Category Archives: Allison Brennan


By Allison Brennan

Stephen has been nagging me – nicely nagging me – to write a farewell blog for Murderati. And the reason why I was so late getting it to him is the reason why, I think, this blog is closing shop.


Time is finite. We have twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We can’t create more time. It’s always there, always moving forward, never slowing down or speeding up. We may think we have more time or less time depending on what’s happening in our lives, but the truth is, the steady movement of time is one of the few constants of the universe.

Writer’s write. It’s what we do. So blogs seem to be a natural extension of what we love. And to be honest, I really enjoy blogging. I love interacting with readers, and a blog format allows the back-and-forth in a conversational way. I’m an extrovert, and sometimes when I write all day, every day, I need that outlet to communicate with real people, not fictional ones!

But the truth is, when blogging becomes a chore, something we have to do rather than something we want to do, we feel an intense pressure that prevents us from being our best. And we want to be our best selves, especially in public!

This month has been unusually busy for the Brennan house – a house that always has something going on. How can it not, I have five kids? But my youngest is playing baseball, my youngest daughter is playing softball and a weekend soccer league, my older son is in track and just left on a week-long spiritual retreat with his school, my 17 year old is studying for AP tests and staring in the school OZ musical as the Wicked Witch.

Kelly and my husband have been building AND painting the 10-foot high OZ face – and it turned out amazing! (Kelly also had art selected to be in the California State Fair—I’m so proud of her!)

And then my oldest, in college, is coming home May 3 and we’ve been making arrangement for storage of her belongings, her driving home and with whom, and finalizing her classes for the fall.

Plus, I have a book due May 1 and I’m behind.

My life is my kids and writing. I love going to their events – the games, the plays, the art shows. And I love writing – I live my dream job, warts and all. I recently signed a new contract with Minotaur and am launching a new series in April of 2014 – my first hardcover series about an investigative crime reporter Maxine Revere. In addition to continuing my Lucy Kincaid series. And, my #2 daughter is graduating from high school in 13 months and then going off to college, likely on the East Coast. Which means my time with her now is even more important, because I’m not going to get any more.

What those of us who regularly visit Murderati really want is for the authors who blog here to write more books. If not for the stories, we would never have known each other. The stories bond us, and they always will. If closing down this blog gives writers more writing time, then we all benefit.

So let’s chat – what did you love best about Murderati? What’s keeping your life busy? Read any good books lately? Anything you want to talk about, I’m game – ask me anything!

Allison Brennan is a New York Times bestselling author of 20 books and multiple short stories. The next book in her Lucy Kincaid series, STOLEN, received a top pick by RT Book Reviews and will be out in stores June 4. You can visit her at or

The Wildcard Tuesday New Year Interrogation

Zoë Sharp

The first moon of 2013

Welcome to the first Wildcard Tuesday blog of 2013, and an enormously Happy New Year to you all. For this I asked a few lighthearted questions of fellow ‘Rati past and present, and below are their answers. I hope you find them worthy of a giggle.

(As a small aside, I started off searching for sensible author pix, but what I’ve actually ended up going for are the silliest pix that came up on the first page of a Google Images search on that author’s name.)


Where did you choose to celebrate the holiday season this year?

Home, as usual.

What would have been your ideal location?

Home! (Though, I would have liked to have gone to Disneyland right after Christmas … maybe next year!)

What was the best—or worst—gift you’ve ever received?

My husband once gave me an electric grout cleaner. Needless to say, I never used it.

The best—or worst—meal or item of food you’ve been served—or served to others?

The absolute best Christmas dinner we’ve had was when I decided to cook prime rib instead of the standard turkey or ham. It was pricey, but oh-so-delicious! I think that was back in 1997 …

What’s your idea of the Christmas From Hell?

Traveling for Christmas.

Looking back, what was your favourite moment from 2012?

Watching my oldest daughter graduate from high school—and hearing her and the Seraphim Choir sing the National Anthem. They were amazing.

I’m not going to ask about New Year’s resolutions, but do you have one ambition, large or small, you’d like to achieve in 2013?

Walk daily, meet my deadlines, don’t sweat the small stuff.

And finally, what book(s) have you brought out this year?

Two Lucy Kincaid books from Minotaur/SMP—SILENCED and STALKED; a short story in the anthology LOVE IS MURDER; an indie published novella MURDER IN THE RIVER CITY.

And what’s on the cards for the early part of 2013?

A Lucy Kincaid novella in March (RECKLESS), and two more book STOLEN and COLD SNAP. Plus a short story for the NINC anthology and maybe another indie novella. If I have time.



Where did you choose to celebrate the holiday season this year?

Home alone, if “choose” and “celebrate” are the correct verbs. Mette arrives on the 28th, so things should get merrier at that point.

What would have been your ideal location?

Buenos Aires. Ireland. A beach in Mexico.

What was the best—or worst—gift you’ve ever received?

Best gift I ever “received” was one I gave. As a gag gift I bought my late wife a red flannel union suit with a button seat flap that she absolutely loved. Slept in it all the time. Cozy as hell. Damn, she was happy.

The best—or worst—meal or item of food you’ve been served—or served to others?

When I was a kid one of my classmates’ families came over during the holidays and brought cookies that literally made me gag. I picked one up, sniffed it like a cocker spaniel, recoiled, and put it back. My brother started bellowing, “You touched it, you have to eat it.” Unfortunately, King Solomon (my father) agreed. I almost upchucked trying to get it down.

What’s your idea of the Christmas From Hell?

Oh, let’s not go there.

Looking back, what was your favourite moment from 2012?

A weekend in San Antonio for the wedding of one of Mette’s dearest friends, when I got introduced to the inner circle. Also, the moments when I read the cover quotes I received for THE ART OF CHARACTER. I was incredibly humbled and grateful so many writers I respect said so many kind and generous things.

One ambition, large or small, you’d like to achieve in 2013?

Make the new book a success, and wrap up the novel I’m working on to my own persnickety satisfaction.

And finally, what book(s) have you brought out this year?

Open Road Media and Mysterious Press re-issued all four of my novels in ebook format in 2012, with a brand new short story collection titled KILLING YOURSELF TO SURVIVE.

And what’s on the cards for the early part of 2013?

The new book, THE ART OF CHARACTER, comes out on January 29th, 2013 from Penguin.




New Orleans.

Ideal location?

It’s hard to top New Orleans.

Best/worst gift?

Well, there’s this pretty spectacular amethyst necklace…

Best/worst food?

I’ve served many a bad meal to others. For everyone’s sake I stopped trying to cook long ago. Personally I don’t care much what food gets served, but I do remember one Christmas morning in London with blackberry jam on waffles and whisky for breakfast. The blackberry jam ended up all sorts of places and it was all very lovely.  I could do that again.

Christmas From Hell?

It’s hard to narrow that down, actually. Endless scenarios spring to mind. I hate being cold, though, so winter is perilous.

