Mystery Monday: A former CIA agent speaks

Goooooood Monday morning to you all! I know, nobody likes Monday mornings, especially when there’s some jackass yelling, “Goooooood Monday morning!” to you. That’s almost as bad as someone telling you, “It looks like someone’s got a case of the Mondays.” You want to smack them with a shovel, the kind with the round point, not that panzy-assed flat head shovel. And why do they make the flat ones so short? Are they promoting child labor with those things, or what?

But, today is not about shovel conspiracies, it’s Mystery Monday, and there’s a lot bigger conspiracies out there. Back in 2010, I set up my Google alerts to include the phrases “currency wars” and “financial crisis.” I did this because my latest book, The Brink, deals with those topics, so I wanted to keep abreast of all current events about said issues so I could tie them into any press releases/blogs about the book.

Over time, many posts came from the “The Economy Collapse” blog.  Now while there’s a lot of the “Buy Gold! It’s soon to be the only currency worth anything!” articles from goldbugs hyping the shiny stuff, there are also interesting articles about the finer, and messier, points that keep the good ol’ international financial system a’running.

Case in point, here’s a youtube video (really an audio because there’s only a static screen shot on display) from a “former CIA agent” about how “war is a racket”, and how “spying doesn’t work.” Now I know this isn’t anything earth-shattering, former government workers are just like private sector workers, many feel they got shafted by their employer and they say bad things about them after they’re gone. But the interesting thing here is that this audio reminds us that there’s a whole lot of mystery that still surrounds the CIA, and agents that serve in the international arena. And while what this guys says isn’t so new, his words could trigger a thought or story arc in our own minds that could flesh out into a good book idea. It’s a reminder that there are possible story ideas all around us, from the newspaper, to blogs, to everyday life. All we’ve got to do is listen.

So, when you’ve got 10 minutes free, please give it a listen for yourself. Maybe have a pen and paper hand or a clear Word doc screen open and write/type some ideas down as you listen and, as always…

thoughts? Comments? To the keyboards!


Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at

Do ebooks make it all about price, price, price?


It’s Writing Wednesday and I have only one question – does Amanda Hocking hold the key to how the publishing world may survive?

For those that don’t know who Hocking is, she is the self-publishing “phenom” that sold 450,000 of her self-published book in January. Yes, I wrote self-published. Yes, 450,000 copies. Yes, is one month.

How, you ask? She’s writing in a popular genre – she described her work as ” young adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy mostly.”  But I think it’s mostly about the price.  The ebook sell for 99 cents to $2.99. Hocking’s cut of the $2.99 book is 70%; 30% of the 99-cent books. Even if most books sell for $.99, she’s already made a half a million this year. Not bad. Plus, rumor has it the traditional publishers are circling, and dangling $1 million on their hooks. Not bad at all.

So, is it mostly about price? The ebook version of my latest book, The Brink, is $7.99. And I’ve sold nowhere near the number of copies Hocking has. As Snoop Dogg says, should I “drop it like it’s hot?” I think I will. I mean, what’s the downside? Should you? That’s for you to decide. But just remember this, people are more apt to buy when they think they’re getting a good deal. One only needs to look at the success of Groupon to see that truism. Sometimes a quarter pounder is just another burger at $3.19. But at $0.99 it’s a hell of a deal, especially when you’re jonesing for a pretty good burger and you’ve only got a buck in your pocket.


Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at

Where’s the beef?


First things first. My apologies for missing Friday’s post. We got caught in a massive traffic jam on I-35 outside of Austin on the way home from Sea World in San Antonio and didn’t get home until late. If anyone’s been on I-35 around Austin, you feel my pain. And that was after dealing with massive crowds at Sea World. Anything for the kids, right?

Nevertheless, we move forward with another Mystery Monday. We’re all trying to find a certain niche with our mystery writing, something that will make the critics say, “now this is a fresh approach in the mystery genre, these are unique characters, this is a truly different story.” Well, for all of us looking for both unique characters and fresh plot on this Mystery Monday, I give you cattle rustlers.

