Posts Tagged ‘Steve Berry’

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.

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,


What a cold case. 430,000 years ago. In Spain. We weren’t even modern humans at this point.

But a fascinating find by paleontologists in Spain’s “pit of bones” makes for a great story idea. I haven’t read a good cold case murder mystery that happened so deep in the past, but I’m sure they’re out there. Finding old journals, examining bones of ancient people, piecing together the evidence to a murder that somehow rocks modern thought or territorial rights sounds like fun.

Check this out: World’s oldest murder case

I like modern thrillers that tie to ancient history. Steve Berry is super effective twisting great historical facts into stories set in modern times. I’m a huge fan. But I don’t have the research or background to write this type of story. I’m more a modern science and technology writer.

But feel free to post the title of a good book that illuminates some historical fact as part of a modern thriller.

After we go through a round of edits, I schedule some time on the phone with my editor so we can actually talk. I really enjoy talking things through. Ideas flow faster and freer than 20 emails or 100 IM’s.


So when we finished The Carrington Event, we had a little time to chat about the book industry in general. I talked about the marketing and promotions I was working on, as well as all the social media footprint exercises you must go through whether you’re a traditionally published author or Indie.

I was proud of all the ideas and devices I gathered to help sell my book.

And then she gave me one last edit.

It was an edit of my actions.

The last thing she said to me was…”Marketing is great. But don’t get so caught up in everything that you forget the main thing. You’re an author. Start writing your next book…”

Geez. I expected to hear that from the publisher. But she’s right. I need to get the momentum for writing back. You know what actually hurts after you write a good book and people buy it, read it and like it? They look for your next one. And what if it’s just a bare spot on the bookshelf? They go through the void of having to wait.

Then I reflected on my own purchasing habits. When I first picked up a Steve Berry or David Baldacci novel, I was floored. Loved it. Went back to the bookstore and bought everything they published. And now that I’ve read them all, I wait patiently for their next one. Biding my time until I hear about pre-orders and release dates. If I wasn’t so busy writing myself, I’d probably be in agony. Although I certainly would love to hook readers the way those giants do, the last thing I want is to make people wait. Especially now that my book is a series…

So if you’re a writer, get out there and start writing. Don’t give your audience a single slice of pizza. Make the whole pie available. They’ll like you more for it.

The first part of this blog really got me thinking.
It is so very important to hold our standards high and continue to put out work as good if not better than those before us.
I don’t want to ride on coat tails. I don’t want to jump on the band wagon and try to make a quick buck. My name is worth more than that.
Let’s aspire to something greater than that which lays before us. Will I ever put out a book as good as David Baldacci or Steve Berry? Or Lee Child? Maybe. Maybe not. But if I don’t shoot for it I’ll never know. I want to write great. I want the writing to be so transparent that you never notice I’m there.
I want there to be a deeper message. I love thrillers. I love stories. But there are always deeper questions in life that we must answer and I would love to expose the one’s that keep me up at night.
I want to write about my greatest fears, anxieties, fantasies and dreams. Only then will I have exorcised the writing demons that live within.
Here’s a funny but true story about something that happened to me in my younger days.
I was a lead and rhythm guitarist for a band. Great times. Great friends. My friends and I practiced at one of the few storage warehouses that allowed bands to crank it up at night. We played at a million clubs and bars, displaying our skills and songs we so carefully crafted. We never cared about the other local bands. They weren’t our competition. You know who was? It was Rush. Van Halen. Queensryche and Led Zeppelin. I didn’t want to be like the guy down the street. I wanted to be like the people I listened to on my records, cassette or radio.
So my band mates and I were taking a break from rehearsing and we just sat down to have a beer when one of the other bands down a few bays – we called the storage facility “metal mall” – started playing. No biggie. Just another loud band. But then the guitar player clears the way and starts going off. My jaw dropped. This wasn’t usual. This wasn’t from the local domain. This was real talent. All of us were shocked. How could someone this good sneak into our backyard?
We got up and raced down the way not knowing what to expect. I was nervous thinking that suddenly I would be dropped to the bottom of the pile of local guitar heroes.
We were confused. It was a band we knew. Sort of friends of ours. But they were sitting too. Taking a break. Then we realized they were pulsing out music through a CD player. It was a band called Pantera. I had heard of them, but not heard them directly. “Dimebag” Darrell was a massive guitar player. He was still filling our ears with technique and touch that I didn’t expect from a real heavy metal band.
I was relieved. He wasn’t local. But here was another reminder of how high I must climb. From then on I put more effort into playing and practicing.
A few years back I was in my old stomping grounds and ran across a few acquaintances from the times. They remembered me for being such a solid, emotional guitar player. That made me feel good. After all these years, they remembered what heart and soul I put into my instrument.
Now I want to do the same in writing. Maybe I won’t have the same commercial success as the authors I look up to, but if in ten or more years, someone approaches me and says they enjoyed my book, my writing and that it meant something to them, then it will be all worth it.

