Category Archives: The Nightmare Thief

A reminder: My books

IntoTheBlackNowhere    1121 UNSUB

phantom_instinct  Shadow    



Every now and then, readers ask how many books I’ve written, and what the titles are. Here’s the list as of February 2019. Into the Black Nowhere is the most recent. Click on each cover to learn more about each title.

And if you want to know the order in which they’ve been published, here you go. From first to fourteenth:

Evan Delaney novels:
China Lake
Mission Canyon
Jericho Point
Kill Chain

Jo Beckett novels:
The Dirty Secrets Club
The Memory Collector
The Liar’s Lullaby
The Nightmare Thief

Stand alone novels:
Ransom River
The Shadow Tracer
Phantom Instinct

UNSUB novels:
Into the Black Nowhere

Happy reading, y’all.

Get signed, personalized books for the 2017 holidays

1121 UNSUB
phantom_instinct  Shadow    

The holidays are coming up, and of course you’re contemplating giving books as gifts to everyone you know and love. Right?

If you’d like to get copies of my novels, you can now arrange for me to scribble in them, no matter how far away you live or whether you catch me in person when I have a pen in my hand. Thanks to my fantastic local bookstore, Book People in Austin, you can order signed, personalized copies of my novels. The store ships across the USA and internationally.

Book People doesn’t have a hard deadline for holiday shipping, but the sooner you order, the better.

UPDATE! Book People says:

To ensure orders make it somewhere in time for Christmas, we ask that they be placed before (not on) December 19th at the absolute latest. Making an order that late would require UPS shipping, our more expensive option, so customers looking to ship through USPS should place orders before the 12th to be sure they make it on time. UPS shipping typically takes 3 to 5 business days and USPS typically takes 5 to 10 business days.

If you’d like to order copies of my books and have me sign them, call (512) 472-5050 or CLICK HERE.

And once you order my books, you can keep on going and order books by other authors as well. Book People has a whole store full of them. What are you waiting for?

When the news imitates my novels

GQ has an article in this month’s issue about being abducted for fun. Yes, just like in The Nightmare Thief. And, as in my novel, people who buy kidnappings are sensation-seekers. Rich ones: “Experiences are the newest, hottest luxury items.”

Kidnapped (Just Kidding!)

At some point, in order for the illusion to work, the script has to break down. The kidnapper has to acknowledge that the kidnapping is fake and then create the impression that the fake kidnapping has somehow gone awry. All it takes is a tiny seed of doubt. I had asked to not be stun-gunned—a small break in the rules. And I was suddenly not fully confident that I knew Adam’s entire criminal history. It also dawned on me that, outside of my captors, no one on earth knew where I was. I quietly began to freak out. Control was slipping from me, just a bit, and the doubt began to creep in with surprising ease.

In the end, the author talks to a friend who’d been held hostage in the Philippines for seven months. That man’s reaction to the game: “It’s a callous waste of money.” To which I say: at the very least.

Second: on a lighter yet weirder note, what kind of person can’t tell a poodle from  a ferret?

Man pays $150 for toy poodles that turn out to be ferrets pumped up on steroids and groomed like dogs.

Even in China Lake, the fugitive ferrets didn’t attempt to disguise themselves as dogs to hide from the law. Maybe they should have.

De Spelbreker: The Nightmare Thief Dutch edition

De Spelbreker

If that’s Jo Beckett, she’s looking… determined.

The title translates as both “Game Breaker” and “The Killjoy.” Which seem equally appropriate.

And the Audie goes to…

The Nightmare Thief.

My novel has won the Audie Award for Thriller/Suspense audiobook of the year. I share the award with narrator Susan Ericksen. My huge thanks to her, and Brilliance Audio, and my publisher Joe McNeely, for making the audiobook a winner. And yes, I am pretty damn thrilled. I only wish I could have been at the ceremony in New York City, to hear Neil Gaiman announce the award.

Tonight: the Audie Awards

The Audie Awards are today, and The Nightmare Thief is nominated for Best Audiobook in the category Thriller/Suspense. I share the nomination with the audiobook’s wonderful narrator, Susan Ericksen. Here’s what Audiophile magazine said about her performance:

Susan Ericksen’s talent shines in this latest Jo Beckett offering. Ericksen is unsurpassed in her ability to become a character, and she convincingly provides distinctive and perfectly selected voices for the various characters. From whiny college kids to international financiers, psychopaths, and a pistol-packin’ mama, Ericksen delivers an engaging performance. An audio winner.

My thanks to Susan for bringing the book to life for listeners. And thanks to my publisher, Brilliance Audio, for everything. It’s a great pleasure to be nominated.

