Posts Categorized: The Survivors Club

Books do one thing that television and movies can’t do:

They give you your own personal experience. Reading calls upon you to see what YOU see, and while it might be similar to the author’s intention, what you see comes from where you live, who your family is, how you see the world, the experiences you’ve had. If you lived in Greenland, you would experience a different world than a person who lives, say, in Tucson, Arizona.

I’ve never been to Greenland, so if someone describes it, I still see it my way: a vast platform of ice, populated by polar bears. Or maybe it’s taken from a TV show I saw as a child—Eskimos fishing. It comes from everything I’ve learned up to this point.

Childhood, school, the area where I live, what the people are like in my neighborhood, if I live way out on a ranch somewhere or cheek-to-jowl in a crowded city. People have mutual experiences, like school, learning to drive a car, your job. Your car might be an expensive beauty, and mine might be falling apart.

So we see everything through the prism of our own minds and experiences—and books give us the freedom to do just that.
Do you see what I see graphic
MY view of a cabin in the woods, depending on the area you or I live in, would look different from YOUR cabin in the woods. My picture of a strong female cop might be different from your idea of a strong female cop. She could be massive and strong. She could look like the cop on Criminal Minds. She could be red-haired, freckled, model-thin, with a whip-smart mind and a smart mouth to go with it. Whoever she is, she’s YOUR person. You made up your half of her.

If my character is driving on a lonesome winding highway in the middle of the night, YOU’RE driving on a road that might be like it, but it’s all your own—it’s your road. You fill in the pieces of the puzzle. That, in a nutshell, is the wonder of reading.

And because you hold the other piece of the jigsaw puzzle, I respect you and I respect what you add to the story. It takes two to tango. And I can’t help but wonder: what do YOU see?

Show me how you see it

Here are five subjects that have appeared in my books. I’m going to furnish you with a short description of each scene, and it’s up to you to fill in the blank. What does it LOOK LIKE?

Please post those pictures here on my Pinterest Page. Choose as many as you’d like. I’m really curious how you see these places and people.

1. A cabin in the woods near Aspen, Colorado—the opening scene of my thriller, The Shop.

2. A guy out in the boonies with a camper and a dog on a chain—from The Survivors Club.

3. A bombed-out house in Iraq with a secret stash of incredible riches—from Hard Return.

4. A bandshell in a western town—from Darkness on the Edge of Town.

5. A horsewoman teaching a riding class—from The Survivors Club.

I wonder how different your photos will be from other peoples’ photos, or what I saw as I wrote these scenes. I really want to know what YOU see. Go to

Categories: Books Darkness on the Edge of Town Hard Return The Shop The Survivors Club

People ask, “Where do you get your ideas?”

To write a novel, you need a whole grab bag full of potential ideas, because you are about to embark on a long journey. Or, put another way, you’re dealing with a machine that has many separate and working parts. I am sure there are novels about one thing, but even that one thing has several facets. Otherwise, there would be nothing for the reader to follow. No Superhighway, no meandering scenic route, nor even bread crumbs.

So where do I get my ideas? I try to come up with some sort of theme for the story. Often, it’s fuzzy and I have to fill in the blanks. For The Survivors Club, I lighted on the idea of a family of adult children who were bad to the bone. Pure, unadulterated evil.

Ruby building

A ruined building in the ghost town of Ruby, Arizona

I had to kill a man to start the story off, and I wanted the right place for it. I decided a ghost town would be pretty darn cool. I’d been to a few, but one stood out. A few years before, I’d taken a tour of the ghost town of Ruby, perched on the border between Arizona and Mexico. I took a few photos, heard a few stories, roamed through a few ruined buildings.
Ruby building

Old, weathered building in Ruby Arizona

Fast-forward to killing the guy in my book. I had the perfect place. I changed the name of the town to Credo, and moved the furniture around a bit.

And Tess McCrae had her homicide case.

Mining facilities in Ruby

Mining facilities in Ruby

From The Survivors Club:

Chapter 5

They split up. Danny would be testifying at a homicide trial just before lunch, and would probably be gone for most of the day.

Tess followed Ruby Road to the end of the blacktop and her plain-wrap Tahoe clunked over the washboard road. It was a long, bone-jarring drive.

This was Border Patrol Country. It was rare for Santa Cruz County to send anyone out here—certainly not on patrol. She was alone.

She passed the gate to the ghost town of Credo on the left. The gate was a continuation of wire fence. A wire loop held the gate post and fence post together. The ranch gate could be unlooped and dragged across the road to make way for cars.

Tess noticed a van from the Medical Examiner inside the fence. She decided to come back when they were gone. When she went back to the crime scene she wanted quiet and a chance to think. She drove around the bend and up another hill.

Around another bend there would be a couple of trailers and an even more primitive camp.

Tess slowed at the sight of an old travel trailer backed into a rocky hill. It sat on a spur off an old ranch lane.

Thirty yards beyond the trailer, where the road bottomed out in the streambed, a couple of tree-limb posts were strung with two strands of wire across the wash. Tess noticed that tin cans had been stuck on top of the limbs, and they’d been shot to pieces.

The travel trailer was shaded by a camo tarp. The sixties seemed to be a theme here: a faded Game & Fish truck, pale green, stood out front, the emblem painted over. A campfire ring and a makeshift table made out of scrapwood kept a cheap kitchen chair company under the tarp.

There was a stake and a chain, too–for a dog.

She had a bad feeling about this, partly because of the way the place looked, but also because of Danny’s Bladerunner comment.

Categories: The Survivors Club Writing