I found the link to Steve Berry’s famous lecture about story structure. In the photo below, he’s covering the POV for an earlier lecture titled Who’s Telling the Story. But the link I’m providing is to the Six C’s of Story Structure. This is where I heard the great line _ “Where do you start your story? As close to the end as possible.”
In this lecture, he also talks about the ‘crucible’. The point in your story where the main character has been put in a scene or through the paces and comes out different. Changed. In a position where he can only move forward. It’s the kind of moment where Luke Skywalker goes back to his aunt and uncle’s house only to find them all dead. There’s nothing for him to do but move forward. To take on the evil empire.
But this is certainly a great class and CD to get and listen to. Steve is entertaining, charismatic and even funny as, in his own words, “a recovering lawyer”.

Check him out:
Steve Berry – The Six C’s of Story Structure
CraftFest 2014


Steve Berry

Posted: October 2, 2014 in Writing
Tags: , ,

Some of the best takeaways from ThrillerFest earlier this year are sticking with me. In this class (photo below), the iconic Steve Berry does a classic lecture titled “Who’s telling the story?”. This is a great rundown of the major POV’s a story might have and how you can do your best in each. I am a big third person fan. Steve does a great job of teaching what you can do to keep yourself as tight in the skin of your character’s POV as possible. One of the biggest phrases he used was what he called ‘psychic distance’. This was the distance you have between yourself and the character you’re writing/reading. When you typically call them by name, you create a little more distance than using he/she. (This is even a little more distant than first person using ‘I’). You want to be in the eyes of the POV character who’s telling the story. That way we feel every bump, bruise and rush he/she feels. When you’re in the eyes of your character, you wouldn’t typically call them by name, it has a way of creating distance.

He talked about the times when you have several characters in a scene, and sometimes you just have to use a name. You have to keep the story straight. But as soon as possible, he reverts back to the he/she usage to get in as tight to the POV as possible.

I think about this a lot when I’m writing a scene with two women or two men (or more). But if you want to hear it from the masters mouth, ThrillerFest records and sells the CraftFest lectures. I’ve bought several of them and listen to them when I need a refresher. It’s a great way to keep it close to the vest.

I’ve included the links below to get you to the class I mentioned specifically, as well as the overall CraftFest library.

Check it out:
Who’s Telling The Story – Steve Berry
CraftFest CD Library


ThrillerFest lectures

Posted: September 29, 2014 in Writing
Tags: , ,

ThrillerFest registration is now open. What exactly is it? It’s about all things within the thriller genre. Most importantly is what it is not. It is not just a chance to meet your favorite author and get their autograph – and occasional selfie if they oblige. But you still get to do that. It is not just a chance to listen to a panel of famous authors talk about their books. But you still get to do that.
So what is it?
It’s about the chance to learn and grow and network.
You learn by listening to individual lectures from these authors. Steve Berry teaches a couple of classes where great nuggets of knowledge still ring in my head. He was talking about ‘the six C’s of story structure’. And his words still echo. “Where do you start your story? As close to the end as possible…”. Just brilliant.
It’s the ability to sit in a class where a handful of real FBI agents talk about some interesting cases they’ve been through. It’s getting the chance to sit down and pitch to many real NY agents for hours, until you’re actually tired of talking.
I’ve grown from the lectures I sat in. There were times I learned so much after sitting in class that I had to run up to my room and start typing.
I’ve networked with groups of other aspiring authors, as well as famous authors themselves. I was able to meet the unstoppable Joanna Penn. A legend in the field of online marketing, book writing and everything about controlling your own destiny as a writer.
This is THE conference to attend if you’re into all things ‘thriller’.
Check it out: ThrillerFest