Upcoming events: ThrillerFest 2016


Next month I’ll be taking part in Thrillerfest in New York City. This year I’m teaching at Craftfest and Master Craftfest. And I’m on a couple of panels. If you’re coming to the conference, I’d love to see you.

PROMOTION, SALES OR REVIEWS? Lessons Learned From The Front Lines
Friday, July 8
10:20 – 11:10 a.m.

Saturday, July 9
2:00 pm – 2:50 p.m.

It should be fun.

Blast from the past: Writing Myths

I’ve just crawled from the writing bunker. Draft 2 of NEW NOVEL is complete. After staggering to the kitchen and eating an entire bag of tortilla chips and a box of See’s Candy to recover, I stood on the porch with my fists in the air, howling in victory. Or maybe I turned on the Cavs-Raptors game. Somebody had their fists in the air. It was either me or LeBron.

Then, filled with energy, I sat down to blog on the topic of do’s and don’ts for writers. An hour later I was still sitting here, staring at the blank screen. Draft 2 of NEW NOVEL had drained all new words from my head. At least for today.

So here’s a blast from the blog’s past.

Writing Myths

I’ve recently encountered some misconceptions about writing. Let me dispel them.

1. Writing requires inspiration. No it doesn’t. Inspiration – a sudden brilliant idea, a flash that stimulates creativity – is wonderful and thrilling, but when you’re writing a book, constant inspiration is not necessary. And if you want to finish that book, you can’t wait for inspiration to strike. You have to sit your butt down and put your fingers on the keyboard and type. Word after word after word.

To me this seems self-evident. But at a friend’s book launch recently, a well-educated couple asked me how often I write. Every day, I said. They looked surprised. Really… every day? Yes. They looked utterly confused. Even if I don’t feel like it?

At that point I realized (a) they thought writing consisted essentially of inspiration – that it could only take place when the muse descends and sprinkles her fairy dust; and (b) they thought writing was essentially a lightweight activity, the transcription of fairy dust into frilly words. A hobby, that is. Self-indulgence.

Repeat after me: if you want to write a book, you have to treat it as a job. Because it is. It’s a fabulous job, but it’s work.

2. Anybody can write a novel. Believe it or not, the last time a friend said this to me – flipping through one of my novels before tossing it aside – I kept a smile on my face. A rigid, homicidal smile. Jurassic Park? he said. Piece of cake. Crime novels? Just kill a bunch of people, pick the killer from the surviving characters, and you’re done. Takes a couple of months, max.

Needless to say, he has never gone on to write a novel. He can’t spare the time. And I’m still smiling.

3. Reading fiction is a waste of time. I’ve written before, with frustration, about fictophobia: the refusal to read fiction. Since publishing my first book I’ve been shocked by the number of people who tell me point blank that they won’t read novels. Fiction is frivolous, they say. Or it’s not “real.” Or, horribly, it doesn’t “increase their productivity.” I hear this from people who read only self-help books.

I think such people misunderstand what story is, and what it does. Story is more than frivolity, more than escapism. Story teaches us about the world by drawing us into the lives of characters as they strive, risk, fail, and triumph, often in dire circumstances, sometimes while faced with desperate choices. Story is about morality, selflessness, maturity, dignity. It’s about humanity.

Strangely, the people who read only self-help books (in bed, with the television tuned to CNBC so that even their final moments before sleep will be “productive”… sometimes clutching a yellow highlighter so they can highlight the crucial bullet points that reveal how to lose weight, get rich, and find a mate) tend to be the same people who tell me anybody can write a novel. Though generally they don’t want to write books but screenplays. Movies take only two hours to watch, after all – could it take much longer than two hours to write a screenplay? And screenplays sell for shitloads of money… right? Writing a screenplay, that’s not a waste of time, because it will make them rich and famous. And isn’t that what counts? It must be. They highlighted that bullet-point in the self-help book.

All I can say to these folks is, good luck.

Editmania 2016


I’m editing the rough draft of my new novel. Picture me scribbling on printouts, and stabbing the delete key, and sitting bolt upright in the middle of the night, muttering, “This story needs a monkey.”

(Not really. Agent and editor: stop breathing into those paper bags.)

Often when editmania descends — and damn you, autocorrect, editmania is ONE WORD; STOP CHANGING IT — I lock myself in the writing bunker. This time, I tried something new. I strapped myself into a series of jet aircraft and edited at 30,000 feet, where there was no wifi and I had a nice little tray table desk, and well-attired people brought me coffee. That worked splendidly, as I flew from Austin to Key West to Orange County, California, and back to Austin, until my pen exploded from the altitude. Special thanks to my fellow passengers, who rescued me from all the ink. It did wash off in the end.

So now I’m back to the bunker. I’m going in, and closing the blast door behind me. Here, have a picture of some flowers to hold you until I come out again.

Hello from Key West

Key West (1).jpeg

It’s mighty nice.

Walking to breakfast this morning, I heard the unmistakable clack of manual typewriter keys. No joke. Hemingway’s ghost.

