Sunday, July 19, 2009

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

We buried our 15 year old Rhodesian Ridgeback, Nick, yesterday. He was my wedding present 15 years ago and so he spent every day of his life with my wife and I. The words fifteen years old and Rhodesian are not supposed to go together. Dogs that big don't live that long, but Nick did. He survived melanoma, a 6 pound tumor, epilsepsy, you name it. My wife said it was because we used to run him every morning on the beach or at Fort Funston in San Francisco. The vets were always amazed at how strong his heart was, even to the very end. But I know it wasn't the running.
It was love.
My wife loved that dog more than any person could love an animal, and he in turn loved her. He simply wouldn't go. He would not leave her behind. We had to make the decision for him, yesterday, when he could no longer get up, would no longer eat, blind and had another tumor growing in the bridge of his nose. His heart, however, continued to beat like a lion. Amazing.
I cried yesterday, and I cry as I write this piece. In all honesty, that dog deserved better than he got from me. I was raised in a family of 10 kids, we didn't have much room for dogs and they were treated as dogs. When he came into my home he promptly ate two electric razors, chewed holes in two of my better suits, ate two leather watch bands and, oh yes, my wedding ring attached to one of those bands. No, we never found it.
My wife, however, loved Nick as if he were a child. No person could have loved an animal more. Nick fell under a lucky star when my wife picked him out of the litter, the runt, the puppy that no one else wanted because he had an overbite and small hips and never would be a show dog. I'm betting Nick outlived every other sibling in that litter, probably by a good many years.
I in turn came to love Nick as a friend. Some say that animals are "dumb." Maybe because they cannot speak, but Nick taught me that they are often more intelligent than people. Nick loved unconditionally. He didn't judge and he always forgave. Everytime I came home he would be at the door, tail wagging, just happy to see me. And he was fiercly protective of my kids, often getting between them and any stranger who came to the door or approached on the street. In the end, when he could no longer get up, he'd still manage to raise his head and acknowledge that I was home. What more can you ask for in life?
So Nick taught me much about friendship and about love. He taught me that pets can be more than just a pet. They can be a family member, if we will allow them. He also taught me that we can never go back in life, that we can only go forward, and how important, therefore, it is to go forward with kindness and love.
I will miss him. Not exactly like I miss my Dad, but I will miss him just the same. I already do. It's hard to walk into the house now and not see him, sitting in his bed, looking up at me.
We buried him on my wife's beloved farm where he loved to run. We picked a spot under an old growth cedar he seemed particularly fond of. If he could have spoken, I think he might have chosen the spot himself.
Rest in piece Nick. It is hard saying goodbye, my friend.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Michael Jackson, Elvis and Mortality

Anyone else feel like they lost a bit of their childhood with the news this week? Was there a boy out there who didn't have the Farrah Faucet poster in his room, or marvel at the talent of an eight year old boy? My sister had the Thriller Poster in her room and my disabled brother was enamored with "Michael Jackson." Yes, he was troubled, maybe more than that.

I look at the photos on television and I wonder how a good looking 18 year old man could become an unattractive 50-year old woman? I wonder where was the person in his life that could have stepped in and straightened him out? Where were his parents, or his friends, his spouse. But then, I remember my parents talking about Elvis, what a talented young man he was and how he grew up to be so troubled and how he too died alone.

Neither could go out during the day and resorted to medication to help them sleep. What a lonely, sad existence. Do we need any more illustrations to prove the old adage that money cannot buy happiness?

So much talented wasted in the end.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dads and Sons

I lost my father last Father's Day. It was only fitting given that he had 10 children. He had a flair for the dramatic, my father. He was born on Christmas Day and was quite a guy. With so many kids he worked a lot but he always tried to be at our sporting events to support us.

This past weekend my son and I were scheduled to go to Moses Lake for a big 12 and under tournament. He hurt his foot two weeks ago and we figured he bruised it. Played five games on it and did really well, even hit a three run homer. But in an abundance of caution we went to the doctor on Friday. Doctor came in and said, "When did you break your foot."

Joe handled it well. He really wanted to play this weekend, but we held him out so his foot will be healed for the all-star tournament. We debated going to the tournament at all, but then I realized why wouldn't we? How often do you get to share three days with your son - sleep in a tent, be in the dugout with him, eat all meals with him.

On the ride home, with a trophy in the car, Joe said, "Thanks for taking me, Dad."