Todesmut: German edition of The Nightmare Thief

Here’s the cover of the German edition of The Nightmare Thief. The title translates as “Great Courage” or “Total Daring.” And maybe I’m twisted, but I think the imagery is gorgeous.

As with all the German versions of the Jo Beckett books, this one is translated “Aus dem Amerikanischen” by Friedrich Mader.

It’s published April 23rd.

Jo Beckett gets spied on

Over on Dru’s Book Musings, find out who’s conducting surveillance on Jo Beckett.

Date: July 17
Place: San Francisco
Observation point: Residence adjacent to Jo’s. On the balcony, behind the statue of Cupid.

A Day in the Life of Jo Beckett.

Then stick around Dru’s blog to read more Day-in-the-Life stories from other mystery characters.

The Nightmare Thief hits the road: Singapore

“Jo and Evan on Tour,” writes DJ Paterson:

“Thought you might be interested in Jo and Evan’s recent stop on their (part) world tour – Singapore! The T-shaped building on the left of the piccie is actually the end of a boat-shaped skypark perched on three 55-storey skyscrapers.”

DJ is the co-winner of Contest 2008. Readers may recognize his name from The Memory Collector, where he became Officer Paterson of the San Francisco Police Department. Blog readers may also have noted that he’s on an odyssey: His family is moving from England to New Zealand. Singapore is a stop along their way. I appreciate his taking time out to send me the photo — and I’m happy that Jo and Evan are tagging along as the Patersons move halfway around the world.

The Nightmare Thief British paperback

The Nightmare Thief paperback edition will be available in the UK next week. Here’s the cover. Yes, when a new edition arrives I hug the book and pet it and say, “Pretty.” Still. Every time.

The Page 69 Test: The Nightmare Thief

The Page 69 Test is so called because Marshall McLuhan suggested that you should choose your reading by turning to page 69 of a book and, if you like it, read it. And now The Nightmare Thief is subjected to the Page 69 Test:

“In The Nightmare Thief, an ‘urban reality game’ goes wrong and traps a group of college students in the Sierra Nevada wilderness, fighting for survival along with series heroine Jo Beckett. The novel’s a thriller: it features action, life-and-death danger, and relentless killers hunting down injured innocents.

“And that’s what you’ll find on Page 69.”

You can find out what else I said here.

Joy and Insomnia, or How to Bring a Novel to Life, Kicking and Screaming

A few weeks ago, I wrote a guest post for The Kill Zone, the excellent mystery and thriller writers’ blog. I’m reposting the entire piece here, for folks who are interested in writing, rewriting, or how an author clings to her sanity when deadlines loom. But I encourage everyone to click the link, read the comments on the post at The Kill Zone, and stick around there to discover what the blog’s talented group of authors are writing about.

Joy and Insomnia, or How to Bring a Novel to Life, Kicking and Screaming

Some writers love first drafts. To them, starting a novel feels like hitting the highway for a summer road trip. They toss the map out the window, crank up the tunes, let their characters take the wheel, and sit back to see where the story goes. To them a first draft means freedom: blue skies, unlimited potential.

I’m not one of those writers.

I love the part before the first draft. Brainstorming is terrific. Brainstorming means flinging ideas at the wall like spaghetti, to see what sticks. And when an idea gets under my skin—stings like a hornet, itches, keeps me up nights—I know I’m on track. I have the fuel that will drive a thriller.

That’s how I felt with The Nightmare Thief. An “urban reality game” goes wrong and traps a group of college kids in the Sierra Nevada wilderness, fighting for survival along with series heroine Jo Beckett. That idea did it. Yep, brainstorming, and then sketching a synopsis—Jo and the kids are trapped, bad people are closing in on them, and my other series heroine, Evan Delaney, has only hours to find them—that’s fun.

But then I have to actually write the thing. And for me, writing a first draft is like pulling my own teeth with pliers: slow, painful, and messy.

The plot takes form, and it’s fat. The characters sit around a lot, thinking. When they do speak, the dialogue needs spice. Worse, everybody on the page sounds exactly the same and, worst of all, exactly like me. And all those plot twists that were so exciting to sketch (“Evan discovers a deadly betrayal”) stare back at me from the synopsis, going: Well, how?

I cringe. I couldn’t show this stinking mess to my dog, much less my editor, and oh, sweet Lord, I still have three hundred pages to write.

And I need to write them at a rate of 2,000 words a day, because I have a deadline.

