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,