I replied, "Thanks for going with me. You know, Joe, I know you were disappointed not to play, but I really appreciate your maturity. I never had this kind of experience with my dad, but these are memories I hope we both have for a lifetime."

His response? "I know I will."

ON-line writing tip: Sorry I've let this lapse. Okay, you have a protagonist and he or she has received her call to adventure and decided to step forward. Now what will be at least three obstacles he or she will encounter on his quest?

Anyone see Transformers? I watched it last night. The plot was one of those plots where it looked like someone told the screenwriter, "No, it needs to be longer so we can squeeze in more action scenes. Come up with yet another obstacle, even if it really makes no sense to the plot you've already developed." Watch it. It's a good lesson on plotting and how not to do it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Service, Fort Lewis and Fathers

I signed last Saturday at the Fort Lewis PX. In May I had appeared at the base to give away free copies of Wrongful Death on Armed Forces day. Simon and Schuster also provided two organizations with free copies of the novel to be sent to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Being on base is always a moving experience. It is a world within a world, one that most civilians, myself included, don't fully understand. For anyone who wants to criticize the military, I would invite you to visit one of the military bases and talk to the men and women who are deploying to Iraq, and now to Afghanistan again. Talk to their families. It is a sobering experience. I spoke to one woman from Germany who met and married her husband while he was stationed there. The week before he had deployed to Afghanistan. She was a lovely woman, happy and very interested in the book. I was surprised to learn that her husband would be gone for a year and even more surprised when she returned to introduce me to her three children, the oldest just 12.

I lost my father last Father's Day, June 15. This one year has felt like ten. I can only imagine it must feel the same way for so many of these military families, with one very significant difference. I have achieved peace knowing my father is not coming home. These families go to bed every night wondering if their father, or mother for that matter, will be coming home. It is a sobering thought for all of us.

God bless those soldiers and their families who are making the sacrifice every day. Maybe wars are political. But the soldiers aren't. They're mothers and fathers and wives and husbands just like all of us.

May they all come home safe.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

On the Road Again, Willie Nelson, "Beefcake" and

I can't get Willie Nelson out of my head - "On the road again..."

Thanks to all who have come out and seen me in Chicago, Spokane and Seattle. After an appearance at the Bellevue University Bookstore tonight at 7:00 I hit the road tomorrow for Portland, San Francisco, San Mateo, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson and Denver and finish with a couple more parties here in Burien and Kirkland. It's been a lot of fun so far and I'm looking forward to more of the same back out on the road. So come on out and ask me questions or just say hello. The venues are all posted on my website.


In Portland I'll be participating in a photoshoot for a calendar to benefit the Oregon Writer's Colony and its efforts to renovate its historic meeting house. The theme is for writers to "bare" their inner writing soul so rumor has it there will be some skin showing. I told them they'd have to shoot me in the dark so "beefcake" doesn't become "beefycake."
All in good fun and for a great cause.
Wow, check out the link to the review from I'm grateful that the reviewer enjoyed the book, and understood the book so well. I know that Joe is a lawyer by background, so the review was especially gratifying.

Writing Tip of the Week

Okay, you have your protagonist in his ordinary world and you've incited him into action. You now also know what is the end game, his ultimate goal. Draw a horizontal line with each event on the line. 2/3 of the way down the line, write in what is the climax of the story. Note this is not the ending, but the climax, that defining emotional moment like the verdict in The Cyanide Canary or when Dana Hill discovers who killed her brother in Damage Control. It's the wow moment in the book and from there it will be a race to the conclusion. Don't know the climax, yet? You really should, because next week we'll start to fill in that time line you're creating.

Best to you all,

Bob Dugoni

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Chicago My Kind of Town

I've started my tour, in Chicago, for Wrongful Death.

What a great city. I've been here before and can't believe how great the people are. The weather has been as unpredictable as Seattle. We've had beautiful sunshine, rain, snow, and hail. I feel like I am the weatherman.

I signed the first night at Centuries and Sleuths in Forest Park. Great store and Augie, the owner is a great guy. Go see him and tell him I said hello.

Last night I went out with my old College roommate, Peter Gabrielle. Not the singer, the financial whiz. After 22 years in New York, Pete took a promotion and moved his beautiful wife and kids to Chicago. Great to catch up and see one of the good guys doing so well.

Tonight I'm at the Borders in Oak Brook. Looking forward to it.
Then back home for a day before leaving for Auntie's in Spokane.

