Tuesday, February 28, 2017


I had a novel published before I managed to get a short story in print. I recommend to new writers that they go about it the other way. I think I would have learned more about the craft faster had I took the short route first.

There is an art to telling short stories, compacting action and drama into fewer words. I've had roughly one hundred short stories published and have edited many anthologies and magazines of short fiction. So I've come to understand and love the form.

It's introduced me to authors I'd not read before. I guess it's like strolling into a grocery store on "sample day," when there are folks setting up trays of cheese, cookies, pizza, and whatnot, enticing you to try something. And if you like a tidbit, you might buy an entire package.

Yeah, I've sampled authors with their short fiction, and then sought out their novels.

I had the good fortune to be invited into one of Faith Hunter's Rogue Mage anthologies. I'd read her Jane Yellowrock books, but not her Rogue Mage offerings. So, naturally, I bought a couple, needing to understand her world if I was going to write in it. It's a good world. A real good world. If you haven't visited, I suggest you go to a bookseller and indulge.

The anthologies, Trials and Tribulations...click on the words to go to the Amazon links...feature great stories by great writers, some of who I had not read before. I love "sample day."

I was also fortunate to be on a short fiction jury for the International Association of Tie-In Writers (IAMTW). We just finished our work and sent in our nominations to the Scribe Awards chairman. It is always a pleasure to serve on one of these juries and get an opportunity to read in genres I might not otherwise pick up. Again, I found some new authors to follow. I got to read fiction set in: Halo, Star Trek, Shadowrun, Battletech, and X-Files universes, and more. The truth is surely out there.

I'm gonna sign off and get back to work...and find a place to shop my mystery short story.

Good reading,


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My friend Christine Verstraete is a remarkable woman. She crafts miniatures (go visit her website), breeds seahorses, churns out magazine articles, and writes ZOMBIE FICTION. Her latest has a historical mystery bent: Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter. I remember when we were sitting with our writing group at a Kenosha restaurant, and she brought up the idea.

"Drop everything and write it," I told her.

It's a great book. I know, I've read it. And I'm fortunate to have her on my blog. We're swapping blogs as part of this nifty Mystery Thriller Week. Lots of stuff going on for readers and writers. Here's the link. 

Christine (C.A.) Verstraete is the author of the alternate history/horror/mystery novel, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, which answers the question, what if Lizzie Borden did kill her father and stepmother… because she had no other choice?

Chris' Links

Friday, January 27, 2017


Sometimes great scenes in writing happen by accident. Or are birthed by mistakes. My buddy Don pointed out I'd used an airbag incorrectly in a previous novel. MISTAKE. So I figured I'd fix it.

I have this need to get something right.

So I researched airbags. And I emailed two friends who'd been in cars when the airbags deployed.

Armed with that information I set about to write a scene in the next book that would properly show an airbag. Of course, I had to come up with the correct conditions for such an incident.

My next book is set in Spencer County, Indiana. And the number one ticketed offense there is drunk driving.

Ingredients for the scene:

1 drunk driver
1 sheriff in a Ford Explorer
1 county road

Then I had to figure out who's airbag would go off and under what circumstances.

I put the drunk on a tractor and had him back into my sheriff, setting off her airbag. The scene sounds simple, right? And by itself the premise sounds boring.

But I had great fun with it. And the scene was not in my original outline. Accidental fiction can be good for your book.

Here's my scene (or at least the start of it):

