Category Archives: Writing

Crime and Science Radio: Investigating the Criminal Mind with Author Alan Jacobson

Join Jan Burke and me as we welcome author Alan Jacobson to Crime and Science Radio Saturday 5-23-15 at 10 a.m. PDT

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BIO: Alan Jacobson is the national bestselling author of ten thrillers, including the FBI profiler Karen Vail series and the OPSIG Team Black novels. His books have been translated internationally, they’ve been named to numerous best books of the year lists, and several have been optioned by Hollywood.

Jacobson has spent twenty years working with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, the DEA, the US Marshals Service, SWAT, the NYPD, Scotland Yard, local law enforcement, and the US military. This research and the breadth of his contacts help bring depth and realism to his characters and stories.

For video interviews and a free personal safety eBook co-authored by Alan Jacobson and FBI Profiler Mark Safarik, please visit

Connect with Jacobson on Twitter (@JacobsonAlan) and on Facebook (



Alan’s Website:

FBI Website:

FBI Investigation & Operations Support:

FBI Behavioral Analysis Jobs:

A Look Inside the BAU:

NSA Website:

CIA Website:

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Book Review: Jack of Spades by Joyce Carol Oates


Jack of Spades by Joyce Carol Oates

Publisher: Grove/Atlantic

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN-10: 0802123945

ISBN-13: 978-0802123947

201 pages

Jack of Spades is a quirky and wonderfully written psychological thriller by one of America’s greatest storytellers. Andrew Rush is a best selling author and enjoys all the trappings that go along with his achievements. But he also writes very dark and disturbing fiction under the pseudonym “Jack of Spades.” But is Andy really Andrew or is he Jack? The lines are blurred and when he is sued for plagiarism by a local woman, who herself is an odd character, the pressure mounts and Andrew begins behaving oddly himself. His external struggles with family and friends pale in comparison to his percolating internal struggles. This story will grab you quickly and not let go.

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Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Book Review, Writing


Don’t Miss Master CraftFest

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Master CraftFest is ITW’s one-day writing intensive where a small group of students gather with a single instructor to workshop each student’s manuscript. The goal of this hands-on approach is to improve your writing and storytelling. It’s a long but rewarding day.

Join us and kick up your writing to the next level.

This year our instructors are: Steve Berry, Gayle Lynds, Steven James, Grant Blackwood, Lorenzo Carcaterra, David Corbett, and DP Lyle.

Master CraftFest will be held on Tuesday, July 7, 2015 from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. with CraftFest proper beginning Wednesday July 8.

There are only a few seats remaining so sign up now.

And of course join us for the entire week as ITW presents ThrillerFest, CraftFest, CareerFest (a new program), PitchFest, and the Thriller Awards Banquet. It’s a great week of learning, networking, and having fun.

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Posted by on May 2, 2015 in Writing


Crime and Science Radio: Digging Up The Facts with Award-winning Investigative Reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan

Join Jan Burke and I Saturday, 10-25-15 on Crime and Science Radio for Digging Up The Facts with Award-winning Investigative Reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan

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BIO: HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 32 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens of other honors for her groundbreaking journalism. A bestselling author of seven mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fiction: three Agathas, the Anthony, Daphne, Macavity, and for THE OTHER WOMAN, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.” Her 2013 novel, THE WRONG GIRL, has the extraordinary honor of winning the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel and the Daphne Award for Mainstream Mystery/Suspense, and is a seven-week Boston Globe bestseller. Her newest hardcover, TRUTH BE TOLD, is now nominated for an Agatha Award – a landmark back-to-back-to-back nomination! It is also now an RT Book Reviews nominee for Best Suspense/Thriller of 2014. It’s also a Library Journal BEST BOOK OF 2014, Library Journal Editor’s Pick and RT Book Reviews Top Pick, with starred reviews from Booklist and from Library Journal, which raves, “Drop everything and binge read!” She is also nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction as editor of the anthology of essays by mystery authors, WRITES OF PASSAGE. Ryan’s next novel, WHAT YOU SEE, will debut in Fall 2015.  She’s a founding teacher at Mystery Writers of America University and 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime.



Hank’s Website:

Hank’s Facebook Page:

Hank’s Twitter Page:

Hank on GoodReads:

Trailer for the first Jane Ryland book: The Other Woman:

Hank discusses Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America:

Columbia Journalism Review:


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Emmy® News & Documentary Awards:

Radio Television Digital News Foundation:

Edward R. Murrow’s 1958 ‘ Wires & Lights in a Box’ Speech:

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Posted by on April 24, 2015 in Interviews, Writing


Look Who’s Teaching at CraftFest This Year

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This year CraftFest will be special. We have some very talented instructors who will help you write your own best-seller. Join us. It will be fun and will kick your writing up a notch or two.