Favourite moment from 2012?

For public consumption, you mean? The general reader response to HUNTRESS MOON has been a real high.

One ambition in 2013?

I’d like to find a really wonderful place to live.

Books this year?

My crime thriller HUNTRESS MOON, a boxed set of three of my supernatural thrillers called HAUNTED, a novella called D-GIRL ON DOOMSDAY in an interconnected anthology with three other dark fantasy female author friends: APOCALYPSE: YEAR ZERO. And I got several backlist titles back and put them out as e books at wonderfully affordable prices: THE UNSEEN, BOOK OF SHADOWS, THE HARROWING and THE PRICE.

And for 2013?

The next book in my Huntress series comes out in late January:  BLOOD MOON. My next book in the paranormal Keepers series, KEEPER OF THE SHADOWS, comes out in May.

I’m selling my house in January and buying another as soon as possible, probably in California.




Every year we have Christmas Day at our home (in Melbourne) and then go down to the Mornington Peninsula (seaside) for most of January. It’s the hottest time of year here in Oz, so it’s great to be near the beach. We stay in a 1970s holiday house my grandparents bought in 1972, and given I spent summers down there as a kid it’s particularly special to now be going down there with my children.

Ideal location?

The Peninsula is pretty good πŸ™‚ Although we’ve always said that one year we’ll do a white/winter Christmas in New York or something.

Best/worst gift ever received?

Best gift I ever received was actually for my birthday this year—my Kindle. I’m a complete convert to the point where I can’t imagine ever reading a ‘real’ book again. I prefer the Kindle reading experience for some reason.

Best meal?

I am biased, but I make a mean Tira Misu. I got the recipe from a chef and it’s divine! And great because you make it a day or two before, so it’s one thing to cross off the food preparation list early.

Christmas From Hell?

Mmm….I guess having to run around. You know, multiple visits. We do that a bit on Christmas Eve, but I enjoy the fact that then on Christmas Day we just kick back. We start with oysters at midday, then it’s prawns (yes, on the BBQ), then an Asian style salmon fillet dish then Tira Misu (at about 4pm). Then a movie!

Favourite moment from 2012?

That’s easy for me—picking up our son, Liam, from Korea and making our family of three a family of four πŸ™‚

One ambition, large or small, for 2013?

I’ve got a few books I’d like to finish. And hey, a best seller or a lotto win wouldn’t go astray either.

Book(s) this year?

THE MISSING (two short stories), WHEN JUSTICE FAILS (two short true-crime pieces), HELL’S FURY (new book in spy thriller series), and two novels for younger readers that I’ve released under the pen name Pippa Dee—GROUNDED SPIRITS and THE WANDERER.

What’s next?

Probably what I’ve been doing the past few months—juggling motherhood and writing…and feeling like I’m going to crack under the pressure! 




Nashville and Florida.

Ideal location?

A family trip to Italy would have been fun.

Best gift you’ve ever received?

I got engaged during Christmas 1994, so that ranks up there….

Worst meal?

Italy, Cinque Terre, a large full fish the size of a cat, with its baleful eye staring up at me… I swear the thing was still breathing. Ugh! 

Christmas From Hell?

There’s no such thing. I love Christmas.

Favourite moment from 2012?

Seeing my DH in his gorgeous new kilt for the first time. *fans self*

One ambition, large or small, for 2013?

I want to learn how to paint. In oil, large canvas abstracts. 

Book(s) last year?


And for 2013?

Writing, writing and more writing. Deadline January 30!


 MARTYN WAITES (half of Tania Carver)


At my in-laws. The kids wanted to go to see all their cousins. They love a big family get together. As for me, I’m pretty bah humbug about it. I don’t care where I go or what I do or whether I get any presents or not. As long as I get to see Doctor Who, I’m happy.

Ideal location?

Somewhere abroad. Morocco would be good. If they were showing Doctor Who.

Best/worst gift ever received?

I’ve been lucky enough to get plenty of presents. I can’t think of specifics in terms of best or worst, but for me the worst kind of gift is the thoughtless kind that someone has put no effort, time or care into. The best ones are the ones you absolutely want. Even if you don’t know you do until you get them. I was lucky enough to get one of those this Christmas.

Best/worst meal?

At Christmas? It’s all the same. I’m not a fan of Christmas dinner. Or any roast dinner for that matter. I eat it, but that’s because it’s what you do at Christmas. Like getting into water and swimming. The best meal I was ever served was at a Persian restaurant in Birmingham in 1988. It involved chicken and pomegranates and I’ve never tasted anything like it to this day. The restaurant disappeared soon afterwards in a kind of Brigadoon fashion and I sometimes wonder whether I actually went there. As for bad food . . . loads. In fact, it probably outnumbers the good food. That’s why I try to remember the good ones.

Christmas From Hell?

Being forced to spend time with people I hate. That goes for the rest of the year as well. And not seeing Doctor Who.

Favourite moment from 2012?

Well, I wrote about my favourite cultural things on the last Murderati post—Y Niwl and the Hammer films retrospective—so they would be there in a big way. But other than that, it was something very small and personal that I’m afraid I couldn’t share and that I doubt anyone would be particularly interested in.

One ambition, large or small, for 2013?

I do. I can’t say anything about it in case I jinx it, but it will be the culmination of a lifetime’s ambition. Or at least I hope it will.

Book(s) this year?

CHOKED, the fourth Tania Carver book came out in September in the UK. THE CREEPER, the second one, came out in the States. There have been other editions round the world and I think Russia finally got round to publishing my 2006 novel, THE MERCY SEAT.

And 2013?

Finishing the new Tania, THE DOLL’S HOUSE, which I’m uncharacteristically quite pleased with. Although it could all go horribly wrong. And then there’s the afore(not)mentioned secret project . . .




At the family’s new home in Glassell Park, which we moved into in October.

Ideal location?

At the family’s new home in Aspen, Colorado, which doesn’t exist.

Best/worst gift ever received?

The best was a dictionary.  It was given to me many years ago by a wonderful woman who at the time was my mother-in-law to be.  She knew I was an aspiring writer and gifted me accordingly, which, oddly enough, no one in my immediate family had ever thought to attempt before.  I still own that dictionary, too.

Don’t get me started on the worst gifts I’ve ever received.

Best/worst food?

The best, far and away, is the egg nog my godfather makes over the holidays. It tastes great and man, does it have a kick to it.

Never been given a fruitcake as a gift, and I pray I never am.

Christmas From Hell?

I think I actually experienced it last year.  Attended the worst Catholic midnight Mass possible: cornball music, pointless sermon, and theatre lighting (the service was being video-taped) that would make a mole cover its eyes.  Awful.

Favourite moment from 2012?

The family’s spring break vacation in the Galapagos.  Unbelievable!

One ambition for 2013?

Completion of a manuscript that a conventional publisher buys for a tidy sum.