It was a big red Case tractor, double wheels on the back, hitch, with a raised disc harrow attachment used for cultivating the ground prior to planting—all of it caked with dried mud and in need of washing. Piper was stuck behind it on 66, on her way to Hatfield, an unincorporated dinkburg where Mark the Shark lived.
Piper figured this ten-mile endeavor would take her an hour away from her cold case…fourteen minutes to Mark’s, fourteen minutes back, and a half hour at the bank or looking through his records to show him the bookkeeping error and ease his conspiracy fears.
But the tractor was fouling her time-frame.
It belched fumes; her windows rolled down, the stink wafted inside and made her eyes water. It was noisy; overwhelming the oldies station she’d had on and just now clicked off. It was slow, riding in the center of the road, impossible for her to pass on either side without risking the ditch. And it wasn’t traveling straight, sometimes in the proper lane, sometimes veering into the left lane. Usually it held to roughly the middle.
She honked.
The driver raised his left hand and flipped his middle finger.
“Really?” Piper stuck her head out the window and hollered: “Pick a lane!” Then thinking he might not be able to hear over the racket the tractor was making, she used the PA in her car. “Pull over. Spencer County Sheriff. Pull over.”
The tractor had no rearview mirrors that she could see, and the driver hadn’t turned around to notice who was honking at him.
She honked again, this time laying on the horn. Piper really didn’t want to further delay her return to the alluring skeleton case by citing the farmer for a simple traffic violation, but— She honked a third time, the driver took both hands off the wheel and gave her the dancing double middle fingers. The tractor, which according to the speedometer in Piper’s Ford was going about twenty miles an hour, shimmied to the right. As she started to pass, and reached to turn on her flashing lights, it sped up, drifted back to the left, and nearly clipped her front fender. She pumped the brakes and eased behind it, matching its speed—twenty-five miles an hour now. A boxy station wagon pulled behind her, and another car was coming farther back. Fortunate no one was in the opposite lane at the moment.
The tractor wobbled farther right, then left, shuddered, and went faster still. Thirty miles an hour.
“What the hell?”
Then the driver tossed an empty whiskey bottle off to the side of the road.
“That’s it.”

Find The Dead of Winter on Amazon by clicking here: 
 And my Amazon author page is here:
My personal webpage is here:
I have a newsletter filled with tidbits about my upcoming books, reviews of things I’m reading, and writing advice. You can subscribe here:
USA Today Bestselling author Jean Rabe has written 35 fantasy, urban fantasy, and science fiction novels. The Dead of Winter, her 36th, is her first mystery. She has roughly 100 short stories in print, has edited a couple dozen anthologies, and has edited more magazines than she cares to tally. When she isn’t writing or editing, she tosses tennis balls to her cadre of dogs, visits museums, and tries to find gamers who will play Axis & Allies with her.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

TRIBULATIONS in a rich world

...a very rich world.

I have the grand good fortune to appear in an anthology based on Faith Hunter's amazing Rogue Mage series. It is a rich world...deep, colorful, frightening...glorious to read her stories. AWESOME to be invited to play in her creation. Blessed, actually.

My story, River Bones, is in the volume called TRIBULATIONS, set for a December 30 release. Other stories in the book are by Faith, Lucienne Diver, Spike Y Jones, and Christina Stiles. So pleased to be in their company.

If you haven't read Faith's Rogue Mage fiction, do yourself a favor and buy a book or two. It's post-apocalyptic, haunting, and magical. These short stories in TRIALS and TRIBULATIONS are little slices of the setting.

I chose the Amazon basin for my tale. My buddy, Vicki Steger, gave me this incredible book about the Amazon River basin and the history of its exploration...a BIG book that had been in her father's library. It has served as the springboard for some of my short stories and a novel. And I just had to delve into it again because the basin would be a perfect place for a treasure-seeking girl raised in a convent to explore. Too, I was inspired by the History Channel program "The Curse of Oak Island." (I wonder if the brothers will ever really find something.)

I put a little magic in my story, and some explosives. I'm a fan of things that blow up.  

Thanks, Faith, for letting me play in your sandbox. What a magnificent place you sculpted!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

My Piper

Birthing Piper Blackwell

I love reading mysteries with plausible characters; they tug me through a novel. But an unbelievable character, or one who does things that make no sense, cause me to set the book on my giveaway stack and reach for another.

So when I started to write The Dead of Winter, first in the Piper Blackwell mystery series, I wanted a plausible character with a background that justified her motivations and actions.

I picked up the telephone and called the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. My sheriff—Piper Blackwell—was going to have served with the Screaming Eagles. And she was going to be young.

Back in that proverbial day I was a reporter, and I ran the Kentucky news bureau for Scripps Howard. Several times I hopped in my car and drove to the base to cover various stories. They were never feel-good-features. It was either the occasional murder or the not-so-occasional incident of domestic violence, and once—thirty years past—it was for the devastating plane crash that killed more than two hundred and forty-eight soldiers. Here’s a link to an article about the tragedy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow_Air_Flight_1285

Way back then I thought about writing fiction with a character who’d been a soldier. But after my news reporting days, and until recently, I’d only been writing fantasy and science fiction. When I switched to the mystery genre, I knew it was time to dust off that plan.

