Joanna Penn is not only an amazing author, but she is also extremely passionate about helping others in their quest to write and publish. She is the single reason I am an author with a published book on amazon and not just stacking manuscripts on my desk. She is smart and witty, and fun and energetic. She loves what she’s doing and it shows. She is a bundle of motivation and has somehow talked me into expanding my brand to include my American Ninja Warrior training.


And I consider her a friend. Meeting her at ThrillerFest last year was luck. We sat in David Morrell’s 10 hour Master CraftFest session and came out alive (I also learned a great deal from David’s class). She’s ever helpful and full of ideas.

Visit her website at The Creative Penn. If you’re a writer looking to better your writing, your marketing or some other detail that’s not easily googled, then scan through her site and you’ll probably find the answers you’re looking for. She podcasts, she interviews other authors, she writes books that help you write better and don’t forget…she writes great books too.

Hands down, one of my favorite authors. And apparently, I’m not the only one. New York Times and #1 International Bestseller, Steve has sold over 19 million books in 51 countries in 40 languages.


Like other authors, I really enjoy when he puts something in his books that I learn from. His historical facts, blended with fiction make it a frictionless learning tool. He not only takes his history seriously, he also takes historic preservation just as seriously.

You can read more about that here: History Matters

I think I enjoy his writing because it’s not just another ‘make a hero, put him in peril and then get him out of danger’ kind of books. It’s more than entertainment. He takes you on journeys through ancient lands, climbing over legends and facts, twisted to make the story even more interesting.

But aside from great writing and an even greater sense of doing good for the world, Steve is a great writing teacher. If you’ve never heard him speak on writing, check here and check it out. Search for his name in the right-hand column and purchase one of his classes. They’re only $10. If you’re a writer in need of a little ‘push’, a little help with something to make you better, go get it. Now.

As many of you read of my exploits in New York City, meeting some great authors in the Thriller genre, I’m sure you wish you could listen to these authors yourself. But they happened in the past.

What if you could go back in time? What if I told you it IS possible?

You want to hear Steve Berry himself, tell you how he stays in the point of view of the main character. How he keeps you in their skin as his masterful story unfolds. Or you want to hear Gayle Lynds secrets of creating a bestselling novel. Or Brenda Novak’s secrets to emotion and how to keep it tight in your book.

Oh, the list goes on.

So here’s how you do it.

Go to this site: ThrillerFest

Here you can order CD’s or MP3’s of most all of those tracks. I just order several tracks I did not get to attend but wanted to.

And yet…there’s more.

From here you can look at previous ThrillerFest conferences dating back to 2008. Perhaps your favorite author was in there somewhere. Wouldn’t you love to hear his words describe something important to him when he’s writing that latest Bestseller? And better yet, they’re typically $10 a session. You don’t have to pay airfare. You don’t have to pay NYC hotel rates. You just need to click, buy and listen.

What a great service provided by International Thriller Writers (ITW).

Thank you ITW.

It’s time you know this author. Most of my friends know he co-wrote six Bestselling thrillers with Master James Patterson, but did you know he’s done an amazing amount of work on his own for the last 10 years! Eight Bestselling novels and his latest (making it nine) just came out last April.


His latest adventure is One Mile Under. This brings Ty Hauck back into action.

Buy his book (click here). You won’t be disappointed.

Andrew’s class at ThrillerFest was about outlining. He’s a big advocate and had many great reason why and how to do it.

And how does that help you? Did you travel to New York earlier this month? I did, but I can’t regurgitate everything I learned. So we have a better option. Let’s get the recordings of the sessions.

Try one and see if you like it. Then try another. I bet you will. I’m actually buying some of the classes I attended because I found holes in my notes.

Check this out:
ThrillerFest recorded

More than just a bestselling author, James Scott Bell is an excellent writing teacher. He’s penned the infamous (if you’re a writer) bestselling book Plot and Structure.


I had the opportunity to catch James at the 10th annual ThrillerFest this year. His class was amazing. I took so many notes this year because the authors were just pouring out nuggets of writing gold. Reviewing my notebook showed I took three pages of notes for James’ 50 minute class.

James’ writing help is all over the internet. Just Google his name and you’ll find him on a myriad of writing/coaching sites. He’s also an electric speaker. A former trial lawyer, he’s in command of the room and does an unbelievable job of keeping everyone focused on the writing tips he’s teaching.