Don’t miss ThrillerFest, CraftFest, PitchFest, and Master CraftFest this year.

Sign up today:


Wednesday, July 8 | 8:30 am – 9:20 am


Description: Exploring the delicate balance of research when writing fiction, how research can inspire, enrich and also imperil. A lesson on how to weave research into the fabric of your novel.


Description: The top 10 things crime writers get wrong — and how to fix them. A practical, how-to guide on crafting a story infused with authentic details


Description: How to begin putting your novel of suspense together; how to proceed; how to end. This presentation will be a how-to, step-by-step- guide to molding your thriller.

Steve Berry – THE SIX C’S OF STORY STRUCTURE: It’s Not Everything – It’s Absolutely Everything

Description: None listed

Wednesday, July 8 | 9:30 am – 10:20 am

James Scott Bell – WRITE YOUR NOVEL FROM THE MIDDLE: A Powerful New Approach For Plotters, Pantsers, And Everyone In Between

Description: Based on the #1 bestselling writing book by James Scott Bell, this workshop will teach you a unique method for crafting a powerful, unified novel by way of the “mirror moment” — a crucial beat that happens right in the middle of great and enduring stories. Using examples from books and movies, Bell will show you how to discover the true heart of your book, and how that knowledge brings everything into focus. Best of all, this method can be used at any time during the writing process, whether you like to outline or just wing it as you go.

Michael Rose – INTERPOL 101

Description: In this class, Michael E. Rose, author of the Frank Delaney thriller series and former Chief of Communications for Interpol, will take you inside this well known but poorly-understood police organization. Rose will bust some of the myths and misconceptions about Interpol, and help you get things factually right if you refer to Interpol in your writing.


Description: Are you one of those authors who believe novels are about character, and character is why readers buy novels? Perennial best-selling author Dale Brown tells why plot-driven novels have a place in our world, how to put them together, and how to avoid pitfalls that can turn your characters into cardboard cut-outs.


Description: None listed

Wednesday, July 8 | 10:30 am – 11:20 am

Carla Buckley & Jenny Milchman – CROSS-GENRE: What To Do When Your Thriller Is Also A…

Description: More and more books today exist outside of a single genre, or blend elements of multiple categories. Come learn from internationally bestselling author Carla Buckley and Mary Higgins Clark award-winning author Jenny Milchman talk about what to do if you find yourself with a hybrid on your hands and how–even though such books can be harder to publish and market–they often become the breakout books on the bestseller lists.

Dr. Mike Tabor – TAKING A BITE OUT OF CRIME: How Dental Identification Helps Solve Forensic Mysteries

Description: How did forensics contribute in solving the identification mysteries at the World Trade Center? Or how exactly was Ted Bundy convicted? Or what does Lee Harvey Oswald’s death and MLK assassin James Earl Ray have in common? Find out these and other ideas for your next thriller!

David Corbett – THE CHARACTER OF CRIME: Creating Web In Crime, Mystery/Detective And Thriller Fiction

Description: Award-winning crime novelist David Corbett will guide students in exploring the key roles that make crime fiction work, with specific focus on the specific demands of the three major sub-genres of crime fiction—mystery/detective, crime, and thriller— and an emphasis on maintaining dramatic tension, creating moral complexity, and avoiding cliché.


Description: ITW co-founder and Thriller Master David Morrell describes the various narrative viewpoints. Analyzing their pros and cons, David shows that without a properly chosen viewpoint, a story can’t come to life.

Wednesday, July 8 | 1:00 pm – 1:50 pm


Description: What is the real foundation of thriller writing? Join Gayle Lynds and learn how to understand what you’re doing in your thriller, how to make it work for you, and how to weave together each aspect of writing – characters, plot, voice, story, etc.


Description: Ever think that your thriller would make a great movie? Well, take this course with script doctor and screenwriter Rich Krevolin (author of how to adapt anything into a screenplay) and learn how to transform your thriller into a script you can sell to Hollywood.


Description: Does your character suffer from a heart attack, asthma, or diabetes? Does he or she receive a gunshot or stab wound, maybe an auto accident or broken leg? How are these diagnosed and treated? What are the complications and possible outcomes? Go to “Med School” with DP Lyle and learn how medicine really works from the street to the ER to ICU and OR.