Book(s) last year?

Didn’t have a book published this year, though my Aaron Gunner novels were re-released as e-books by Mysterious Press/Open Road.

And for the early part of 2013?

Early?  Maybe my first book for middle-graders, which my agent is shopping now.  Later in the year?  With the grace of God, a publication deal for my first Aaron Gunner novel in almost 10 years.




Stayed at home with the wife and kids—enjoyed the beach and the beautiful Southern California weather.  Played Scrabble and hung out in cafés.  Enjoyed a big meal of matzoh ball soup and tofurky.

Ideal location?

Ireland.  Clifton or Dingle, to be precise.

Best/worst gift ever received?

I haven’t paid attention to holiday gifts for a long time.  I think the worst gift I ever got was for my bar mitzvah—it was a belt buckle.  No, actually, perhaps the worst was the beer stein my father gave me for my high school graduation.  This, instead of the car I had my eyes on.

Best/worst item of food?

Probably that tofurky we had last week.

Christmas From Hell?

Again, tofurky takes the price.

Favourite moment from 2012?

Seeing my son come back healthy and happy after a two-month hospital stay in Wisconsin.

One ambition, large or small, for 2013?

Main ambition—work to live a creative life, 24/7.

Book(s) this year?

Move along, nothing to see here.

What’s on the cards for the early part of 2013?

Move along, nothing to see here either…




The first half I spent in a hot, tropical location with my feet in the water, a beer nearby, and a Kindle in my hand; the second half at home in L.A. with my kids, my parents, and my sister and her kids.

Ideal location?

Nailed it this year.

Best gift ever received?

This year I got the complete set of Calvin & Hobbs from my parents. It was perfect!

Best food?

I made a pretty awesome ham this year that was juicy and delicious. Hmmm, I’m craving leftovers right now!

Christmas From Hell?

Not being able to spend time with my family.

Favourite moment from 2012?

It was a pretty good year all around, so one event…? Going to San Diego for a week with my kids and parents was pretty damn fun!

One ambition for 2013?

Just more of the same … write, travel, and spend time with friends and family.

Book(s) last year?

2012: THE DESTROYED (Quinn #5), PALE HORSE (Project Eden #3), THE COLLECTED (Quinn #6), and ASHES (Project #Eden #4)

And for 2013?

At least four more novels (hopefully five), including a secret collaboration I can’t quite talk about yet.




At home. With family.

Ideal location?

Exactly the same place.

Worst gift you’ve ever received?

An orange pantsuit.  I mean, really. My husband has not bought me anything orange ever since. (I’m guessing it didn’t look like this, then, Tess? ZS)

Best/worst meal?

For Christmas?  Not one bad meal sticks out.  On Christmas, everything tastes wonderful.

Christmas From Hell?

Being stuck in an airport. Far from family.

Favourite moment from 2012?

Standing on the Great Wall of China, with my husband and sons.

One ambition, for 2013?

To finally plant a vegetable garden that the deer can’t demolish.

Book(s) out last year?

LAST TO DIE was published this past summer.

And what’s on the cards for 2013?

Early 2013, I am headed to the Amazon River.




At home in peace. No requirements, no expectations. I just let myself be.

Ideal location?

The only other place I can imagine being this calm and relaxed would be Antibes . . .

Best gift?

Probably the best gift I’ve received so far is an essay my younger teen wrote about a difficult incident we shared last year and how it has taught her empathy. Made me cry, it touched my heart so.

Best/worst meal?

The best meal remains one brunch I had in Puerto Rico: fresh flying fish brought in that morning from a catch in Barbados, steamed bread fruit, Barbadian yellow hot sauce, fresh mangos picked minutes before from a tree just steps from where we ate.

Christmas From Hell?

I think it would be one filled with efforts to make it perfect, so many efforts that they’d hit the tipping point and tumble down to the other side of happiness.

Favourite moment from 2012?

The one where I finally realized I’m going to be all right, that the trials of this last year may continue . . . but they’re not going to pull me down into the depths of despair anymore.

One ambition, large or small, for 2013?


1. I’d like to e-publish the book that “almost” sold to NYC. It’s the first in a new series and I’d like my character to meet readers and vice versa.

2. To continue to explore my creativity in whatever ways it’s now manifesting, to give myself permission to let it fly.

Book(s) last year?

Nothing in 2012. I’ve been in hibernation for many reasons including the whole copyright issue and the divorce.

And for 2013?

To begin writing again and to enjoy it . . .



As for me, I also spent Christmas this year with my family, which was where I wanted to be.

My ideal would probably have been a ski-in/ski-out chalet somewhere with plenty of snow. Not necessarily for skiing, but definitely for sculpting. I never did get to finish that Sphinx …

As for my ambitions for 2013, to find a life/work balance and to continue to improve my craft.

And books? In 2012 I brought out two e-boxed sets of the first six Charlie Fox novels, plus several short stories, and of course, DIE EASY: Charlie Fox book ten.

In 2013, DIE EASY is hot off the press in the States. I’m also editing two new projects—a supernatural thriller called CARNIFEX, and a standalone crime thriller called THE BLOOD WHISPERER, as well as working on the first in a new trilogy, the first in what I hope will be a new series, a novella project I can’t say too much about yet, and—of course—Charlie Fox book eleven. That should keep me going for a bit πŸ™‚

So, it only remains for me to wish you all an incredibly Happy New Year, and to thank you for your comments and your feedback during 2012.

Hello, Goodbye

By Allison Brennan


I couldn’t leave Murderati without one last post, and Pari graciously gave me the first “Expect the Unexpected” Tuesday in the new configuration of this great blog.

I enjoy blogging, but as all of you know, and all the writers out there know, blogging takes time away from writing and family. I had to make a choice, and blogging weekly (twice a month here, twice a month at Murder She Writes) in addition to guest blogs here and there and all the other social media things on my author to-do list was kind of stressing me out. Everything was taking away from my writing time and my kids. Something had to give, and unfortunately, it was this blog.

But I’m sure I’ll pop up on occasion, if the gang will have me as a visitor. πŸ™‚

I’ve thought a lot about social media over the past year or two, and what is expected from authors. To be accessible, to share our thoughts, to answer questions.

Blogging is only part of it. (And, to be honest, when I founded Murder She Writes with four other authors six years ago, we did it partly because we thought it would be good promotion, and partly because we liked each other and enjoyed chatting with others through the blog about family, writing, entertainment.) But there’s also Twitter, and Facebook, and LinkedIn, and Google+, and a dozen other social media avenues that “they” say you have to be part of in order to survive in this New World of publishing.

There are many, many authors who aren’t part of the on-line community. And many, many authors who are. The only way it truly works is if the author builds a rapport, which means talking about things OTHER than their books. And that means, they should enjoy the community they’re in. Otherwise, it’s a chore, a hated chore, like cleaning grout. And people pick up on that.

