Monthly Archives: April 2013

CRAFTFEST Schedule Posted

The annual ITW thriller writing craft school CRAFTFEST will be held on Wednesday and Thursday, July 10th and 11th this year. THRILLERFEST follows on Thursday through Saturday.

We have some wonderful teachers again this year. Here is the line up:


Register before midnight on April 30th to take advantage of the advance pricing for CraftFest, AgentFest, ThrillerFest, and the banquet.

Don’t miss THRILLERFEST and CRAFTFEST this year. They will be fun.

DP Lyle

ITW VP for Education/CraftFest Director




Posted by on April 29, 2013 in Writing


Guest Blogger: Pam Johnson: Mind Maps for Writers: Get Inspired and Get Organized

Whether you are a person new to the field of writing or someone who has an intense love for the discipline, you might need some help with getting inspired and getting organized. How can mind maps help you to complete both of these tasks?

Bright Idea


The Definition

Before we can properly explain how you might use a mind map to better your writing skills, it’s important that you understand what this type of tool actually is. Basically, you will take a starting word or concept and place it in the middle of the paper. From that, you will stem off into different directions. For example, let’s say that the word in the middle of the paper is “archaeology.” One branch leading from it may say “dig,” and another might say “ancient civilizations.” “Dig” could lead to lines with places where famous digs have been done for example.

Using Some Colors

At first read-through, the description of a mind map might sound rather confusing. After all, you are going to be connected all of these different words and ideas. However, it is possible to accomplish, and it’s wise to look up pictures of one before you get started. You could choose to use a particular color for each main branch you are making, so you can easily follow along with your thought process. You could also use different colored labels to create this type of organizer.

Why It Works

One of the major problems that a lot of people have with writing is getting started. They have no idea what they are going to talk about when it comes to the main topic, so they need to spend a lot of time brainstorming. This type of mind map helps because it lets the writer get his or her ideas down on paper. Instead of wondering what should be said next when typing or writing, the words are neatly laid out in this type of organizer. Of course, not every word has to be used, but it helps the writer to gather his or her thoughts.

Creating an Outline

Making an outline on a piece of paper can also come from this type of mind mapping. If you are familiar with the traditional outline made of Roman numerals and letters, this might help. Consider the word in the middle as the main idea of the entire paper, and you can place this word on the type of your blank sheet. Then, the first offshoots from that word are the Roman numerals. The second offshoots that come from each of those words then act as the capital letters. Once you get the hang of it, you can have a beautiful and helpful outline created in just a few minutes.

Knowing what to write about is one of the hardest parts of crafting a paper or document. People know the main topic that they want to include, but it’s often difficult to fully express those ideas. Using a mind map is one of the most useful tools out there.


Author Pam Johnson is an author of sociology who spends a lot of time evaluating her own writing skills. She obtained her degree from one of the Best Top 10 Online Bachelor’s in Sociology Programs in the country.



Posted by on April 24, 2013 in Writing


Dystextia: A New Take On An Old Stroke Sign

“every where thinging days nighing”

“Some is where!”




This gibberish was texted by a 25-year-old, 11-week-pregnant woman to her husband. I know, you’re thinking it’s another case of autocorrect, that often annoying function on all these “not so smart” phones. But, that’s not the case.

She was taken to the Emergency Department where signs of a stroke–right-sided weakness, disorientation, and the inability to speak–were noted. An MRI confirmed the diagnosis. Fortunately, with anticoagulant treatment this young lady is doing fine.

Of the many signs of a stroke (Cerebrovascular Accident or CVA) and a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) difficulties with speech are the most variable and interesting. The medical term is aphasia. It can be receptive–the victim is unable to recognize spoken or written language–or expressive–the victim can’t say what he/she wants to say or it comes out as gibberish. Aphasia comes in many flavors and is a very odd symptom complex.

In this case, the aphasia was expressed as difficulty in “writing” a coherent text message. Dystextia seems like the correct moniker for this sign.