Description: Most thriller manuscripts are not genuinely terrifying. Learn how to use the universal secret ingredient that makes any type of thriller truly scary. Hint: It’s not what you think.

Wednesday, July 8 | 2:00 pm – 2:50 pm

Brenda Novak – EMOTION: The Heart Of The Novel

Description: When it comes to a good book, a reader might not recall the details of a certain plot or the physical characteristics of the various characters, but he will remember how the story made him feel. Citing several examples from a variety of works, Brenda talks about how to create an emotional connection with the reader and amplify its effectiveness. She also takes a look at the “icebergs” that can easily creep in and sink a story’s emotional impact.

Scott Silverii & Liliana Hart – REAL LIFE CASTLE: Writers And Cops Working Together

Description: Join New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author, Liliana Hart, and Chief of Police, Scott Silverii, Ph.D., as they discuss the importance of getting the facts straight in fiction, and how to cultivate a good working relationship between the writer and law enforcement.


Description: The setting for your novel is more than just the stage on which your story takes place. Done right, it affects everything from your characters’ world view to the actions they can and cannot take.


Description: With reference to moral and emotional dilemmas, it is usually hard to torture your hero, but it works well both for tension and for exploring beliefs, character etc, They don’t say, horns of a dilemma, for no reason.

Wednesday, July 8 | 3:00 pm – 3:50 pm


Description: Peter James will talk on the art of establishing and maintaining suspense all the way through a mystery novel.

John Gilstrap & Chris Grall – DESTRUCTION AND CHAOS: Bullets, Bombs And Rockets Demystified, Part and Part II

Description: Join two experts and learn how the weapons and explosives really work


Description: Whether you’re writing a scene of subtle seduction, or ratcheting up suspense with an accusatory rant, your characters want to speak. In this workshop, you’ll learn ways to loosen their tongues and create distinctive voices while moving your plot forward. We’ll explore how sensory detail can enable your protagonist to “read minds” without straining credulity. You’ll discover techniques for turning mundane conversation into punchy dialogue. We’ll discuss the importance of point of view, word choice, and sentence structure. And you’ll see how questions, interruptions, and subtext can pick up the pace and breathe life into a scene. Dialogue samples will be provided, but bring your own short sections to work on as well. If you want to rid your manuscript of extraneous chitchat and dull exposition, this workshop is for you.


Description: Why you need to stop trying so hard. Stop writing and start thinking. “Passive processing” is the key to writing novels that the reader falls into like Alice through the looking glass. Writing is the mechanical part of this business. If you were born to write, then it’s in the brain and heart where the real work is done. Learn to get out of your own way, and why every writing “problem” contains its own solution. Finally, embrace the fact that every successful writer is writing about himself—or herself—regardless of genre or even the narrator’s gender.

Wednesday, July 8 | 4:00 pm – 4:50 pm

Andrew Gross – OUTLINING OR NOT? How Much To Plan Out Before You Even Start Page One

Description: None listed


Description: The start of your novel is one the most important things if you want to write bestselling book. Robert Rotenberg’s seminar will be a hands-on tutorial, filled with examples, explanations and a close examination of your own opening words to make the first step in your manuscript the best it can be.

Jon Land – GETTING FINISHED: How To Go From A Great Idea To A Finished Book In Three Steps

Description: Negotiating the Beginning, Middle and End and how to move from one to the other.

Thursday, July 9 | 8:00 am – 8:50 am

Mark Billingham – THE RULES OF CRIME FICTION: What Are They And How Best To Ignore Them

Description: The “rules” of writing crime fiction have changed over the years. This session will cover why these rules are important to know, even if you choose to ignore them, and how, in the end, there are no bloody rules at all.


Description: The class would help the attendee sharpen her or his medical scene writing skills whether that scene is part of a classic medical thriller or any other work of suspense. Some of the topics would include: seamless ways of imparting medical information through dialogue, not tiresome narration; injecting authenticity, excitement and tension into life and death and other gripping medical situations; creating unique but plausible murder/suicide scenarios; Familiarizing the attendee with resources available to acquire accurate, interesting, and, even, offbeat medical facts, and, finally, how to select your medical consultants.


Description: Here’s the traditional advice: “Be careful that you don’t write yourself into a corner.” Well, first I’d like to debunk that axiom and show the advantages of writing yourself into a corner in the first place, in fact why it’s important that you do so: It will (1) allow for twists that readers never see coming, (2) stretch you as a writer, (3) increase reader engagement, (4) add mystery and suspense as readers try to figure out how all the plot threads are going to play out, and (5) help you avoid cookie-cutter stories. However, the meat of the presentation will be examining five practical steps for writing yourself out of the corners you might find yourself in: (1) Narrow your focus and then widen your viewfinder, (2) Let context reveal its secrets to you, (3) Find the twist that’s waiting in what you’ve already written, (4) Reseed your story to remove coincidences, (5) Look at the back of the fabric rather than the front.