Enter Piper Blackwell.

When I called Fort Campbell, the man on the other end of the phone—Bob Jenkins—helped me build her training program, where and how often she deployed, her assignments, and showed me how she could have attained the rank of sergeant and been decorated by the ripe young age of 22. He taught me about the MP program, where women could excel, what she would have covered while on the base, and about the dangerous downrange assignments in the Middle East that could have shaped her.

He helped me craft a believable, plausible character…who I had run for sheriff of Spencer County, Indiana.

And Piper won that election, trading on her family name…the previous sheriff being her father. On my research trip through the county I chatted with local folks, some of them involved in campaigning, and learned that quite a few of the county politicians had family ties and that there was a scattered bit of nepotism.

It was believable that she could win.

Should she have won? Probably not, and hence that provided me with a little friction within her department. Her chief deputy was more qualified; he has a granddaughter the same age as Piper.

I enjoyed writing Piper and her first murder case. It brought back memories of my newspaper days and when I used to traipse around southern Indiana. Some good times there…and some unfortunate, awful incidents I had to report on.

I’m plotting her next adventure right now. She’s got to hire a new detective for the department, and another deputy. She’s got another murder to solve, a cold case. The sequel is tentatively titled The Dead of Night.

There will be a dog in it, a nod to the Robert B. Parker books I loved to read. Spencer and Jesse Stone had dogs.

I hope you join Piper in not-so-sleepy Spencer County. I promise to keep her real.

USA Today Bestselling author Jean Rabe has written 35 fantasy, urban fantasy, and science fiction novels. The Dead of Winter, her 36th, is her first mystery. She has roughly 100 short stories in print, has edited a couple dozen anthologies, and has edited more magazines than she cares to tally. When she isn’t writing or editing, she tosses tennis balls to her cadre of dogs, visits museums, and tries to find gamers who will play Axis & Allies with her.

You can find my blog at: http://jeanerlenerabe.blogspot.com/

My personal webpage is at www.jeanrabe.com

I have a newsletter filled with tidbits about my upcoming books, reviews of things I’m reading, and writing advice. You cansubscribe here 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Thrill is Gone

... in a splattering bloody mess.

Yeah, I watched The Walking Dead. And I'll probably watch a few more episodes but only because an old buddy from my TSR days is one of Negan's henchmen. When my old buddy ceases to walk around with a pick ax--Ciao! In my opinion--my blog, my opinion--the storytellers took it too far with the popped-out eyeball and the smashed skulls. Blood without plot...well, not much plot. Blood. Blood. Blood. And a gob of flesh hanging from the baseball bat.

There was blood and gore and shock value. 
Battered characters. 
Crushed souls. 
But there was no real story to it. 

Sure, the writers can say they needed all the "ick" to affect the characters and to further the action in the remaining episodes.

But in this episode, I couldn't find the story. If I'm going to invest time in something--time is precious and once spent you don't get it back--I want there to be a story, a good plot. I want the action to move from Point A to Point B and eventually to Point C.

B and C were missing from that episode.

The thrill of that show, to me, is gone.

My friend Christine Verstraete has a much better zombie story, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter. It's got gore in it, and history, and it didn't jump that proverbial shark like The Walking Dead. It's got A to B to C. 

I put down books that don't get to B fast enough. 

I like to be thrilled...with movies, books...I want my entertainment to make me scootch forward to the edge of my seat. I want a book that MAKES me turn the page even if I'm tired and thinking about calling it a night. Tug me through the story, hang me at the end of a chapter. Keep me up. Keep me engaged with the characters.

Don't make me think I'm wasting my time.

Some of my fellow writers criticize Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code as not being well written. Sure, when I read it I wanted to take my editor's red pen to every other page. He's not an elegant writer. But what Dan Brown did right was pull me through the book, hang me at the end of a chapter. I had to keep reading The Da Vinci Code because he made me want to know what happens next. I don't care what happens next to Rick and his crew in The Walking Dead. It doesn't have me on the edge of my seat. I've read most of Brown's books, by the way, and studied his page-turning technique.

My current writing project is a thriller set under Rome. I like to read thrillers, so I thought I ought to write another one. I'm a little more than halfway done and I've just offed one of my characters. I let Christine Verstraete select who I "gave the ax" to. It's not a bloody ridiculous death, and I don't show you the body in all its awful detail. I don't need to...though I am more than capable of describing awful stuff.