Guest Blogger: Pam Johnson: How to Evaluate Your Writing Skills

People are becoming increasingly more aware of how important it is to have superb writing skills. This rule does not apply only in the humanities or literary fields, but it also expands out into a diverse array of occupations. Therefore, you might be quite interested in the steps you can take to improve your own writing.


Old Typewriter


Read Out Loud

When you are reading your own paper and your eyes are scanning the words, it can be really difficult to find mistakes. You know what the paper is supposed to say, so you do not wind up noticing where you have made errors. However, reading the paper out loud is going to force you to slow down. You are going to start to see more of your own mistakes, and you are going to hear if sentences sound awkward. Furthermore, you will likely begin to see when you use the incorrect word.

Buy Grammar Books

A major part of writing is how the paragraphs are organized and if the sentences seem to flow together. However, if you have incorrect grammar, then you have incorrect writing. In order to ensure that your writing is really up to par, it is time to purchase some grammar books. When you have a question as you are writing, you can look up the answer in the book. As are you inputting the correct comma or semicolon, make sure you completely understand why you are doing it.

Visit Writing Centers

If you are a college student, your campus likely has a writing center. At writing centers, you have the ability to work with a professional tutor. This person is going to help you work on your mistakes and to work through issues with various problems involved with writing. For example, you might focus on the organization of the paper or you might talk about a specific grammatical issue with which you are struggling. Having another person go over the paper with you can be a majorly important tool.

Enroll in Courses

Another excellent way to really evaluate your writing and to see how you are doing is to sign up for a class. You might take a class at the college level. If so, look for some workshops. Doing workshops, you will usually read the papers of other students and they will read yours so that you all have the ability to critique one another’s work. Of course, you could also look for some writing clubs in your area too. Through these clubs, you will not have to worry about paying high fees for classes or working toward obtaining a certain grade. You can work with other writers to learn how to craft better pieces.

Evaluating your own writing skills can be a bit of a challenge, but having the tools to do so makes it much easier. One way to really complete this task is to ask other people to evaluate your writing and to look some samples over with people who are professionals in the field.

Author Pam Johnson is an author of sociology who spends a lot of time evaluating her own writing skills. She obtained her degree from one of the Best Top 10 Online Bachelor’s in Sociology Programs in the country.



Posted by on April 15, 2013 in Guest Blogger, Writing


ITW Announces Two New Events: FanFest and a Tweeting Contest

International Thriller Writers (ITW) has developed two new and exciting events for this year’s ThrillerFest: FanFest and a Tweeting Contest.

FanFest Logo



FanFest is a new program for ITW and ThrillerFest. A group of ITW author’s, including me, will host a cocktail party on Friday evening of ThrillerFest. Each author will invite special fans but the party is open to all attendees.

So if you are coming to ThrillerFest/CraftFest/AgentFest, don’t miss FanFest. It should be fun.



Win a $50 gift certificate for B&N! It’s so easy you can do it right from your computer or mobile device!

If you’re attending ThrillerFest, CraftFest, AgentFest or FanFest, just use the hashtag #Thriller13. Tweet about your prep for the event, the event, the workshops, your experiences, who you met, whatever you like! On Saturday July 13 at noon, we will search for the hashtag and count the number of tweets! The person with the most tweets, using the hashtag #Thriller13 wins the $50 gift certificate! Come on! You were going to tweet anyway, right?

If you are NOT attending, but want to participate and keep up-to-date on all the excitement during the event, just follow the hashtag #Thriller13 and re-tweet the ones you love the most! The person with the most re-tweets will also win a $50 gift certificate for B&N!

Don’t know how to search for the hashtag? Go to and sign into your account. Look at the top right, and you will see the “Search” bar. Type in #Thriller13, and you can find the posts and become part of the fun!