Lorenzo Carcaterra – TO KILL OR NOT TO KILL: When To Do Away With A Character And The Reasons Why?

Description: None listed.

Thursday, July 9 | 9:00 am – 9:50 am

Dedi Felman – STORY DEVELOPMENT: From Book To Television

Description: Ever wondered why some books are quickly snapped up and made into successful television show while others are quickly passed over? Mystified by what kinds of stories and concepts studio execs and showrunners look for? Wish you could adapt your own novel for television as successfully as George R. R. Martin? If you’ve always dreamed of having your book adapted for TV and having a good experience with the process, it helps to understand the fundamentals of the craft of television writing.

This workshop is for anyone who wants to learn the secrets of substance, structure, character, style, and principles of story construction used by top writers and executives from cable to network television.

Geoff Symon – SCENE OF THE CRIME: Perpetrating & Investigating Your Fictional Felonies

Description: When you need your book to have a clue. This course gives you the basic tools to investigate your own fictional scenes. Geoff Symon shares his 20-years experience as a Forensic Investigator in a class perfect for authors of every popular genre. We’ll hit the forensic basics, talk about evidence and determine what’s important to your story vs. what’s important to an investigator. We’ll wrap by going over one of Geoff’s actual scenes!


Description: Once you understand that the villain is the hero of his own journey, you can create complex and believable bad guys worthy of your hero.

Charlaine Harris – REMEMBER ME

Description: Charlaine Harris will talk about secondary characters who stick with the reader, and how to construct them. Sure, your protagonist is the most important character, but don’t ignore the people who surround her/him.

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Posted by on April 18, 2015 in Writing


Do Not Miss CraftFest This Year

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What do Steve Berry, Gayle Lynds, David Morrell, Peter James, Anne Perry, Tom Robb Smith, Charlaine Harris, Dale Brown, Greg Iles, Lorenzo Carcaterra, Andrew Gross, Daniel Palmer, James Scott Bell, Donald Maass, Bruce DeSilva, John Gilstrap, Chris Grail, Scott Silverii, Liliana Hart, David Corbett, Mark Billingham, Brenda Novak, Alison Leotta, Dr. Mike Tabor, Jon Land, Carla Buckley, Jenny Milchman, Richard Krevolin, Steven James, Dedi Felman, Allison Brennan, Bobby Rotenberg, Michael Rose, Carla Norton, Gark Birken, Geoff Symon, and DP Lyle have in common? We are all teaching at CraftFest this year. Join us.

Your ThrillerFest team is hard at work creating your 10th anniversary conference programming, and the CraftFest Schedule is posted now at As you’ll see, we have a phenomenal lineup this year, so if you haven’t done so already, please sign up today at


And don’t forget to take advantage of these wonderful opportunities at ThrillerFest:

The Best First Sentence Contest

Enter The Best First Sentence Contest for a chance to win a critique of 10 pages of your work from one of the Master CraftFest teachers.

Imagine having Steve Berry, Grant Blackwood, Lorenzo Carcaterra, David Corbett, Steven James, D.P. Lyle, MD, or Gayle Lynds reading your work! All you need to do is craft your very best first sentence and email it to To qualify to enter, you need to be attending ThrillerFest or you need to be an ITW member. You can only enter once. Winners will be announced at the CraftFest Luncheon on July 8, 2015.

The Meryl Moss Media Training

Enter The Meryl Moss Media Training Contest. More than speaking in sound bites – Learn How to “Kill It” every time you are interviewed on Television.

If you are an ITW author who is attending ThrilllerFest, enter the lottery to potentially win one of four spots to benefit from some media training at ThrillerFest. Send an email telling us why you need help to From Meryl: You only get three minutes in a television interview. How are you going to make the most of the short time you have and “Kill It” every time? If you are invited to do a television interview, whether it is national, local or even on Skype—you can never be too prepared and it’s more than speaking in sound bites. Being interviewed on television is a skill that can be learned, and this session is designed to help everyone understand how to be the best you can be. Tips on what to avoid and what to always remember will be covered.

Looking forward to seeing you in July!