Social media works primarily if the author can create a following of readers who will sincerely talk up their books and spread the word of mouth that is essential to the success of any book. In fact, if you ask most publicists and marketing folks, they’ll tell you that word of mouth is the single most effective tool to create a bestseller–but there’s no one way and no guaranteed way to generate it.

Let’s pretend there are ten equally “good” books out on a given day. A lot of things factor into making a potential bestseller — cover, co-op, reviews, author (if it’s a known author), endorsements, cover copy, placement — and some work for some readers, some for others. But the way to make a title move higher is for people to recommend the book (or the author) to others. To talk about the book on blogs. And Twitter. And Facebook. But no one knows how to create that world of mouth–on the Internet or face-to-face–each and every time. They try everything, but what works for one book or author might not work for another equally good book or author.

But we sometimes forget because we spend so much time at our computers writing (and participating on blogs and twitter and facebook) that more than half the readers are still not reading electronic books (22% of my books are sold as e-books) and many readers still rely on the recommendation from their colleague or sister or best friend.

What this practically means for authors is that we have more to do with less time and resources. We can’t neglect the online communities, nor can we forget that there are “offline” communities who read just as much.

So my advice to writers: participate in the communities that you enjoy, don’t self-market all the time, and focus on the writing first. Because none of the social media matters if you don’t have a book to sell.

My advice to readers: share your books with others. Recommend authors you like, either face-to-face or on the Internet. Email the author of a book you enjoyed and tell her.

And a caveat to all: give both, writers and readers, then benefit of the doubt when you hear rumors in cyberspace. Misunderstandings spread instantly in the virtual world, and can damage careers and reputations. People seem to think that they can say anything they want because it’s “anonymous,” but I’d argue that character is judged by what you do when no one is looking–or when no one knows who you are.

I can be found in cyberspace at my website, of course, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Murder She Writes.

FYI: The third Lucy Kincaid book, IF I SHOULD DIE, will be out two weeks from today, on November 22. So far, the reviews have been positive. Fresh Fiction said, “β€œNon-stop action, spine-tingling suspense … a wonderful addition to a great series.” And Joyfully Reviewed made DIE a Recommended Read for December. β€œIf I Should Die is a spine-tingling chiller that will wrap you up in its mystery and take you on a heart-pounding race to the breathtaking finale!”

In addition, the novella LOVE IS MURDER is printed in the book as bonus material. You get a full-length book plus a full novella for a single book, mass market price. Cool, eh?

And a sneak peak at the fourth Lucy Kincaid book, SILENCED, and the first with my new publisher, St. Martin’s/Minotaur. They’re taking the series in an exciting new direction, don’t you think? And that’s what I’m doing now — revising this book. I have two weeks. Any wonder why I needed to free up some time?

I’ve very much enjoyed my three-plus years here at Murderati. We had a great little community amongst ourselves, and within our regulars who comment or lurk. Pari and J.T. have really created a fantastic, enduring blog, and I’m glad it’s continuing to exist. Thank you, Murderati gang, for having me back for the day, even if it was just to say good-bye.

What do you value?

By Allison Brennan


I’m so sorry this blog is late. I had every intention of writing it last night, but best laid plans …


This weekend was homecoming at our high school. Normally, this isn’t something I actively participate in. To me, it’s about the kids, they have fun dressing up for school (pajama day, retro day, spirit day.) But we always go to the homecoming game. Last year, our football team was down 21-0 at the end of the third quarter and won 22-0 at the end. This year, we trounced the opposition 55-6. I know a lot of this kids–my oldest daughter has been at the school for 14 years, since pre-school. I’ve seen them grow up, now they’re all bigger than me, and I’ve seen them mature (well, most of them) and grow into adults. We don’t have a child on the team, but since my daughter’s boyfriend plays I feel like we do (he eats a lot of food at my house!) Our team is also special because we have one of the few female kickers in the country. There’s a long line of female football players, but they are still rare. I’m not surprised–football is a violent sport. But this is the third year we’ve had a female kicker. Our first graduated two years ago, and a freshman took her place. Both are star soccer players. It is fabulous to watch our players rally around her and, when necessary, defend her because not all the other teams think it’s cool to have a star female kicker (ranked 36 in PAT in California this year, 9th last year. She has big shoes to fill–our graduating female kicker was ranked #15.)


This isn’t our school, but I found this terrific article from Michigan about the homecoming Queen kicking the wining field goal.


This homecoming was particularly special as my daughter was voted Homecoming Queen. Dan and I were beaming πŸ™‚ It was surprise, because she’s never been interested in these type of accolades. She’s an athlete (volleyball) and loves choir. But after 14 years at the school and now senior class representative, everyone knows her. I never got involved in extra-curricular high school activities, and I can’t honestly say why. My 25 year reunion is next year and if it weren’t for Facebook, I’d never have reconnected with any of my classmates. I’m thrilled my own kids–all of them–will have these type of memories.


Last night, a large group of kids came over to my house for dinner before the homecoming dance. Parents came and went to take pictures. And Dan took this one candid shot of Katie that made me teary–it reminds me that she’s growing up. That she’s graduating in May, she’s going to college, that whatever I did right or wrong, the future is now in her hands.


I’ve often said to people that I have no life outside of my kids and writing. Depending on the context, I suppose that it can come off as complaining. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my family, and I love writing. Everything else can wait. 


The writer’s life is neither harder or easier than any other life. But most of us are living our dream, at least part of it. We might not be rich and living in a castle on a hill, but we are doing what we love. I truly love telling stories. I love it even when I hate parts of the process. I love creating and revising and polishing. 


I’ve told my kids that they can do or be anything they want, but that the most important thing is they find a career that is satisfying. That if they love what they do, they’ll be happy. If that’s a stay-at-home-mom (or dad), a doctor, a teacher, an athlete, an artist, a writer–they need to love it. Because every job has a downside. Every job has heartache. You have to love it–or, if it’s a means to an end, put up with the crappy stuff and not let it destroy your dream. 


I’ve had ups and downs in my career; I’ve left one publisher and moved to a next. I have a new editor for the first time–after 17 books. I have a new agent. I’m excited about the possibilities, but a little scared, too. Fear is normal. But even with the uncertainties in this New Publishing Order, even with the ups and downs in the industry, the changes that seem to hit us hard even after we think we understand everything, I still wouldn’t want to do anything else.


Sometimes, it’s hard to remain optimistic in the face of big changes, whether it’s college or career or family issues. Shit happens. Sometimes really bad stuff. Sometimes we want to crawl into a hole and hide, or quit everything and say to hell with it. But there is always hope. I believe it, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to get up in the morning and do all the things that need to be done, for me or my family. 


I remember a group book signing (the Levy Bus Tour) where a high school teacher was sending students to buy Chip St. Clair’s memoir (to read for extra credit.) Chip was great, and told the parents that there was a bunch of authors in all genre–thriller, historical fiction, romance, inspirational. One mom said, “Oh, I don’t have time to read.” 