Kimberley Howe

Executive Director, ThrillerFest

International Thriller Writers



Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Writing


Guest Blogger: Marcela De Vivo: Promoting Your Crime Novel Through Blogs

Promoting Your Crime Novel Through Blogs

In today’s online world, blogging is all the rage. Blogging can reach a huge audience, is cheap and very easy to learn. People use blogs to promote all kinds of things, from health and fitness coaching, creative products like women’s fashion accessories, and even books. Your book.

Blogging is a powerful way to bring in new readers and keep previous fans interested in your upcoming books. In 2011,  it was estimated that there were over 150 million public blogs in existence. If you’re looking to start your own personal blog, consider a few of these tips below to get started.

Making Your Blog Successful:

  • Analyze Your Audience And Customer Base
  • Use Social Networking
  • Listen To Your Fans
  • Talk Back
  • Get Creative With Content

Using Blogs For Marketing 

If you decide to use your blog to market your crime novel, the first thing you should do is sit back and analyze your audience. Who will be reading your book? If your book is for young adults, gather ideas on what sort of articles and interactive activities draw them into online blogs.

A hugely popular way to draw not only young adults, but anybody that uses a computer to your blog is to use social networking. Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are great methods for catching the attention of your fans. Creative a Facebook page that links to your twitter and update it regularly with exclusive information.

Of course, it is always quite wise to listen to your fans. They might leave comments on your blog telling you that they absolutely love what you’re doing or that they dislike it. If they’re enjoying the content, keep doing what you’re doing. If not, change it up. You can even take some of their suggestions and tweak them to your liking as you see fit.

Interact with the blog readers by answering individual questions left in comments, sent in emails or otherwise. This is another style of building website morale. Talking back could ease tension on the blog and reassure readers that there is someone on the other side that cares about their thoughts and feelings. Nobody enjoys the feeling of talking to a bot.

Already have a blog, but are just looking to spice it up? Consider finding a service such a Blog Wranglers who will take the blog you already have and move it to WordPress –a more hip and interactive blog base.

The widgets and plugins are great tools to help your writing become slightly more interactive via your blog, as opposed to just talking about the book itself.

Generating Blog Content 

  • Guest blogging 

Guest blogging is when a blogger is invited to another website to share their words about a specific topic needed for the particular blog. If you are trying to promote your crime novel, find other fiction writers looking for all kinds of articles to build up content for their own blog and keep their fans interested.

But why is this helpful to you? The great thing about guest posting is that you are usually allowed to include a link to your own blog. This means that there is endless potential to drive traffic to your website by inciting the help of other bloggers.

  • Utilize Online Resources 

Browse the internet for different tips on how to market your fiction book online. The web is full of resources from people just like you, looking to start blogs or some that have had them for years now. Take advantage of that.

Don’t be afraid to shoot a message to a person that owns a fiction blog much like one you are trying to start. You’d be surprised at how many people are willing to help you get started. Plus, you’ll never know unless you ask.

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer and online marketing professional in the Los Angeles area. She’s planning to write a book on online marketing and SEO, and has already begun posting content ideas to her company blog at


Posted by on April 8, 2013 in Guest Blogger, Writing


Carbon Monoxide: A Deadly Gas

From HOWDUNNIT: FORENSICSWhen more than one person is found dead in a house or a car and there is no evidence of trauma, carbon monoxide toxicity is considered. The odds of two or more people dying from natural causes at the same time and the same place are extremely remote.

Such is the case of “Buckwild” star Shane Gandee who was found dead, along with two other men, in a vehicle partially submerged in mud. The supposition is that mud clogged the vehicle’s tail pipe and this allowed carbon monoxide (CO) to accumulate inside the passenger compartment, resulting is death from asphyxia.

When I first read the circumstances surrounding this tragedy, my first thought was CO. With no signs of trauma, little else made sense. Apparently the authorities have agreed that this was the cause of death.


