April 1: Books and Bees Festival

It’s spring! The Bee Cave Library is hosting its annual book festival. And we get to meet in person! On April 1, I’ll be in conversation with the wonderful thriller writer Jeff Abbott at the Books and Bees Festival in Bee Cave, TX, next door to Austin. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop on by.

Blast from the past: Notes on a never-written thriller


It seems that February has kicked off just as busy as January, so I’m going to continue reposting some of my favorite posts from past years. And, frankly, I enjoy scrolling back through the blog and seeing what I wrote about. Here’s a post from December 2012:

Notes on a never written thriller

Cleaning my office a few days ago, I found a fat three-ring binder. To my surprise it contained more than 100 pages of notes, outlines, character sketches, and the opening chapters of a spy thriller. It was the long lost plan for a novel I once intended to co-write with my good buddy Ann Aubrey Hanson.

I was amazed. First, because I thought those notes were gone for good — when Ann and I cooked up this project we were in our early twenties. Second, because I so clearly remembered the setup and opening scene of the story. Third, because I remembered almost nothing else. Finally, because the outline for the novel was horrible.


For that, I take the blame. Ann’s ideas made sense. And the setup was fine. As I remember, the Husband came up with it: A young lawyer jogging in the Los Angeles hills is nearly run down by a careening van. He gets the license number — which he remembers because it matches the world best time in the marathon — and then gets in trouble, because it turns out the van is a getaway vehicle that’s just dumped a couple of dead bodies in the mountains.

But things went downhill from there, because I obviously had no idea what I was doing. The story involved an espionage conduit from high tech California companies to the nefarious Commies in the Soviet Union. Yes, this was a Cold War thriller. Various Californians were forced to become couriers for the Soviets and deliver tech secrets when they went on pilgrimages to the Holy Land. And that was the sensible part.


  • The jogger injects himself into the police investigation of a multiple murder for no reason besides curiosity.
  • Whenever I needed action in the story, I’d have an innocent person discover a conspiracy. Then the bad guys would smear the innocent’s reputation, kill them, and make it look like they had committed suicide. This happened approximately every ten pages.
  • Halfway through, I decided it wasn’t just the Soviets who were framing reluctant spies, killing them off and making it look like suicide. A supersecret conspiracy within the U.S. government was also framing people, killing them off and making it look like suicide.
  • The massive Soviet espionage operation is discovered by the jogger’s old girlfriend when she goes undercover as a member of the folk group at the church that’s running the Holy Land pilgrimages.
  • Three quarters of the way through, I introduced a major new character: a sexy CIA agent.
  • Four fifths of the way through, the story descends into a love triangle between the jogger, the sexy CIA agent, and the undercover folk group girl.
  • My notes include: “Something must happen. Something must motivate the hero to call somebody. Or something.”
  • And… “Other characters include: Someone the hero can call on for help.”

Obviously, the person who needed help was me.

I wrote an outline and sent it to Ann. She came back, sensibly, with character sketches — because she couldn’t help noticing that the plot made no sense and the characters needed personalities and credible motivation for the ridiculous antics I had written for them. She didn’t put it that way, but now I can read between the lines. Between the hand-written lines, no less. All the notes are either in pen or were typed — gasp! — on a Smith-Corona typewriter.

And the most amazing part: I wrote all this a few months before my daughter was born. That’s because I was so naive, I thought that once I had a newborn in the house I could use my endless free time to write a blockbuster spy novel.


Aside from the inadvertent humor and the fact that I cringed nonstop while reading my notes for this un-novel, here’s the main thing: Writing a book takes years of practice, and craft, and false starts. It’s a skill that takes a long time to learn, and everybody has to start somewhere.

So if you want to write a novel, don’t be afraid to take a leap.

Blast from the Past: Writing Takes More than Inspiration

This month I’m replaying some of my favorite posts about the art and craft of writing. Here’s one from June 2018. The events that inspired (no pun intended) the post still make me alternately laugh and shake my head.