Writing Tip of the Week

Now that you have your protagonist in her ordinary world and you've given her a call to adventure or inciting incident, ask what is the throughline of your story. That is, what is the ultimate goal for your protagonist. What does he or she seek to accomplish. For instance, Dorothy's ultimate goal in The Wizard of Oz is to get back home. Be specific.

More to come.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Seeing Color? Become a character in a book.

Forget writer's block, how about writer's cramp?

When I was a kid, my brother and I liked that commercial where the learned owl is trying to determine how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll, tootsie pop.

I was reminded of that commercial on Monday when I flew to Spokane to see how many books I could sign in six hours and still make my flight home. The answer, 2520. I never knew writer's cramp until now.

Seeing Color?

But, to have a little fun, I signed all of the books in black ink, except for one. If the lucky person who buys that book emails me and can tell me the color of the signature and answer one other conversation, I will name a character after them in my next book.

I leave Friday for Chicago where I'll teach a two-day seminar on writing and then the tour begins. If you've signed up for my mailing list you'll be getting an email today or tomorrow loaded with information on where and when I will be signing, hopefully in a store near you.

Writing Tip of the Week:

Okay, if you've been following along, you should now have created your character and the world in which he or she lives. You should also have come up with the inciting event that has set the story in motion. Now that your character's journey is underway, where does it first take him or her - to a new world, perhaps, new state, new job, new house - someplace different than his ordinary world and what is the first obstacle he or she encounters in this new place. (An obstacle is anything that gets in the path or your protagonist's goal, whether his or her ultimate goal in the book - to save the world before the bomb explodes, or his or her goal in the scene - to get a hot cup of coffee)

Hope to see you at one of my book stops.

Bob Dugoni

Here is the new video!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Romance in the back seat - Now I have your attention

So my good friend and mentor, Susan Wiggs emailed me to tell me of a really cool project by a documentary film maker from Los Angeles. Seems this person was filming authors reading and answering questions from the back seat of their cars. How fun was that. Yesterday morning I pulled the 1964 Cadillac Coup de Ville out of the garage and with my wife playing chauffeur, we drove around the neighborhood while Terri Kate asked me questions and I read from Wrongful Death. The three minute video will be up soon on In addition, Simon and Schuster will be posting its three minute video to highlight Wrongful Death very soon. I'll get the link up on my website soon, as well as the link to the video interview which will appear in Author Magazine, during the month of April.

Writing Tip of the Week:

Okay, we're working on story structure and you've written one or two sentences on your protagonist's Ordinary World. Now, what is their "call to adventure" or the "inciting incident" that is going to get the story rolling along. In Wrongful Death, Sloane's call to adventure comes when Beverly Ford enters the courtroom and tells him she is the widow of a Washington National Guardsman killed in Iraq and she wants Sloane to sue the United States Government and Military.

Keep on writing,


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Writing Tips


I said I would provide a weekly writing tip. So here is the tip of the week.

Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, romance or thrillers, you have to understand story structure. Go and buy Chris Vogler's book, The Writer's Journey and study it. Understand classic story structure that has worked for hundreds of years. Once you understand the structure, you can use this as a way to outline your novel.
Start with:

What is your protagonist's "ordinary world?" Be specific. For instance, in my upcoming novel, Wrongful Death I would write:

"Acclaimed San Francisco attorney David Sloane has moved to Seattle with his new wife Tina and son Jake. Sloane has just won his eighteenth jury verdict in a row. "

That's it. That's who Sloane is at the beginning of the novel.

Okay, send me your protagonist's ordinary world at and I'll provide my two cents.

Looking to attend a great conference in April, look into Field's End. I've attended and taught at the conference and it is always first rate with great writers and a lot to learn:

April 18 (Saturday)Field's End's fourth-annual writers' conference takes place at beautiful Kiana Lodge on the shores of Agate Passage, just north of Bainbridge Island. Enjoy a day of camaraderie, inspiration, and learning about the art and craft of writing. The conference includes break-out sessions, hands-on workshops, a delicious salmon buffet lunch, and plenty of time to meet and discuss the writing life with fellow writers.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Literary Lions & Writing Tips of the week

First, I'm going to try something new starting Monday March 16 when I'll post my writing tip of the week. I get asked a lot by aspiring writers what books on the craft I recommend, what tips I can provide. So each week I'll have a writing tip that hopefully helps someone out there in the nebulous Internet world. If it's you, let me know at .