Howdunnit 200X267




Deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning are usually suicidal or accidental. It is an uncommon method for homicide, but it has been reported. Carbon monoxide is stealthy, treacherous, deadly, and common. A family is found dead and the cause is a faulty heater or fireplace. A suicide victim is found in his garage with the car engine running. Campers are found dead in a tent, a kerosene lantern burning in one corner. Each of these is due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odorless, colorless gas that is completely undetectable by humans. It results from the incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels—paper, wood, gasoline, and many other combustible products. Complete combustion of one of these fuels yields carbon dioxide (CO2). If there is a deficiency of oxygen or if the fi re is smoldering and doesn’t produce enough heat to drive the reaction to completion, incomplete combustion occurs and the result is the production of carbon monoxide.

Wood, coal, and gas are common carbon-containing fuels. Faulty stoves,heaters, and fireplaces, as well as the exhaust from a car engine, can fill the air with carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a more common cause of death in fires than is the fire itself. Charcoal briquettes are particularly dangerous as they are designed to smolder rather than burst into flame and are also good sources for carbon monoxide. Using a charcoal grill in an enclosed space such as a garage or tent can lead to carbon monoxide buildup very quickly. Faulty butane and propane camp stoves and heaters can also be deadly.

Carbon monoxide’s treachery lies in its great affinity for hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying molecule within our red blood cells (RBCs). When inhaled, CO binds to hemoglobin producing carboxyhemoglobin. It does so three hundred times more readily than does oxygen, and thus it displaces oxygen. The result is that the blood that leaves the lungs and heads toward the body is rich in carbon monoxide (carboxyhemoglobin) and poor in oxygen (oxyhemaglobin).

This strong affinity of hemoglobin for carbon monoxide means that very high blood levels can occur by breathing air that contains only small amounts of carbon monoxide. For example, breathing air that contains a carbon monoxide level as low as 0.2 percent may lead to blood carbon monoxide saturations greater than 60 percent after only thirty to forty-five minutes. So, a faulty heater or smoldering fi re that produces only a small amount of carbon monoxide becomes increasingly deadly with each passing minute.

This powerful attraction for hemoglobin explains how certain individuals succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning in open areas. Most people believe that carbon monoxide is only toxic if it is in an enclosed area, but this is not true. There have been cases of individuals dying while working on their cars in an open area, such as a driveway. Typically the victim is found lying near the car’s exhaust. Similarly, the newly recognized problem of carbon monoxide poisoning in swimmers and water skiers who loiter near a dive platform on the back of a powerboat with an idling engine.

The degree of exposure to carbon monoxide is typically measured by determining the percent of the hemoglobin that is carboxyhemoglobin. The signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide toxicity correlate with these levels. The normal level is 1 to 3 percent, but may be as high as 7 to 10 percent in smokers. At levels of 10 to 20 percent, headache and a poor ability to concentrate on complex tasks occur. Between 30 and 40 percent, headaches become severe and throbbing, and nausea, vomiting, faintness, and lethargy appear. Pulse and breathing rates increase noticeably. Between 40 and 60 percent the victim becomes confused, disoriented, and weak, and displays extremely poor coordination. Above 60 percent, coma and death are likely. These are general ranges since the actual effect of rising carbon monoxide levels varies from person to person. In the elderly and those with heart or lung disease, levels as low as 20 percent may be lethal. Victims of car exhaust suicide or those who die from fire in an enclosed room may reach 90 percent.

A running car engine in an enclosed garage is a common method for suicide, but it could also be used for homicide. If the killer subdues the victim by force or by way of intoxication, he could place the victim in his car and let the carbon monoxide actually do him in. When determining the manner of death, the ME looks for evidence of trauma to the victim as well as performs a toxicology screen. Finding trauma, such as evidence of a blow to the head, might change the manner of death from suicide to homicide, but finding drugs may not. Some people use multiple suicide methods to assure success and a drug overdose combined with carbon monoxide inhalation is not rare.

When more than one person is found dead in a house or a car and there is no evidence of trauma, carbon monoxide toxicity is considered. The odds of two or more people dying from natural causes at the same time and the same place are extremely remote.