He talked about the three death types that work in thrillers:
Psychological – someone can be defeated mentally
Professional – someone’s career can be shattered
Physical – someone can be maimed or killed

As your hero and villain battle, they’ll typically be fighting over one of these. But not necessarily all three.

He talked about the “middle”. aka the “muddle”. This could/should be the “mirror moment”. The spot in the book where your hero figuratively (and sometimes literally) looks in the mirror and realizes they’ve changed and there’s no going back. It’s the big transformational moment. How will they, or will they change? And if not, what will happen to them?

James made some humorous references from movies where he moved the DVR right to the very middle of the movie and in some cases they actually had the hero look in the mirror for that moment! But the takeaway is that it’s a very common and useful device if done properly.

To add spice to the mix, make sure your main character has a moral flaw. Don’t make them always perfect. Perfect is not real and we can’t relate to someone unbelievable.

I can’t relay all that I’ve learned from James. A great deal of it was just making mental connections in my own writing head. But search for his name on the Internet. You’ll find he’s an amazing resource for writing help. (oh, and pick up one of his books. he’s an excellent writer – BTW)

Well, she’s certainly more than just an author. She is herself, an accomplished forensic anthropologist. She is an author. She is the producer of the hit show ‘Bones’. She was also a professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

She’s written two academic books and 19 novels. Where does she find the time?
As I’ve learned over the years, you don’t find time to write. You make time to write.


ThrillerFest is a great venue to listen to and on occasion meet these spectacular authors. I had the opportunity to listen to her speak on several panels and found her very cordial, funny, and with an under current of extreme intelligence.

It was certainly a pleasure getting to meet her. My wife and I have enjoyed the show ‘Bones’ for many years now. And as I had the chance to tell her, I like coming away from entertainment where I feel I learned something. Her shows and books, although very dramatic and character/conflict driven, still teach us little known facts about forensic anthropology. And I like that. I don’t just want to be entertained. I need to come away with something other than ‘wow – glad the main character survived – again’.

All in all, I’d have to say that after hearing what she has to say and meeting her, I’m probably an even bigger fan. The show ‘Bones’ has not re-signed for next season. Yet. And they neatly wrapped up most every story line in the ongoing saga. But her books will continue to come out and we can enjoy what she has to say for a long time.

Check her out:
Kathy Reichs

Catherine Coulter is a legend. But I hate saying that word because it makes someone sound old. And she’s not. She’s as sharp as a tack, gracious as ever and has beautiful green eyes. When this woman turns and looks at you, you know it. She doesn’t address you as a fan. She addresses you as if you’re the most important person in the world. Maybe that’s the southern charm in her. I don’t know.


I’m personally not a romance or historical romance reader. But since she’s begun writing suspense thrillers, I’ve become a fan. I read Bomb Shell and was instantly hooked. Now she’s has a co-writer, J.T. Ellison (who’s great in her own right), and they’re putting out excellent thrillers.

I jokingly tease my wife that Catherine is my New York City girlfriend. Somehow I get the pleasure to run into her at ThrillerFest every year. And not just in a classroom or panel session. It’s been in an elevator, in the audience, in a crowded hallway…just saying 🙂

Check out her work:
Catherine Coulter

Her 8, no 9 secrets to creating a bestselling thriller.


OK. I’ll get to her secrets in a minute. But first, a quick note about her.

She’s a New York Times Bestselling author. She co-wrote the Covert-One series with Robert Ludlum. She’s hailed as one of the best spy/espionage writers of today by her peers. And she happens to be a very nice person.

Listening to Gayle speak, you quickly realize what a strong passion she has for writing. She’s was very eager to teach and convey her knowledge – the main staples in writing that she’s learned over the years. Gayle was one of the Master CraftFest writing instructors where they basically lock you in a room with 10 students and a Master writer. I did not get to sit with her, but my friends that attended her session came out glowing with enthusiasm.

On to her secrets!