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child write great thrillers...I've a bunch of them on my shelves. Raymond Benson can spin a thriller to make you say WOW and reach for his next book. Ridley Pearson, Stephen King, Ken Follett, Karin Slaughter, Gillian Flynn, Dean Koontz, Jack Higgins...they can deliver good thrillers. 

Kevin J. Anderson has put together a great bundle of thrillers...tinged with science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy. GOOD stories, edge of your seat stuff, make me turn the pages stuff...each one better (okay, in my opinion) than what the storytellers did in The Walking Dead. Seriously good reading. Thrilling reading.

And, yes, this is a plug to latch onto Kevin's Thriller Bundle. I've a book in it--Pockets of Darkness--which has gore and STORY in it. Donald J. Bingle has his excellent Forced Conversion in it too. Yeah, this is a plug so I can sell books. I'm a full-time writer, I make a living by selling books. But it's also an offering of good thrillers. I don't recommend bad books. I will never recommend a bad book. I used to recommend The Walking Dead to my friends. But I don't do that anymore.

The thrill is gone from The Walking Dead. But the thrill is here courtesy of Kevin J. Anderson. Here's the link to that Thriller Bundle.

Find The Dead of Winter, my new mystery, on Amazon here. 

And my Amazon author page here.  

My personal webpage is at www.jeanrabe.com

I have a newsletter filled with tidbits about my upcoming books, reviews of things I’m reading, and writing advice. You can subscribe here. SUBSCRIBE


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Sex Made the Difference

...or rather changing the sex of the main character did.

When I wrote Pockets of Darkness, the main character was Gavin, an Irish thief with a teenage son dropped on his doorstep. Gavin was smug and cocky and didn't suffer the failings of his subordinates.

I sent the book to my friend Lucienne Diver, of the Knight Agency, and she emailed me that the book didn't feel right, but that she thought it would sing with a female lead instead.


Gavin became Bridget. The ex-wife became an ex-husband. The teenage son stayed the same. And the mother-in-law...I left her a witch.

Lucienne was right. The book felt much better. Bridget was a far better character than Gavin, and it was both delightful and onerous changing the lead's sex through the entire manuscript...and then double and triple checking to make sure all the he and she references were correct.

I really really really like Bridget. And I'm hoping you will too.

She's tough and driven, born in NYC and raised by the streets, a former gang member who used to sneak into a boxing club late at night to hone her physical skills. She's complex...and vulnerable. Gavin wasn't near so amazing as Bridget, not as deep, and not near as elegant. And when she "lays down the law" on the members of her thieving band, it is more serious and frightening than when Gavin tried to do the same thing.

Bridget is AWESOME and bad-ass.

I picked NYC because I like to watch cop shows set there, and thrillers. It is a big, bad city with lots of shadows and secret places. My NYC friends helped...providing blueprints of buildings, detailing what corner bodegas had to offer at 3 a.m., and pointing out which subway stops to stay away from late at night. Naturally, I sent Bridget to the scary parts of the subway. Bridget loves the subway. She's one of those "Yea though I ride through the tunnel of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because I am worse than whatever else might be down here."

I settled on Pockets of Darkness for the title 'cause I figured everyone has pockets of darkness in their souls, places where we put all the unfortunate things we've done and experienced. Bridget has a lot of those pockets.

Bridget--and Lucienne--made me rethink some of the other books I was plotting. I've a novel releasing November 1, The Dead of Winter. The protagonist is a woman, and a decorated Army veteran. She fits the story better than a male character would have...though the secondary characters in her life are all men. She's a bit bad-ass, too, but isn't dark and scary like Bridget.

Back in the day when I wrote fantasy fiction for TSR, a lot of Dragonlance books, I had several strong female characters, but the leads in my first two trilogies were men...the book department at the time wanted it that way because of the demographics of the readers. That third trilogy...about goblins...ah, Mudwort...she was pretty powerful. Gotta love strong female leads that are not cliches.

I am yippy skippy happy that Pockets of Darkness is featured in the Thriller Bundle so new readers will ride the subway with Bridget. She'll take them to the dangerous spots...those shadowy places are much more interesting, ya know.

I have two other books available from the wonderful WordFire Press:

You can find my blog at: http://jeanerlenerabe.blogspot.com/