Reminder: Writing takes more than inspiration


Once, at a book event, a man asked me how long a novel takes to write.

I told him that for most of my career I’ve written one novel a year.

He stepped back like I’d hit him in the forehead with a spitball. “No way. A book every year? That’s impossible.”

I assured him it was extremely possible. “Deadlines are fantastically motivating.”

He frowned and shook his head. “You can’t write to a schedule.”

“Professional writers do it all the time.”

His expression shifted toward disdain. “But you can’t schedule inspiration.”

As I started to reply, he went on. Writing regularly? Ridiculous. “That’s not how inspiration works,” he said. The idea that I would deliberately sit down to write, when inspiration hadn’t driven me to the keyboard… His lips pursed.

I realized: He thinks I’m a hack.

He thought that to have imaginative value, every word an author writes must originate in an ineffable bolt of creative lightning. Unplanned. Uncontrollable. That crafting a piece of writing renders it crass and somehow inauthentic. He was a businessman, not a novelist; he admitted that the writing process was entirely foreign to him. But no matter how I explained it, he couldn’t abandon the idea that I was doing writing wrong.

I’d been invited to this event to give a speech. I’d been flown across half a continent, actually, to tell an audience of 500 people how I came to be an author with more than a dozen published novels to my credit. By pure coincidence my talk, which I gave shortly after this conversation, discussed the interplay between inspiration and craft. Inspiration is wonderful, I said. But when you’re in the trenches writing a novel, constant inspiration is neither necessary nor sufficient. Grab it when it strikes. But when it doesn’t? That’s when experience, and discipline, and a knowledge of dramatic structure, along with an understanding of plot and character and suspense — in other words, craft — will carry you across the finish line. Then you can recharge. And revise.

Inspiration, I said, looks a lot like work.

I don’t know if the man who challenged me heard the speech. Our conversation had wrapped up when he commented that he guessed publishing is a business, so he supposed that writers need to supply it with material. Then he shrugged.

“What do I know about it? I don’t read.”

Blast from the Past: Writing takes work. That should inspire you!

Happy 2023! I want to start the year off with some fun blog posts, so of course the year has started off having some fun with me. Meaning that life has already overtaken my plans. It’s all good. I’m just unexpectedly busy with things that have pushed blog-writing aside. So for now, I’m going to replay some posts from past years, with a focus on writing. Here’s a post from March 2016. Enjoy!


Writing a novel is a process. According to my college writing teacher, Ron Hansen, it’s “a ramshackle process.”


That means it takes brainstorming, spitballing, dreaming up characters, dreaming up plots, throwing your characters into a tornado (emotional or actual), pounding out their story, revising that story, cutting some of those characters and plot strands, killing thousands of needless words, and rewriting until your fingers and brain ache.

It’s work, and I never want to hide that. Because it can be glorious work. It’s the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.

But a friend recently asked whether hearing that the process can be tough, and that first drafts are usually bad, discourages people from getting serious about writing.

I damn well hope not.

I’m telling you this to let you know that if you’re struggling with any of these aspects of the writing process, you’re normal. And you’re doing it right. Putting in the work is the way great books get written.

If you’re a new or aspiring writer, this should inspire you.


If your first draft seems awful: That’s the way writing works.

If your rough draft’s dialogue sounds dull or stilted: Yeah, almost everybody’s does.

If the early version of your plot has a hole big enough to wreck a Mack truck: Welcome to the club.

If you have to stick your first novel in a file cabinet because it doesn’t hold together: Been there. Learned a hell of a lot. Started the next novel at a much higher level because of it.

I tell people that writing is work because it is. And because I wish that when I got up the nerve to write CHAPTER 1, somebody had told me I was going to stumble, and run into walls, and want to beat my head against the desk… and that this would be okay. That everybody did these things. And that wonderful books were born of this process.