I’ve thought about that exchange many times over the years. That mom was telling her two daughter that she didn’t value reading. That everything else in life was more important to her than books. 


I don’t want to set that example for my kids. Not just in books, but in life.


I think about the two female football kickers from our school, and what my 8 year old girl soccer player told me. “I want to be the kicker for the football team.” I told her to work hard, do her best always, and don’t give up. And I thank those girls for setting a great example, not only to other young soccer players, but to the boys on the team.


I value many things, and I hope my kids do as well, as they learn by example. I value stories. I value honesty. I value hard-work and sacrifice. I value dreams.


What do you value? What one lesson would you impart to high school seniors today?




Charitable Contributions

By Allison Brennan

Three weeks ago, I had a new release: ENTANGLED. It’s a digital-only paranormal/urban fantasy anthology. 

All proceeds from ENTANGLED will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.  What makes this amazing is that all eleven authors who contributed to the anthology all donated our time and talent to benefit a cause we believe in. No one tossed out a story thinking it didn’t matter because it was for charity; every author took the time to craft a tale to please their readers, as well as new readers. The stories, the cover art, the formatting, the accounting–all donated.

The women involved are truly amazing in their generosity and enthusiasm for this project. We all know women who have had this dreadful disease. We all know women who have survived. We all know women who haven’t. 

I especially want to single out Stacia Kane for her poignant forward. In part:

“What we can do, though, is hope. We can hope that one day our children or our grandchildren will be able to think of breast cancer the way we think of illnesses like typhoid fever, that once killed thousands but are now essentially eradicated and/or curable. There are doctors and scientists and really scarily smart people out there working hard to try to make that so, to re-write our world so “breast cancer” becomes maybe a little more serious than a cold, but with the same prognosis: Yeah, you might feel kind of tired for a couple of days, but you’re totally going to be fine after that.”

Here’s the summary of the anthology:

HALLOWEEN FROST by USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Estep (author of the Mythos Academy, Elemental Assassin, and Bigtime series) — It’s Halloween at Mythos Academy, but Gwen Frost and her friends are in for more tricks than treats when they run into a mythological monster intent on killing them.

THE FAT CAT by Edie Ramer (author of Cattitude, Galaxy Girls) — In a battle for the souls of seven women, a wizard has the god of war on his side; all the witch has is a fat, black cat.

MEDIUM RARE by Nancy Haddock (author of the Oldest City Vampire trilogy) —What’s spooking the spirits of St. Augustine? As the witching hour of Halloween approaches, ghost seer Colleen Cotton must team with a by-the-book paranormal investigator to locate the one ghost who can save the city’s specters. If she fails, her own great grandfather’s spirit may be lost forever.

SWEET DEMON by Misty Evans (author of the Witches Anonymous series) —When Chicago’s vampire king insists Kali Sweet join his empire, the vengeance demon must rely on her ex – the half-human, half-chaos demon who left her at the altar three hundred years ago – in order to escape the vamp’s clutches.

SIAN’S SOLUTION by Dale Mayer (author of the Psychic Visions series) — When a vampire discovers the human man she loves has been captured and hung in a blood farm, she goes against her own kind and risks everything to save him.

A BIT OF BITE by Cynthia Eden (author of NEVER CRY WOLF and ANGEL OF DARKNESS) — A killer is stalking the streets of Crossroads, Mississippi, and it’s up to Sheriff Ava Dushaine to stop him. But when suspicion falls on werewolf alpha Julian Kasey—Ava’s ex-lover and the man who still haunts her dreams—Ava knows that she’ll either have to prove his innocence…or watch the whole town go up in flames.

SINFULLY SWEET by Michelle Miles (author of the Coffee House series) — When Chloe bakes a little magic into her pastries, she attracts the attention of Edward, the sexy half-demon, half-witch, who’s come to warn her those who murdered her sister are now after her.

A NIGHT OF FOREVER by Lori Brighton (author of A Night of Secrets and To Seduce an Earl) — Who is Aidan Callaghan? Mary Ellen James is intent on uncovering the truth about the mysterious man, but as she soon finds out, some things are best left buried in the past.

FEEL THE MAGIC by Liz Kreger (author of the Part of Tomorrow series) — Jenna Carmichael’s magical attempt to rectify Jessica Manfield’s birth identity takes an unexpected turn when the past comes back to haunt her.

BREAKING OUT by Michelle Diener (author of the Tudor-set historical suspense novel In A Treacherous Court) — Imprisoned in a secret facility, powerful telekinetic Kelli Barrack and two other ‘special’ inmates grab a chance to escape, only to confront their worst nightmares on the outside.

GHOSTLY JUSTICE, an all-new Seven Deadly Sins novella by New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan (author of the Seven Deadly Sins series) — Demon hunters Moira O’Donnell and Rafe Cooper are dragged into the dangerous world of nocturnal predators to find “Ghostly Justice” for a virgin sacrificed to an ancient blood demon.

The reviews have been great … All Things Urban Fantasy said: “Like a great buffet, this anthology gives you the chance to taste a little bit of everything. Short and sweet, these stories did a good job drawing me in, setting the hook, and adding books to my to be read pile.” The Good, The Bad and the Unread gave it an A+. And Smexy Books gave “Ghostly Justice” an “A” calling it “dark and gritty.”

If you like paranormal romance or urban fantasy, you can’t go wrong with ENTANGLED. I’m giving away a digital copy of ENTANGLED to one lucky commenter. If you’d like to check it out, you can buy it for your e-reader or computer at, or Smashwords.

And I wanted to share with you one more really cool thing: my friend Philip Hawley, Jr. has digitally released STIGMA, his debut novel, for $2.99. STIGMA first came out in 2007 and I loved it. Philip is a pediatrician and also is an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Southern California School of Medicine. I greatly admire his dedication to his career, as well as his talent as a great storyteller. Trust me: you won’t regret reading this book.

See what others have to say:

“STIGMA pulses with tension and drama. Philip Hawley has written a top-notch thriller!” –Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author

“STIGMA is an explosive, page-turning thriller with depth and emotional complexity. Hawley is a master storyteller.” –Allison Brennan, New York Times bestselling author

“STIGMA is a blast of a read from start to finish. Phil Hawley is the real deal and the thriller world has an authentic new voice.” –John Lescroart, New York Times bestselling author

“Philip Hawley delivers a rare combination of taut plotting and brilliant writing. Sit back and enjoy. Phil Hawley is for real.” –Ridley Pearson, New York Times bestselling author

“Action-packed . . . rich with authenticity. Philip Hawley tells a great story.” –Jonathan Kellerman, New York Times bestselling author

“Destined to be a classic . . . upon finishing I closed it up and said ‘Perfect!’ ” Terry Lewis, book critic, The Other View

I’m also giving away a digital copy of STIGMA to one lucky commenter. Check it out at Amazon

Tell us about the a charity you are passionate about, that you’d donate your time, treasure and talent to support. Remember, two free e-books!