Carboxyhemoglobin is bright red in color and imparts this hue to the blood. When the ME performs an autopsy and sees bright cherry-red blood, he suspects carbon monoxide poisoning as the cause of death. This finding is not absolutely conclusive since cyanide inhalation or ingestion can also result in bright cherry-red blood and tissues. Also, individuals dying from cold exposure or corpses exposed to very low temperatures may show bright red blood.


Livor mortis in these situations may also be red or pink rather than the usual blue-gray color (see Chapter Five: Time of Death, “Livor Mortis”).

Lividity, CO

At autopsy, the internal organs in victims of carbon monoxide intoxication are also bright red. Interestingly, this color does not fade with embalming or when samples taken by the ME are fixed in formaldehyde as part of the preparation of microscopic slides. At times the presence of carbon monoxide can be found in the blood as long as six months after death.

Individuals who survive carbon monoxide intoxication may have serious long-term health problems. The brain is particularly vulnerable since it is extremely sensitive to lack of oxygen. Symptoms and signs of brain injury can begin immediately or be delayed for several days or weeks. The most common aftereffects include chronic headaches, memory loss, blindness, confusion, disorientation, poor coordination, and hallucinations. The ME may be asked to evaluate a living victim in this situation if the exposure was due to a criminal act or if a civil lawsuit is involved.


2013 Thriller Awards Nominees

2013 Thriller Awards Nominees



ITW is proud to announce the finalists for the 2013 Thriller Awards!



Sean Chercover – THE TRINITY GAME (Thomas & Mercer)

Brian Freeman – SPILLED BLOOD (SilverOak)

Lisa Gardner – CATCH ME (Dutton Books)

Gregg Hurwitz – THE SURVIVOR (St. Martin’s Press)

William Landay – DEFENDING JACOB (Delacorte Press)



Daniel Friedman – DON’T EVER GET OLD (Minotaur Books)

Owen Laukkanen – THE PROFESSIONALS (Putnam Adult)

Chris Pavone – THE EXPATS (Crown)

Matthew Quirk – THE 500 (Reagan Arthur Books)

Michael Sears – BLACK FRIDAYS (Putnam Adult)



Blake Crouch – PINES (Thomas & Mercer)

Sean Doolittle – LAKE COUNTRY (Bantam)

Alison Gaylin – AND SHE WAS (Harper)

Alex Marwood – THE WICKED GIRLS (Penguin Books)

Michael W. Sherer – NIGHT BLIND (Thomas & Mercer)



David Edgerley Gates – “The Devil to Pay” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine)

Clark Howard – “The Street Ends at the Cemetery” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)

Dennis Lehane – “The Consumers” (Mulholland Books)

Gordon McEachern – “The History Lesson” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)

John Rector – “Lost Things” (Thomas & Mercer)



Michelle Gagnon – DON’T TURN AROUND (HarperCollins)

Andrew Klavan – IF WE SURVIVE (Thomas Nelson)

Dan Krokos – FALSE MEMORY (Hyperion Books CH)

Niall Leonard – CRUSHER (Delacorte Books for Young Readers)

William Richter – DARK EYES (Razorbill)



Jon Land – PANDORA’S TEMPLE (Open Road E-riginal)

CJ Lyons – BLIND FAITH (CJ Lyons)

Alexandra Sokoloff – HUNTRESS MOON (Alexandra Sokoloff)

Allen Wyler – DEAD END DEAL (Astor + Blue Editions)

Allen Wyler – DEAD WRONG (Astor + Blue Editions)


Congratulations to all the finalists!

The 2013 Thriller Award Winners will be announced at ThrillerFest VIII, July 13, 2013, at the Grand Hyatt (New York City).

Very special thanks to:

Joshua Corin, Awards Committee Chair

Allan Leverone, Awards Coordinator

Jeff Ayers, Awards Coordinator

And all the 2013 Thriller Awards Judges


Carla Buckley

ITW Board of Directors, Vice President, Awards


1 Comment

Posted by on April 1, 2013 in Writing

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