Or maybe someone’s writing a novel the old school way. Now I’m off to teach a bunch of lawyers how they can write novels too.

Heading to Key West

save the date 2016 card

I’m heading to Key West, Florida today, where I’m going to give a seminar at an American Bar Association conference. I’ll be talking about “How Lawyers Can Become Novelists.”

No spoilers, but it involves writing a book.

Photos of Hemingwayesque beach scenes to follow.

Writer’s block: the movie version

This video captures the anxiety and joy of writing. Bonus: drumline! Enjoy…

(Via Slate.)

The 2016 Edgar Awards


Last night the Mystery Writers of America announced the winners of the 2016 Edgar Awards. You know this award is near and dear to my heart, and I’m delighted to congratulate the winners — and all the nominees. Take a look at this list, folks, and get reading. (Winners listed first in each category.)

Best Novel

Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy (Penguin Random House – Dutton)

The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
The Lady From Zagreb by Philip Kerr (Penguin Random House – A Marian Wood Book)
Life or Death by Michael Robotham (Hachette Book Group – Mulholland Books)
Canary by Duane Swierczynski (Hachette Book Group – Mulholland Books)
Night Life by David C. Taylor (Forge Books)

Best First Novel

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Atlantic – Grove Press)

Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll (Simon & Schuster)
Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm (Penguin Random House – Viking)

Best Paperback Original

The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)

The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter by Malcolm Mackay
(Hachette Book Group – Mulholland Books)
What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Woman with a Blue Pencil by Gordon McAlpine (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)
Gun Street Girl by Adrian McKinty (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)
The Daughter by Jane Shemilt (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)

Best Fact Crime

Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully
by Allen Kurzweil (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper)

Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot that Avenged the Armenian Genocide
by Eric Bogosian (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown and Company)
Where The Bodies Were Buried: Whitey Bulger and the World That Made Him
by T.J. English (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime
by Val McDermid (Grove Atlantic – Grove Press)
American Pain: How a Young Felon and his Ring of Doctors Unleashed 
America’s  Deadliest Drug Epidemic 

by John Temple (Rowman & Littlefield – Lyons Press)

Best Critical/Biographical

The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards (HarperCollins Publishers – HarperCollins)

The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue 
by Frederick Forsyth (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Meanwhile There Are Letters: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald
by Suzanne Marrs and Tom Nolan (Arcade Publishing)
Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming’s Jamaica
by Matthew Parker (Pegasus Books)
The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett 
by Nathan Ward (Bloomsbury Publishing – Bloomsbury USA)

Best Short Story

“Obits” – Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King (Simon & Schuster – Scribner)

“The Little Men” – Mysterious Bookshop by Megan Abbott (Mysterious Bookshop)
“On Borrowed Time” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Mat Coward (Dell Magazines)
“The Saturday Night Before Easter Sunday” – Providence Noir 
by Peter Farrelly (Akashic Books)
“Family Treasures” – Let Me Tell You  by Shirley Jackson (Random House)
“Every Seven Years” – Mysterious Bookshop by Denise Mina (Mysterious Bookshop)

Best Juvenile

Footer Davis Probably is Crazy by Susan Vaught
(Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)

Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi (Algonquin Young Readers – Workman)
If You Find This by Matthew Baker
(Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver & H.C.Chester
(HarperCollins Publishers – HarperCollins Children’s Books)
The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands  (Simon & Schuster – Aladdin)

Young Adult

A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
(HarperCollins Publishers – Katherine Tegen Books) 

Endangered by Lamar Giles (HarperCollins Children’s Books – HarperTeen)
The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury (Scholastic – Scholastic Press)
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma (Algonquin Young Readers – Workman)
Ask the Dark by Henry Turner (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – Clarion Books)

TV Episode Teleplay

“Gently with the Women” – George Gently, Teleplay by Peter Flannery (Acorn TV)

“Episode 7” – BroadchurchTeleplay by Chris Chibnall (BBC America)
“Elise – The Final Mystery” – Foyle’s War, Teleplay by Anthony Horowitz (Acorn TV)
 “Terra Incognita” – Person of Interest, Teleplay by Erik Mountain & Melissa Scrivner Love (CBS/Warner Brothers)
“The Beating of her Wings” – Ripper Street, Teleplay by Toby Finlay (BBC America)

Robert L. Fish Memorial Award

“Chung Ling Soo’s Greatest Trick” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine 
by Russell W. Johnson (Dell Magazines)

Mary Higgins Clark Award

Little Pretty Things by Lori Rader-Day (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)

A Woman Unknown by Frances Brody (Minotaur Books – A Thomas Dunne Book)
The Masque of a Murderer by Susanna Calkins (Minotaur Books)
Night Night, Sleep Tight by Hallie Ephron (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Child Garden by Catriona McPherson (Llewellyn Worldwide – Midnight Ink)

Grand Master

Walter Mosley

Raven Awards

Margaret Kinsman
Sisters in Crime

Ellery Queen Award

Janet Rudolph, Founder of Mystery Readers International