I was desperate to write. I was never not going to write. From the time I was a kid, the desire to write was a fire in my bones. Hearing that learning to write well takes real time and effort would have eased my doubts and fears. It would have bolstered me for the journey.

So dig in. When you see your debut novel on bookshelves, the work will all be worth it.

Happy New Year! Here’s to 2023

2022 has been a big year. My family and I rebuilt our house after a major fire. I traveled for book events for the first time since before COVID, going to Portland, Oregon, Tallahassee, and New York. And I saw Heat 2, the novel I’m incredibly proud to have co-authored with Michael Mann, debut at #1 on the New York Times best seller list. The world has been topsy-turvy, with all of us weathering unprecedented ups and downs. In 2023 I’m hoping to grab hold of the ups and ride them as hard as I can. I hope you all find joy, hope, wonder, peace, and light in the new year.

And, of course, great books.

Happy New Year!

Entertainment Weekly names HEAT 2 one of its Best Books of 2022

This is certainly exciting. And I’m not kidding about that — having a book with my name on the cover make a best-of-the-year list will never get old. It’s an honor and wonderful validation of the hard work and pride that went into writing the novel. I’m thrilled that Heat 2, which Michael Mann and I wrote, has been named one of Entertainment Weekly’s Best Books of 2022.

“Nearly three decades after his now-iconic heist thriller Heat hit theaters, filmmaker Michael Mannreturns to the scene of the crime in unexpected form: a novel. Co-penned with Edgar-winning writer Meg GardinerHeat 2 jumps around in time, exploring the before-and-afters of characters like Al Pacino’s relentless LAPD Lieutenant Vincent Hanna and Val Kilmer’s slippery thief Chris Shiherlis. For a director so well known for his visual impact, he turns out to be a propulsive prose stylist as well; Mann fans will find connections and parallels with many of his films, but any crime reader can feast on the meaty storytelling.” — Christian Holub

Best Books of 2022

HEAT 2 named one of Barnes & Noble’s Best Books of 2022

What can I say except: Thank you! I’m delighted and surprised and extremely gratified that Heat 2 has been named one of Barnes & Noble’s Best Books of 2022.

Edgar survived!

EDGAR SURVIVED!! I found him in a box of books salvaged after our house fire. An Edgar Allan Poe statue that literally emerged from the flames and smoke… I love the little guy even more now.

Well, this is a terrific surprise

Where should I hang this?! A plaque commemorating HEAT 2 debuting at #1 on the New York Times best seller list — such a cool memento! My thanks for this lovely surprise go to William Morrow Books, HarperCollins, and everyone who made this possible for Michael Mann, me, and HEAT 2: Shane Salerno, The Story Factory, and above all, READERS!

Heat 2: #1 New York Times best seller

I am stunned and thrilled beyond belief to say that Heat 2 has debuted at #1 on the New York Times best seller list.

I’m incredibly proud of this novel, and happy that the intense and amazing work that went into it is being rewarded. It was an honor and a privilege to write this book with Michael Mann. I’m delighted that his commitment, passion, vision, and brilliance have been put on the page with this story, and that I get to be part of it.

I am grateful to HarperCollins, William Morrow Books, and Michael Mann Books, for publishing this novel so beautifully.

I’m especially thankful to my agent, Shane Salerno, for every effort he has expended over many years to help nurture and shepherd this novel to publication.

There are no words adequate to thank my husband, Paul Shreve, for his support of my writing. Especially after our house fire, when we had to start rebuilding our home even as the book deadline loomed. Without Paul’s willingness to shoulder a huge portion of the load, I wouldn’t have been able to write. I love you!

And thanks, readers!!! You’re the ones who have truly made this moment happen. I’m gratified that Heat 2 has connected so strongly with so many of you. Happy reading!

Rebuilding: I found my Barry Award!

