Tag Archives: The Nightmare Thief

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.

Thursday roundup: Audies winners, book perfume, world-wide-weirdness

As some of you suspected (I’m looking at you, Stacy), since The Nightmare Thief won an Audie Award I’ve been whooping and hollering and doing the Snoopy dance. I’ve also written 5,000 words and cleaned my office and have of course been keeping a watchful eye on what’s happening in the world. So here are some links:

First, the official list of the 2012 Audie winners and finalists. I’m honored that my book won out among such stellar company.

Second, a charming article from the New York Times about the atmosphere at the awards ceremony.

It was an audience that knew its art. When the presenter Lorelei King flawlessly, even musically, pronounced the name of the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, someone gasped and then issued a reverent “Wow.”

Which particularly delights me, because Lorelei King narrated the British editions of China Lake and Mission Canyon for BBC Audio. She’s a champ.

Third, moving on to more esoteric book news: if your e-reader is making you nostalgic for the crisp scent of ink on paper, fret no more. There’s a new perfume that makes you smell like a freshly printed book.

The scent promises to “relax you, like when you read a book, to a level of meditation and concentration.” With packaging by Karl Lagerfield, “Paper Passion” can be yours for only $115.

And to answer your question: No, I won’t be buying it. When the magnitude 10 earthquake hits and I end up buried beneath the thousands of books that fill my house, I want the rescue dogs to dig me out. I don’t want them to sniff the debris and scamper on to the next pile of wreckage, tongues lolling, thinking, Nope, nothing in that last pile that didn’t smell like books. Nosiree.

Next, weird news:

Cheese rolling is back, and it’s going rogue: “Rogue cheese rolling race held in Gloucestershire.”

It’s been two years since the annual Gloucester cheese rolling competition was banned on health and safety grounds. But yesterday hundreds took to Cooper’s Hill, at Brockworth for a rogue event.

Hardcore thrillseekers staged their own unofficial event after the world-famous Cheese Rolling was officially cancelled in 2010.

Competitors took part in four races down the 1:2 gradient slope – three men’s races and a women’s – with the final men’s race held with a ”Jubilee cheese”.

Several hundred spectators watched as the athletes pursued the Double Gloucester cheese down 200 metres of slippery, wet grass, brambles and nettles.

They slipped, somersaulted and tumbled their way to the bottom of the hill in spectacular fashion and the first person to grab the cheese won.

“Come to the Dark Side. We have cheese.”

And what would a day be without the latest appearance of the King of Kings? Jesus found in Texas bathroom mold.

SPLENDORA, Texas, May 31 (UPI) — A Texas family says they are getting strength from an image of Jesus they found in the mold growing inside the shower of their home.

Chyanna Richards… said the appearance of Jesus’ image has meaning.

“Maybe it means something. Maybe look into yourself and see if you need to change something in your life,” she said.

Maybe. Maybe look at that moldy wall real hard and see if you need to change something.

And finally…

“‘Last Family On Earth’: Spike Reality Show Gives Bunker As Prize.”

NEW YORK — The Spike television network is airing a competition this fall to award a fortified bunker to a family that believes the end of the world is near.


The network said Tuesday that its six-episode series called “Last Family on Earth” will feature survivalists competing to show how tough and resourceful they are. The winner gets an underground bunker in an undisclosed location.

At last I have a chance to get that wilderness vacation home I’ve always dreamed of. Kids, get out the Apocalypse Kits, smear on some camouflage face paint, and pull on your ghillie suits. Let’s win ourselves a bunker.

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.

Staged Kidnapping: Like a Nightmare Thief in the Night

In my novel The Nightmare Thief, an adventure company stages mock kidnappings during role-playing games. Players pay for the privilege. They warn the cops ahead of time. They know the kidnapping’s coming, and that it’s only make-believe.

But that’s not the way it worked for a bunch of kids at one Pennsylvania church.

Church Stages Kidnapping of Youth Group.

Teenagers at the Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church in Middletown, Pa., were surprised when they attended a youth group meeting at the church on March 21 and were ambushed by what seemed to be real kidnappers.

Adults, including an off-duty cop, brandished weapons and put bags over the heads of the children, ages 13 through 18, and forced them into a church van. The group was driven to the home of an assistant pastor, who was presented before the group with a seemingly bloodied and bruised face, according to Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo.

One of the adults used a real AK-47, though the gun was unloaded.

Yeah, the men came in screaming and waving an actual Kalashnikov at the kids before they shoved them to the floor, tied them up, bagged their heads, dragged them to a van, and drove them to a basement where they were isolated and interrogated. The kids didn’t know the kidnapping was fake. And their parents were not informed of the church’s plans.

The church leaders who organized the fake hostage situation later told law enforcement that the event was meant to be a lesson to the children on how Christians are persecuted in places around the world, but the “educational” event may actually constitute a crime.

At the very least it constitutes stupid, deliberate cruelty. The church “leaders” (I use the term as snidely as possible) did everything possible to convince the teens this was an actual kidnapping. They wanted them to experience real terror and a genuine fear for their lives.

Camouflaged men screaming in a 13-year-old’s face while waving an AK-47 at her. This isn’t education. It’s sadism.

As a parent, I’m horrified. And if this is modern Christianity in action, God help it. Somebody fire these bullies.

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.

The Nightmare Thief nominated for an Audie

Here’s a surprise that has made my day: The Nightmare Thief has been nominated for an Audie Award. The Audies are awarded by the Audio Publishers Association — they’re like Grammies for audiobooks. The Nightmare Thief has been nominated for best novel in the Thriller/Suspense category.

I share the nomination with the audiobook’s excellent narrator, Susan Ericksen. My thanks and congratulations go to her — the congratulations twice, because she’s also nominated for her work narrating J.D. Robb’s New York to Dallas, a finalist in Romance.

Congratulations as well to the other Thriller/Suspense nominees, especially my homie Jeff Abbott, nominated for Adrenaline.

And special thanks to my audiobook publisher, Brilliance Audio. You’re awesome.

All the nominees are here.

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.”

My books hit the road: Mississagi, Ontario

Patti sends photos: “Jo ‘n’ Evan camping at Mississagi Provincial Park, north of Elliot Lake ON — it’s a piece of heaven, minus the bad guys and the poisonous snakes (does contain old mines).”

Hmm. Looks to me like The Nightmare Thief is trying to creep into that tent to terrorize you. Or, since it’s Canada, terrorise you. As well it should.