Banned Books Week

By Allison Brennan

I rarely write dual posts here and at my other blog, Murder She Writes, but I’m making an exception because yesterday launched Banned Books Week.

You can read the original post here, which also lists the prizes and blogs participating in the Banned Book Blog Hop — well over 200 of us! (To win my prizes, you have to comment over there, but you have all week to do so!) However, I’ve updated and expanded the original blog just for Murderati readers πŸ™‚

From Ray Bradbury and FAHRENHEIT-451 (one of my all-time favorite books):

“Somewhere the saving and putting away had to begin again and someone had to do the saving and the keeping, one way or another, in books, in records, in people’s heads, any way at all so long as it was safe, free from moths, silverfish, rust and dry-rot, and men with matches.”

I’ve always found it ironic that a book about the tragedy of book banning (through the total physical destruction of books-fire) has been banned by different people for different reasons.

Parents should be the arbitrars of what their children read. If I, as a mom, ban a book from my house, that is my right. One of leaders of the Banned Book Blog Hop, “I Am A Reader, Not A Writer” said, “All books have their place, but not all books belong on every shelf.” I wholeheartedly agree.

In a free society, no one has the right to ban a book for ALL.

The ALA has a list of the 100 most challenged books in the past decade, and the Harry Potter series tops the list. And we’ve all heard about the controversy surrounding Mark Twain’s classic THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN (#14), Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK (#60), and ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET by Judy Blume (#99.) And classics like ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, CATCHER IN THE RYE, and THE GIVER have been on the controvery lists for a long time. (Though I never really understood why.)

But there are some books that you may be surprised are on the list. The Captain Underpants series (#13) (a fun cartoony comic-style book that is perfect for little boys. Yes, there is potty humor. I have two boys and a husband. They all love potty humor.)  

Or Eric Carle’s DRAW ME A STAR (#61) (ages 4-up), which was objected to because it relates loosely to creationism. (THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR is still one of my favorite early children’s books–Carle is an amazing and inspired artist and storyteller.)

Or the Goosebumps series (#94) by beloved R.L. Stine.

But maybe the series that stunned me the most was the Junie B. Jones series (#71) by Barbara Park. I’ve heard that some people have issues with Junie’s grammar, but she’s either in kindergarden or first grade, and speaks how most of the kids that age speak. They’re fun, they teach a lesson in a fun and age-appropriate way, and they are great for early readers giving them confidence to read chapter books because they’re simple without being stupid. I love the series and have bought all (or nearly all) of them for my youngest daughter.

I support fully the right of parents to not allow their children to read books they don’t approve of, for whatever reason. I do not support the right of parents, or anyone, telling ME what my kids can (or can not) read.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who give up essential liberties in order to protect a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

The First Amendment, as is the entire Bill of Rights, is the foundation of our essential liberties. Books are truly the permanent, enduring foundation of free speech. Our military men and women have fought and died for more than two hundred years to protect our freedoms–freedoms many of us don’t think about, or take for granted.

There are countries where people are killed or imprisoned because of what they say. There are countries where people are killed because of what religion they practice. There are countries where women have no rights, where women are punished when they are raped because, in the eyes of the government, their rape was their fault.

These are countries where government bans books and information.

Censorship is not a liberal or conservative issue. Banning books and ideas affects the left and the right equally.

But it all starts with banning one book.

What’s your favorite banned book? I have many, but FAHRENHEIT-451 by Ray Bradbury is one of my all-time fave books. For little kids? It would have to be Junie B. Jones. I read all of them to my youngest daughter when she was 6 and 7 (or she read them to me!)

How many of the banned books have you read on the ALA most commonly challenged books? In my lifetime, I’ve read 37 (books or series) of the 100.

And if you get a chance to head over to Murder She Writes this week, comment there and you are eligible to win one of many, many prizes, including an advanced copy of my next Lucy Kincaid book, IF I SHOULD DIE.

Go read a banned book. It won’t kill you. I promise.

How Many Times Can I Not Give the Same Speech?

By Allison Brennan 

I’m in Colorado for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers “Colorado Gold” conference. This is new experience for me. I’ve spoken to thriller/mystery writers and romance writers, but never a multi-genre “fiction” writers group.

I presented my “No Plotters Allowed” workshop, which I always like to give. As I tell the audience at the beginning, they really only need to take one thing from the workshop: There is no one right way to write, but there is a right way for you. I created the workshop years ago (before my first book came out) because I was tired of well-meaning people telling me I had to do this or that (write an outline, create a GMC chart, use the snowflake method, know my theme, identify the black moment–what the hell is the black moment? Yes, that’s a rhetorical question. Sort of.) So I devised the workshop originally with my pal Patti Berg to give people permission to write the way they want that moves them forward. It’s the right way if you’re making progress; it’s the wrong way if you aren’t. Simple.

And then I go off on a hundred tangents and hope people have lots of questions. I love questions πŸ™‚

I haven’t attended any other workshops because I have a book due in three weeks and need to write every day, so have been putting in 4 hours a day writing, netting 6500 words in two days. I tend to write more when I’m NOT at home–which is why I go to Starbucks when I’m stuck or when I’m close to deadline and need to increase my writing pace. Fewer distractions.

Now, it’s Saturday night (because I never get my blog done early) and I’m in my hotel room after listening to an AMAZING keynote speech by Bernard Cornwell, who writes historical fiction. Maybe because he has a British accent, or maybe because he’s just a great speaker and hilarious to boot, I’m a bit panicked. I’m speaking tomorrow at the luncheon. I can not compete with his performance or wit, and I have no accent to hide behind.

I’d planned on giving the speech I haven’t given to three different conferences. I wrote it for the New Jersey Romance Writers in 2009, and got derailed after three pages. I then attempted it at the Moonlight & Magnolia’s conference in 2010–but I had cut it down and (nearly) got through the whole thing before I went off on a story. So I attempted it again at the Dreaming in Dallas conference earlier this year … and don’t think I got through more than the opening.

This would have been my fourth attempt. 

But I’m thinking maybe the speech just isn’t worth telling. So now, instead of going down and drinking in the hospitality suite, I’m taking the speech apart and trying to find the good parts and write something around them. Maybe it’s just because I’ve read it so many times that I’m finding it boring. Or maybe because I just listened to a funny and poignant speech that was both inspiring even as he told everyone not to become a writer.

And then I wonder, why do I agree to do these things?

Truth is, I enjoy conferences and presenting workshops. The speeches, not so much, but I get through it. And I’ll do it this time. Even if I end up not giving the speech I write.