In the days after the house fire last August, demolition and salvage crews swept through our home. The garage, attic, and roof were destroyed. Charred debris covered walls and the floor inside. Wet insulation had rained down through holes in the ceiling. Gasoline and plastic-infused smoke had filled the house, ruining most of our furniture and clothes. Shoes in our closet were sitting in an inch of filthy water and firefighting foam — which had saved the bones of the structure, but totaled a lot of our possessions.

The salvage crew swiftly, carefully, almost tenderly swept up items they thought might be saved, and took them away. That included the Barry Award for UNSUB, which was hanging on the wall in my office. I didn’t see it get packed up. I just saw the soot-blackened ceiling, walls, and bookshelves, and feared the worst.

Especially after the salvage crew dragged melted boxes down from the attic, and I found that all my actual copies of UNSUB were literally toast.

So yesterday, when we began unpacking boxes that had been stored for the last year, I was thrilled to discover the Barry Award — safe, sound, and beautiful. It will return to the wall in my newly rebuilt office, and I will look at it with relief and pride and joy, remembering how I felt when I received it.

Heat 2: Rave Review in GQ

Al Pacino in Heat, 1995. Everett Collection Courtesy of Warner Brothers

Yes, I’m blogging more this week than I have in a long time, and yes, that’s because I want to shout out every bit of news about Heat 2. Yes, I’m wildly happy to see the novel received so well. And yes, I’m thrilled I can use the word rave to describe this review in GQ.

Heat 2 Brings Michael Mann’s Exacting Vision, Improbably, to the Page

“[Heat 2] gave me a better understanding into how the creator of Heat saw an even bigger world, but also made me appreciate a guy whose work I’ve literally grown up on. That sort of thing doesn’t happen very often.

“There are plenty of other directors who have great vision, who understand the style of a moment and how a certain song can truly capture the mood. But Mann’s whole thing is a trust in his own vision and an absolute belief that little details are a must. The guy seems to operate on a creative level not dissimilar from the one inhabited by some of the great fashion designers, who know that new seasons require new trends, but that good taste is timeless. Being able to turn that into a great story, whether Heat on the big screen or Heat 2 in a book, is a trick few besides Mann can pull off. There’s sex, violence, cool cars, bright lights, and a whole lot of grit. It all works together. When a character is at the Beverly Hilton—where “everything gleams,” including the “Lamborghini and the Bugatti parked outside the entrance, placed like ornaments,”—I kept thinking, Man, I can see that…in a Michael Mann movie. I want to see that in a Michael Mann movie. And if that doesn’t happen, then I’m happy I read it in a Michael Mann novel.”

All I can say is: wow.

I talk to Jack Carr on the Danger Close Podcast

I had a fantastic conversation with Jack Carr, best selling author of The Terminal List, on his podcast, Danger Close. We talked about books, writing, and Heat 2. The episode is now up. Check it out!

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/6gbN5LmeB9nufBc39l1Og3

Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/…/meg…/id1557814875…

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYrBwEFPcto

HEAT 2: Have some Twitter reactions

When a novel is published, I suspect that a lot of people imagine the author kicking back on a chaise longue with caviar and a glass of champagne, relaxing because all the work is done. Maybe wearing fluffy slippers. In reality, while publication day is wonderful — a realization of years of hard work — it means the author actually rolls up their sleeves and gets to work in a new way. Publication means it’s time to really get the word out, and hoist the novel into the public eye, and snag people’s attention. Readers’ attention. And to hope that they’ll skip off to the bookstore or library to grab a copy.

With the publication yesterday of Heat 2, that meant I did podcasts, signed copies at my local independent bookstore, and spent hours on social media urging everyone to pick up the book.

I got some good reactions. Here are a few. I’m incredibly thrilled and grateful to have heard from Stephen King, Danny Trejo, and David Duchovny. And of course I love the vivid, kinetic tweet from my co-author, the inimitable Michael Mann.

I hope you’ll enjoy the novel, too.

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Bookshop | Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Apple