Literary Lions:

Saturday night, March 6 I had the pleasure of being a guest author for the King County Library's annual Literary Lions dinner to help raise funds for the library system and literacy. As usual it was a fun evening with the chance to hang out with other authors I see far too little of. Susan Wiggs, she of the #1 New York Times bestselling novel was there, which gave me a chance to buy her new hardback, Just Breathe. Susan has become one of my wife's favorite writers and as usual, she was curled up in bed with the novel as soon as I got home.

It was also great to have dinner with Mike Lawson, another really talented thriller writer whose novels are destined for the big screen once someone in Los Angeles gets it figured out. Think of Jack Ryan in the Tom Clancy series. I also had dinner with Kevin O'Brien, the nicest thriller writer you'll ever meet. As I told one person buying Kevin's novel (and yes, he sold out at the event) "I don't know how such a nice guy can write such scary books." But Kevin pulls it off and keeps you up late turning the pages.

I sat next to and had a chance to talk with Garth Stein, the keynote speaker for the evening and author of The Art of Racing in the Rain. The novel has been an incredible success with 23 translations and time on all the best seller lists. Garth told the audience they had also just signed papers for the movie, with Patrick Dempsey. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. Garth professed to not being certain what he would talk about, but he was just being coy. His speech was entertaining and poignant, a tough combination.

Okay, got to run. Put a note on the calendar. Writing tip Number one on Monday.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

So Far So Great-Wrongful Death

Have I mentioned I'm new to the blogging game? Probably. So here goes.

The reviews for Wrongful Death, which is to be launched in just a few short weeks, are coming in and so far, so great. Booklist wrote, "Mixing the suspense of a Grisham legal thriller with the political angle of a Baldacci. Dugoni is knocking on the A-list thriller door." More about those comparisons in a minute. Kirkus also liked it, calling Wrongful Death "An entertaining thriller about a hotshot lawyer. Good guys to like, villains to hiss, windmills to attack."

I can't ask for much more than that. I'm hoping readers like it as much, if not more.

South Carolina on my mind.

I attended the South Carolina Writers Conference last weekend. First time at the conference and first time in South Carolina. Unfortunately, I brought the Seattle weather with me - lots of rain and even the threat of snow. Just my luck. People in South Carolina apparently don't do well in snow. The threat of one-inch falling on the city caused a panic the likes of which you would have thought Sherman was marching on the city again. Still, nothing seems to dampen the Southern spirit and hospitality. Those who put on the conference, like Paula Watkins, really know how to make you feel welcome. They take the extra step and I was grateful. Thanks to Cathy Pickens, a friend and great Southern writer, I had my first authentic Southern meal. Cathy and husband Bob took me for chicken fried steak, grits, collared greens and more. I was so full I had to say no to desert, banana pudding.

A member in the audience for one of my panels asked how I liked the comparisons to Grisham, and more recently to Baldacci. What's not to like? I told him that I wasn't greedy. I'd take either man's career.

I also learned how to speak "Southern" with the help of Shellie Rushing Tomlinson. Shellie, whose from "Lisiana" and no, I did not misspell it, knows Southern. That's probably why she has her own radio and television show, "All Things Southern." You can find it at her website, which, shockingly, is also called Trust me, you won't be disappointed. Shellie's a riot. I learned what it means for a man to "fly straight" and what a Southern woman might do if he doesn't. They take that "woman scorned" thing seriously in the South, apparently. I also learned the meaning of the phrase when someone is "straight running crazy," which apparently means they are no longer deviating from the path between crazy and lucid. Shellie read from her book, "Suck your belly in and put on some color." It was about the trials of being pregnant, but even I could relate.

And I couldn't stop without mentioning Karen Spears Zacharias. Karen is also a Southern girl, having been raised in Georgia, but lived much of her life in Oregon and has shed the accent. Still, she'll tell you she was born and raised in a trailer in Georgia and her only goal growing up was to not be dismembered and stay out of jail. Life took a cruel twist when Karen was young. Her father was killed in action in Vietnam. Karen not only survived, she prospered. She became a beat writer for the Oregonian and has since written three books. She went back to Vietnam and learned more about her father's death, documenting it in "After the Flag has been Folded." I started it on the plane ride home. It's a moving story. Her current book is "Where's Your Jesus Now." Provocative title? Even more so when you learn its genesis.

Okay, I have to run now. But the new book tour is almost finalized. I'll be in Chicago for the launch and also hit Denver, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Tucson, Phoenix, Spokane and a few more. I'll post the schedule when it's final and I hope to keep a blog about the adventure, sort of news from the front.

Keep reading, and writing,