This weekend has been a busy weekend in the Brennan house. I’ve had this Colorado conference on the calendar for nearly a year. Then after school starts, I learn that my oldest has a volleyball tournament in San Diego (and yes, she arrived on Thursday in the midst of the power outage!); my #2 daughter has a cross country retreat in Lake Tahoe; my sons have an away football game; and my youngest daughter has her first soccer game. Fortunately, my mom was able to take care of the soccer game (yeah, grandma!) so my husband could take the boys to the football game. Soccer game: Victory! 7-1. Mighty Mites (6-8 year olds) football game: Victory! Come from behind to win 13-12. Jr. Pee Wees (8-10 yrs): They lost BUT my son, #49, caught his first pass in a game. A 20 yard throw, and he ran an additional five yards before being tackled. I’m sorry I missed the catch (but not sorry I missed him being tackled!)


And finally, we all know what day it is today. I didn’t want to write a blog summarizing what we all know happened ten years ago, or reliving where we were or what we were doing–but I do want to recognize the amazing men and women who sacrificed so much. Those who died. Those who cleaned up. Those who rebuilt. America is an amazing country, and we truly have amazing people. And even though I may complain about this or that on occasion, there’s no place I would rather live.

I apologize in advance for not being around much of today, what with the speech I’ll be giving and then pre-speech panic attack. But I hope you’ll share a good book you’ve read recently, or a movie that you were surprised you liked. I saw SUPER-8 earlier this summer. I expected it to be ok; I ended up really enjoying it.


By Allison Brennan

I’m deep into reading the page proofs for IF I SHOULD DIE, book three in the Lucy Kincaid series. I really love this final stage of the publication process–at least the final stage on my end. I see the book as it’s going to be printed. It’s the last time I can make changes–ensuring the copyedit changes were made correctly, double checking the timeline, tweaking words and phrases. No major changes can be made at this point, but I often find the little errors–repetitive words or phrases, for example.

I also read most of my book out loud during this final stage, so it takes me longer to go through the proofs than most authors. Reading out loud helps me make sure the rhythm is right, especially in dialogue. To me, an author’s voice has as much to do with the rhythm of the story as with anything else. It has to feel right, or I’ll tweak it. There’s nothing I can explain or map out–I just know my rhythm is off when the story doesn’t sound right. It’s ironic, because I’m a very visual storyteller–meaning, I *see* the story unfold, I don’t hear it. I write what my POV character sees and feels. When I revise, I’m looking for for the visual story structure. But this final stage is all about story rhythm.

Which made me think about all the writing guidelines and story structure. I’m a big fan of Christopher Vogler, and have a well-worn copy of THE WRITER’S JOURNEY. I’ve never used the hero’s journey to plot or structure a novel, but I have see the hero’s journey in all my books … after the fact. So I can identify when my protagonist crosses the threshold. I know when I hit the midpoint of the story–and at that point whether my book is on the long or short side. Once I hit the third act, I feel the momentum of the story.

When I read the book in its near-final form, I see all that laid out, and it feels almost magical because I didn’t plan it that way. I remember when I first read Vogler. I had already sold my first book, and someone recommended it to me. I was reading it while doing stress tests during my last pregnancy–one hour of doing basically nothing. I saw how my debut novel followed the hero’s journey and it stunned me. But it shouldn’t, because in the introduction Vogler says:

“All stories consist of a few common structural elements found universally in myths, fairy tales, dreams and movies. They are known collectively as The Hero’s Journey.” He goes on to quote Joseph Campbell who “exposed for the first time the pattern that lies behind every story ever told.” And the key for me, that “all storytelling, consciously or not, follows the ancient patterns of myth. … The way stations of the Hero’s Journey emerge naturally even when the writer is unaware of them.”

I believe this is true, whether you plot or don’t plot; whether you consciously assess the hero’s journey as you write or don’t see it until the end of the story.

That’s why I love the final page proofs. I can see the structure of my story clearly for the first time, and each and every book follows the hero’s journey. Not rigidly–because the hero’s journey is as flexible and diverse as people. It’s not a formula, but a guideline into the human psyche in how we perceive stories. And that’s why it always marvels me that the hero’s journey is always there at the end.

But the steps of the journey are not the only “tests” of whether a book is good or not. Sol Stein wrote that the first page was the most important. If a reader picks up a book in the bookstore, reads the first page, then turns the page, they are more likely to buy the book. If they don’t turn the page, they almost always put the book back on the shelf.

Agent Noah Lukeman has a writing book called THE FIRST FIVE PAGES–and you guessed it, he claims they are the most important in any book. Many agents and editors say they know whether a book is good after the first five pages. Some give the author more time if the writing is there, but many don’t go beyond the beginning.

The Campaign for the American Reader has the “Page 69” test. They quote from John Sutherland’s HOW TO READ A NOVEL:

“Marshall McLuhan, the guru of The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962), recommends that the browser turn to page 69 of any book and read it. If you like that page, buy the book. It works. Rule One, then: browse powerfully and read page 69.”

There’s also the midpoint of the book. For me, the midpoint is just as important as the turning points at the end of each “act.” Some claim that at the midpoint, the protagonist hits rock bottom (or near rock bottom) where it doesn’t seem like it can get any worse, or a false victory, where everything seems to be going great (but of course, it’s not.) In police procedures, the midpoint is often where the protagonist thinks they’ve figured out the crime, identified the suspect, made an arrest, and all is right in the world. Case closed … then right after something happens and she releases she has NOTHING, and is worse off than at the beginning.

Of course, there are infinite variations and ideas for the midpoint–like one main character is at the all-time high, while the other is at the all-time low. 

And then there are the readers who have to read the end of the book FIRST. (Yes, I know some of these insane people, they drive me crazy. But there are more of them out there than you think!)

All these “tests” — first lines, first pages, page 69, the midpoint, the ending — are supposed to help the reader decide whether they should read the book.

Ironically, I don’t use any of them.

When writing this blog, I looked at the “tests” in my proofs for IF I SHOULD DIE. The midpoint is critical–during the midpoint chapter, my hero Sean Rogan learns some important information about the villain, but he doesn’t know how it all fits. At the end of the chapter, he gets a warning from an unknown source (who may be a good guy or a bad guy or neutral) that the bad guys know what flight his girlfriend, Lucy Kincaid, is going to be on. That tip completely changes their plans and sets into motion a series of events that go from bad to worse.

All my midpoints tend to have story changing elements. In my debut novel THE PREY, one of the main characters is murdered and that changes the motivation of the hero. In SEE NO EVIL, the prime suspect ends up dead. 

The Page 69 test in DIE gives the reader part of a barroom conversation that offers up more questions for my hero and heroine than answers. My first three pages are the prologue which is one of the creepiest prologues I’ve written–a guy treks into an abandoned mine to visit the frozen body of the woman he loves. Chapter One begins with Sean and Lucy in bed right after morning sex while on vacation in the Adirondack mountains when they smell smoke. I remember in my first draft, it took six or seven pages to get to the smoke, and I knew as soon as I started editing that it was way too long–even though the six pages were interesting, there was no action. By the end of page two, we know that Sean’s helping a family friend who has been the victim of sabotage while getting a new resort ready to open, that this isn’t supposed to be a big case because Sean and Lucy are expecting to enjoy a well-deserved vacation before Lucy starts her training at Quantico. And then–well, it definitely doesn’t go as planned. πŸ™‚

Apply one of these tests to a book you’re reading now and share with us–avoiding spoilers if possible (or at least identify them!)