Warmest regards,

Kimberley Howe
Executive Director, ThrillerFest

DP Lyle, MD

ITW VP for Education, CraftFest Director

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Posted by on March 25, 2015 in Writing


Guest Blogger: Anne Trager of Le French Book Interviews Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne

Anne Trager of Le French Book translates novels from French to English. Her latest offering is an excellent book titled SHADOW RITUAL.

What’s it about?

Ritual murders. Ancient enemies. A powerful secret.

An electrifying thriller about the rise of extremism. Two slayings—one in Rome and one in Jerusalem—rekindle an ancient rivalry between modern-day secret societies for knowledge lost at the fall of the Third Reich. Detective Antoine Marcas unwillingly teams up with the strong-willed Jade Zewinski to chase Neo-Nazi assassins across Europe.

They must unravel an arcane Freemason mystery, sparked by information from newly revealed KGB files. Inspired from the true story of mysterious Freemason files thought to hold a terrible secret, stolen by the SS in 1940, recovered by the Red Army in 1945 and returned half a century later.

Here is her interview with authors Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne.

Q&A with Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne

Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne are the best-selling French authors of the Antoine Marcas mysteries, a ten-book series that has sold 2 million copies worldwide and is translated into 17 languages. These high-action thrillers combine meticulous historical research with unusual plots and a compellingly complex hero. The series is making its debut in the US with Shadow Ritual (, an electrifying thriller about the rise of extremism. Giacometti is a former investigative journalist. Ravenne is a literary critic, a specialist on the life of the Marquis de Sade, and a Freemason.

Tell us something about your writing partnership.

We take about nine months to write a novel: one month for the outline, two months of research, and the six remaining months for writing. When we come up with the outline, we see each other nearly every day. We set up the plot, balancing narration and characters, weaving in suspense, planning the cliffhangers. When we go into the research phase, the work is very solitary, because we have already defined who does what. Then comes the longer, harder work of writing. The novels in the series after Shadow Ritual are built around two plot lines—one is set in modern day times with our protagonist, Inspector Antoine Marcas, while the other is historical. We each are responsible for one of the plot lines, but then we each rewrite what the other wrote. This requires a delicate touch, as writers are always very sensitive about their writing. Fortunately, we have known each other since we were teenagers, and we resolved our ego problems some time ago.

Your hero Antoine Marcas is in many ways a unique character. How did you develop his character? Does he contain any elements of your personalities?

As a Freemason he believes in Freemason values, but he has a realistic understanding of the brotherhood and its faults. This isn’t the Mason of popular imagination whose initiation gave him instant access to arcane knowledge. He’s a divorced cop who has problems with his ex-wife and who evolves in a realistic universe. But it’s a universe where occasionally a more esoteric reality appears. Marcas was born from our disagreements. Eric had a negative image of freemasonry marked by its scandals, while Jacques was fed up with reading reductionist articles about the brotherhood. Over the years—we have written ten novels in the Antoine Marcas series in French—Eric has become “Mason-friendly,” but he maintains a critical distance from its influences. Antoine Marcas is an ideal, principled Freemason. In Shadow Ritual he teams up with Jade, a secret service agent who detests the Brothers.

You also have some interesting evil-doers. Where did you come up with the idea of the Gardener?

We wanted a character that would embody an implacable killer, a professional sadist who looked like a nice guy to play with contrasts. The Gardener seems easygoing enough, but has a terrible habit of cutting off the toes of his victims with garden sheers. He collects the blood to feed his flowers. The idea for this killer came to me when I was shopping at a local nursery. One of the salespeople looked like a grandfather and was demonstrating a brand new pair of pocket pruners. He handled the tool with dexterity. As he twirled it in the air, producing a steady click-clacking, he joked about how the blades were so sharp they could cut off a finger just like that. Right then, I thought the fellow would make an excellent killer.

What inspired the story?

Shadow Ritual was inspired by a little-known episode that occurred when the Nazis occupied France between 1940 and 1944. In an operation that was prepared in advance in great detail and began the day the Germans entered Paris, specialized commandos pillaged the French Freemason headquarters, stealing most of their archives. The Nazis requisitioned two centuries of French masonic memory—from 1740 to 1940—and sent all the documents to Germany. Those archives, which Eric and I have explored, hold documents signed by the likes of Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin. And for many, they must hold some Great Secret. A hidden secret our novel Shadow Ritual set out to find.

Giacometti and Ravenne share their research and inside knowledge with exclusive content. Learn 5 Freemason Facts and a lot more you never knew about secret societies and the world around us. Go here:

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Posted by on March 21, 2015 in Guest Blogger, Writing


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