That’s when I remind myself:

  1. My critique group has a rule for reading out loud: We all think our rough drafts are crap. It’s stipulated. So don’t waste time quailing that your piece sucks. Just read. Well, the same goes for actually drafting the crap. Just write.
  2. My job does not involve cleaning a deep fryer. I should stop being an ungrateful moaner. Just write.
  3. If I spew all these wondrously awful first-draft words onto the page, they will at least exist. And words that exist can be fixed. Words in my head cannot. Just write.

So I keep going, for months, until I reach the end. Then I run through the house with my fists overhead like Rocky, while the stereo blasts the Foo Fighters’ “DOA.” “I’m finished, I’m getting you off my chest…”

In the five-stage writing cycle (excitement, delusions of grandeur, panic, compulsive eating, delivery) this is known as the False Ending. Because now it’s time to rewrite.


I can hear some of you shouting, Rewrite? Don’t make me. Stab me with a fondue fork instead. Repeatedly. Please. But I mean it: Joy. As I recently heard Ken Follett explain, revising means making a book better—and who wouldn’t want the chance to make something better?

And, to be serious, I have a method. Tackle the big issues first.

This is a technique I picked up from Sol Stein’s Stein on Writing, and it has turned my editing inside out. It’s saved me months of wasted work. Stein calls it triage: Fix the life-and-death issues in a manuscript first. Is the conflict stark enough? Is the protagonist strong enough? Does he or she face a worthy antagonist? In other words, when rewriting, don’t simply start at page one and go through the manuscript fixing every problem as you spot it. It’s counterproductive to spend a morning fussing over sentence structure if the entire scene needs to be cut.

So I identify all the triage issues and outline a plan to address them. Then I return to my miserable first draft. I attack those fat, introspective scenes. I build in unexpected twists. I obstruct the protagonist’s path. Throw down impediments that are by turns physical and psychological, accidental and deliberate. Breakdowns. A monkeywrench. A landslide—literal or emotional. I cut endless swaths of verbiage, like so much kudzu. It’s gratifying.

Admittedly, revision isn’t all fun. I’ll wake up worrying that I’ve done insufficient research. Maybe some howlers have slipped through. (Anybody seen Lord of War? An Interpol agent strafes Nicolas Cage from a fighter jet. That kind of howler.) So I hit the reference books, and contact some experts, and revise again. And I have a fail-safe plan: write a rip-roaring story, so that if all else fails readers will miss any mistakes. Put the pedal down and nobody can see the errors as they blast through the novel.

Meanwhile the deadline continues to loom. Eventually I reach the stage known as Revise! Or! Die! It comes down to a cage fight between me and my story. With major revisions on The Nightmare Thief, I’m happy to say I won—which is to say, the story won. The lumpen first draft was flick-knifed into a sharp revision. Or sledgehammered, where necessary.

When I finished, I sent it to my editor and pitched face down on my desk. Then I sprang back up like a jack-in-the-box, thinking of all the changes I still wanted to make. Then I pitched forward on my desk again.

Eventually I sat up, picked off all the paperclips that had stuck to my face, and staggered to bed, where visions of Jo Beckett and Evan Delaney danced in my head. Well, they didn’t dance—they opened a couple of beers, clinked bottles, and put their feet up, waiting to see what I would do to them next.

I love this job.

People Magazine reviews The Nightmare Thief

Yes, People magazine has reviewed The Nightmare Thief — my novel is living large. It makes me happy that People was swept away by “Thief’s tidal wave of adrenaline.”

Autumn events in the USA and UK

This autumn I have stuff going on. And I don’t just mean the annual death match with the rough draft of my novel. (Just die, already, and be reborn as a shining revision! Gah!) I’m going places. If you’re nearby, I’d love to see you.


Sinc Into Great Writing 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011 1:00 – 9:00pm
Holiday Inn Select, St Louis, MO
Dinner speaker for Sisters in Crime’s annual Pre-Bouchercon conference

September 15-18, 2011
St. Louis, Missouri

Bouchercon Panels:

  • Thursday 1-2 p.m: Timebomb — When the clock is ticking.
  • Saturday 1-2 p.m: Witness to an Incident — The Human Element.

UK Library Talks:

Tuesday 27 September 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Hammersmith Library
Shepherds Bush Road
W6 7AT
Enquiries 020 8753 3823

Friday 30 September 7:30 p.m.
Datchet Library
Montagu House
8 Horton Road
Tel: 01753 545310

Wednesday 12 October, 6:30-8:00 p.m.
Sandfields Library
Morrison Road, Sandfields
Port Talbot, Wales
SA12 6TG
Tel: (01639) 883616

Blackpool, England
7 November