Well, I have very little to say this morning. 

I thought of writing about a newly discovered television series HAVEN, very loosely based on the Stephen King book THE COLORADO KID. I don’t remember how I found it on iTunes, but I downloaded the first season, watched it in a week, and anticipate every episode of Season Two. It’s a crime show/supernatural show, which I love. I love real-world supernatural.

I’ve seen few good movies this summer (My two faves so far: X-MEN FIRST CLASS and SUPER 8. And the end of HARRY POTTER, but that’s another story …)

I’ve been reading YA mysteries, as well as trying to catch up on the JD Robb series. I’m only four books behind now …

Of course I’ve been writing. My next book, SILENCED, is due early October. I’ve been a little (a lot) nervous about this book because it’s the first book with a new editor and a new publisher. Kind of terrifying.

And the kids! Five kids, all in fall sports. You’d think they’d spread the out to keep me sane, but noooooo, I have to juggle five kids. Fortunately, my husband has taken over the boys and their football practices, and I take care of my younger daughter’s soccer practices. Now we just have to figure out who goes to what Saturday games. Thank God I have another driver in the house, my 17 year old daughter, who plays volleyball–and her games are Tuesdays and Thursdays, NOT Saturdays!

I can’t wait until school starts — for us, August 22. I need my routine back. I did get the school supplies early (yea!) and the kids wear uniforms (ordered!) but there’s a lot of things that need to be done this coming week–including three nights of orientations. And the fact that I’m going to have a senior in high school. I don’t feel old enough to have a daughter who is almost 18.

We didn’t go on a family vacation — we went last year, and hopefully I’m taking them all to Disneyland next summer the week before the RWA conference in Anaheim. But with sports, my New York trip, getting a new dog, and deadlines … the Brennan family didn’t get away.

So with all these things going on, I really didn’t have anything poignant to talk about for my blog. But my 15 year old daughter told me a great joke today:

Past, present and future walk into a bar. It was tense.


She found the joke on this great little clip I hope you enjoy. Have a great week.

Character Matters

By Allison Brennan

In light of Alex’s post regarding Hollywood’s choice of actors to play Jack Reacher, I changed my planned topic (a boring look at the proliferation of social media) to talking about character.

In fiction, characters who resonate with readers have staying power. This may mean a series character — Reacher, Jane Rizzoli, Eve Dallas, Myron Bolitar, Harry Bosch, Mickey Haller, Joe Pike, Lou Boldt, Tess Monaghan, D.D. Scott — or a stand alone like … well, because I’m writing this off the cuff, I can’t think of a stand-alone fiction hero off the top of my head. (That also might be because it’s 12:50 a.m. on Sunday morning and I still have 2,000 or so words to write to finish this short story that has turned into a novella.) 

There are heroes (Harry Potter) and villains (Lord Voldemort) and anti-heroes (Snape) who resonate because we see ourselves in all of them.

A great hero has flaws. A great villain has strengths. Just like real people.

The power of character has never been made more clear to me than in the outpouring of public criticism over the actor playing Jack Reacher. To me, this isn’t about the strengths or weaknesses of Tom Cruise–it’s about the creation of a hero who people have connected with so strongly that they are emphatic about who should — and should not — portray him on the big screen.

My daughter is a huge reader, preferring fantasy and dark paranormal. She devoured THE HUNGER GAMES and, other than her annoyance that a blonde–dying her hair dark–was picked to portray Katniss, “sees” Katniss in the shots she’s seen of actress Jennifer Lawrence. Yet, she feels strongly that Peeta and Gale have been miscast and that her VISION of the two would have the actors (Josh Hutcherson-Peeta; Liam Hemsworth-Gale) reverse roles. When we were at RT in Los Angeles, the decisions had just been announced, and our roomie Lori Armstrong and my daughter Kelly ranted over the choices for Peeta and Gale.

Multiply THE HUNGER GAMES three books by five (coming on 15 Reacher books) and you have the depth of passion for the character of Jack Reacher.

To me, this passion is amazing. To pull in such a diverse audience across the world who are not only gripped by the stories, but powered by the hero, is rare and wonderful.

I’ve read all of Tess Gerritsen’s books. I’m such a huge fan, that a good friend of mine found her six original Harlequin Intrigues at a garage sale and bought them for me. I don’t generally read category romance, but when I love an author I’ll read everything they write. I so enjoy the Rizzoli & Isles books, that I read each release the week it comes out. I’ll admit, I wasn’t thrilled with the casting choice for Maura Isles because 1) she doesn’t look the part (Maura has short, chic dark hair) and 2) she doesn’t act the part (Maura doesn’t talk as much in the books, and is not as clueless about interpersonal relationships, except of course not recognizing that Anthony Sansone is … ok, I digress.) But the actress is growing on me.

Jane Rizzoli, however, I felt was perfectly cast. She was exactly how I pictured Jane, except maybe with a little more confidence. 

But for me, it’s about character. The Rizzoli & Isles television series has a different feel than the books. It took me a full season to separate the voices, and now I can enjoy them both for what they are. I don’t picture Sasha Alexander as Maura Isles when I’m reading, but because Angie Harmon was far closer in looks and personality, I do picture her. And I love both the characters (except of course when Maura was seeing Daniel Brophy, but we can all hope that she’s seen the light–fully.)

Okay, I’m sort of picking on Tess πŸ™‚

Character matters. When we read characters who resonate with us, who make us want to be brave, who make as fearful, who bring out the best–or the worst–of our personalities, we have engaged with the story on an intimate level. We’re part of the story, not distant observers. And talented storytellers like Tess and Lee Child have given us those characters we can believe … believe in so strongly that we care not only how they are portrayed in film and television, but by whom.

But character is a two-way street. How we communicate our feelings shows our own character. The internet, and social media’s quick snippets of 140 characters, or 260 characters, or thousand word blogs, all give us a forum for voicing our opinions. And as a staunch defender of the first amendment, I’m glad so many people not only have an opinion, but a forum to share that opinion.

How we share our views shows our true character–it shows how we truly are, when no one is looking.

The Internet has create a world of anonymity even when it’s not truly anonymous. It’s so easy to voice our opinions instantly … but sometimes, even when we’re right or just think we are … maybe it’s better if we choose to remain silent. Or edit our opinion so it’s neither cruel nor personal nor a veiled threat.

Because character matters — in fiction, and in real life.

Who’s your favorite character and why? Who’s shown great character in real life?