  1. Characters – These are usual people caught up in something bigger than themselves. It will take extraordinary effort to defeat the conflicts in front of them.
    – Jeopardy – Hero (you must thrust the hero into jeopardy)
    – Menace – Villain (your villain must convey believable menace)
    Your hero must have at least one weakness
    and your villain must have at least one good trait

    This keeps them from being cardboard characters

  2. Dramatic Question – You can test this by putting what the hero and villain wants in one sentence separated by the word ‘or’. (sorry, I didn’t write down any of the great examples she provided)
    But here’s my weak attempt: Will Scott Murphy save his family ‘or’ will the villain (name here) defeat Scott and take over the world?
    Practice this on your own story. You’d be surprised how this helps you define, at least in your own mind, the dramatic question your story should take.
  3. High Stakes – Needs to be larger than one person or the hero (but it’s personal).
  4. High Concept – The focusing concept must be larger than life
  5. Multiple View Point – Better for thrillers. It’s easier to involve the reader in your characters POV, including the villain. You really get to know/hate/empathize with him.
  6. Exotic Settings – These don’t have to be foreign exotic, but something new that we’re not typically aware of. It could be the sewer system of New York City. It could be the control tower of a major airport – something where you can drop intimate knowledge about a place most people never see.
  7. Mood & Tone – How do you want your novel to come across? Dark? Mysterious? Never-ending action? This must be matched by mood and tone.
  8. Suspense – The old promise and delay. But you have to be careful with this. Don’t over do it. Don’t stretch it out too long. But dangle just enough to keep someone in jeopardy, even if it’s internal to them, so that your reader wants to get them out.
  9. Big Novel – A finality needs to be big and/or satisfying. It should end the same ways it starts. If it starts with violence, it should end with a big, violent scene. Don’t go out on a wimper.

Yeah, so my notes could be better. Typically ThrillerFest will sell the audio copies of these great classes. I did not purchase them when I was there, but will certainly do so once they’re available on line. And I will most certainly share the link.

I bought and now have a signed copy of her latest work The Assassins. Can’t wait to get into it.

One more goodie.

This is really fun. Gayle has a page on her website that tests your knowledge of spy terms. It’s a list of 10 questions using nomenclature that you may or may not know. But try it. You’ll probably learn something new.
Test your Spy-Q.

ThrillerFest is the annual conference of the International Thriller Writers. A community with over 3,000 members in 28 countries and nearly 3 billion books in print!


This was my third year attending the conference and I couldn’t be any happier. For the second year in a row I attended the Master CraftFest class which is an 8 hour, intensive course examining your work with an ultra successful author in a class of only 10. And let me tell you, you learn a great deal from this one day event.

But that’s not all.

That was just Tuesday of last week. The next day and a half you have hours of tracks and classes by a variety of instructors. And let me tell you, there not just any authors giving instruction. They’re Best Selling authors giving you the goods on what they’ve learned over time.

Steve Berry, Peter James, Gayle Lynds, David Morrell, Andrew Gross, James Scott Bell….geez. The list goes on and on. To see a list of all authors, go to their website: ThrillerFest.

And that’s not all.

The second half of Thursday gets you the opportunity to pitch to many, many agents looking for authors. Even if an agent is not interested, most of the time you will learn something new about your book, your story and how to tell it/sell it to others. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned just trying to pitch my work to an agent.

But….there’s more.

Then ThrillerFest starts. It’s two days of panels and interviews, coupling some of the greatest Thriller authors we have on this planet.


It is like drinking from a fire hydrant of knowledge. Half the time I’m scratching down notes from the instructor/author and the other half I’m scratching notes to address all the new ideas they’ve helped me spawn in a session.

If I could only go to one conference, ever, I would chose ThrillerFest.

BTW, I volunteered this year to help the organization. If you attended ThrillerFest 2015 – and another BTW, it was their 10th year, I probably handed you your swag bag full of books, water bottles and a hat.

Come empty handed because you’ll be buying books galore to have your favorite authors sign them.

If you’re into Thrillers, this is the BEST place to go.

I’ll be posting more on the individual authors and experiences I had this year. Too much to cover in one short post.

See ya soon,


Gene therapy is back. Most of us remember the excitement when it first came out. It was a revolutionary. Simply replace a defective gene with a healthy one so that it doesn’t continue to replicate defective cells.

But there was a problem. At least at first. The vehicle to carry the new genes into the body was a virus known as the adenovirus. But this had potential side effects wherein the virus itself could cause sickness. In fact, in the early trials it caused the death of a 16 year old. This was tragic. Everyone shied away from gene therapy. It wasn’t going to work.

But when new researchers decided to use a less risky virus, actually the adeno-associated virus which is harmless yet still attaches to the adenovirus infections, results turned around. Clinical trials are finding positive results. And without side effects.

I’ve been catching different articles about this on the web recently and had to go back and look. It has tremendous potential. I may be using this material in my next book…

Check out these articles:

Gene therapy for deafness moves closer to reality

Gene Therapy’s Big Comeback