would. It would be painful, but I’d get over it. I had shelved two earlier books because I couldn’t get an agent. A third failed manuscript wouldn’t make much of a difference.

But her failure to give me a yes or no, while professionally inexcusable, was really a blessing in disguise. It made me mad. Really mad. Pissed-off-and-ready-to-kick-some-ass mad. How dare she! I thought. She asks for rewrites and exclusivity and then doesn’t even have the courtesy to tell me no? What a bitch!

Just like that, my plan to throw DEATH NOTICE into that desk drawer where unpublished novels go to die turned into a plan to get it published at all cost. I wanted to show this agent that she was wrong. I wanted to prove to her that it was good enough to get published. I wanted to make her regret the decision to not represent me.

Was I being petty? Sure. Maybe a little immature? Probably. But it got the job done. That grudge fueled me to work harder than I ever thought I could. After her non-rejection rejection, I was hell bent on getting that book published, even if it was the last thing I did.

Now, does this agent know the book she kind of, sort of rejected was eventually published? I don’t know. Nor do I care. (And I suspect she doesn’t, either.) This post wasn’t written to shame an individual agent or make her regret not taking me on as a client. She has some big names on her list and some major deals under her belt. She has nothing to regret.

The point of this post is to declare that grudges can be good, especially for writers, who are admittedly sensitive and needy people. (At least I am. You may be different.) Don’t wallow in those rejections and negative feedback. Use them. I’ve heard of some writers who keep all their rejection letters as inspiration. That works. Others shred them. That works, too. Transform that negativity into something positive, something that can help you.

All hopeful writers deal with rejection. Even published ones do. (I’ll save that story for another blog post.) But when life hands you a lemon, for God’s sake, don’t make lemonade. Stuff it with gunpowder and turn it into a lemon grenade. It worked for me, just as it has worked for many others. Hopefully, it will work for you, too.