Oh yes, you heard me right. Cattle rustlers. Thieves of the Beef. Cattle rustling isn’t something that’s stuck in the Wild West, or days of yore. It’s alive and well all over the world. In fact, with beef prices on the rise, law enforcement is seeing more cases of cattle rustling today than ever.  Back in the olden days (1930s-70s) rustlers would herd cattle into trucks in the dead of night. From 1970 through today, they often use helicopters to manuever herds into temporary pens and then load them into the trucks from there.

Now where does a story go that starts with cattle rustlers? How to formulate a plot around a cattle rustling operation? There are many different directions. Maybe your lawyer hero used to be a cattle prosecutor who’s moved on to the big city, but still uses the small town tricks he learned in said profession to solve the case. Maybe a female police chief in a town along the Texas-Mexico border witnesses a helicopter that she thinks is being used for a cattle rustling operation only to investigate it and discover its being used for something much worse. Or, how about a reformed cattle rustler as one of your supporting characters?  

Wherever you go with your mystery, unique characters or a fresh approach to a story will always make readers raise an eyebrow, and hold their attention along the way. Stories about the characters that are associated with off-bat subjects, like cattle rustling, might be just the right meat in your Mystery Sandwich.


Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at

The Rules of Writing from the Masters…and the rest of us


Okay, it’s humpty-hump day and that means it’s Wednesday Writing Class here on Mark Fadden’s Blog. Today, inspired by Eric from Pimp My Novel’s Monday post of Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules of writing,  we are taking the rules topic one step further. Because while Vonnegut has his eight rules, Stephen King has rules, and so does Jonathan Franzen. So do I and so do you. We all have rules, and I bet my asterisk that if we all were told to name our top 10 writing rules, no two lists would be the same.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t necessarily like rules as a youngster. Rules typically mean limits. And, like every red-blooded American boy, I liked to think of myself as indestructible and, therefore, rules weren’t for me. It is only now that I’m older and smarter that I’ve realized most rules are in place for my own good. I, dare I say, like rules now? But I do, I do…especially when it comes to writing.

There are writing rules and they are in place for a reason. Now, I’m not talking about rules of grammar, which should be pushed to the limits at all times. I’m talking about the rules of a good story, those unwritten rules that every good storyteller abides by to make sure that his or her reader ends up with a satisfying story. They are the rules of expectation, and it is these rules that allows someone to walk into their local book store and pick up a Steven King or Jonathan Franzen novel knowing exactly what they are going to get. And even though King and Franzen may end the occasional sentence in a preposition, they will probably always adhere to their own specific rules, which can be seen throughout their writing.  

And, like I said earlier, it’s not just King and Franzen that have their rules. We all do.  So, since it’s Wednesday Writing Class, let’s all write down our rules and share them for next Wednesday’s class. It should be an eye-opening experience.


Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at

Mystery Monday – The Mystery of Inspiration?

It’s Mystery Monday once again, I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. We celebrated my wife’s birthday and, well, let’s just say I’m glad we don’t have neighbors that are too close for comfort. The music was loud and the  ridiculousness was plentiful!

As mystery and thriller writers, one of the things we have to do, unless we are a serial killer or homicide investigator, or a medical examiner that started as a homicide investigator who investigated the very murders he was committing, is look elsewhere for inspiration. Because even if you are said serial killing cop, you still need to look outside your own life to fill up the pages of a 300+ page novel. But, donde esta por la informacion?

Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, websites abound with information about the criminals living among us. One of the best that I’ve come across, which just so happens to be my local paper, and sometime employer, is the Fort Worth Star Telegram’s Crime Time Blog. Their tagline is “Keeping track of law and disorder in North Texas and beyond.” Many of the stories from this blog are part of the “you can’t make this stuff up” mileau. In fact, here’s a sampling of some headlines:

East Texas 83-year-old carries her husband’s torch, cocaine

I mean, seriously, some of these are Elmore Leonard-esque characters that even the masterful Mr. Leonard would shake his head at saying, “Now that’s too quirky even for me.”
Take a look for yourself, I’m sure the stories will help inspire you. One thing you’ve gotta check out is their “To Catch a Killer” serial novel, which also contains an excellent multimedia portion, that chronicles a homicide investigation step by step. If you’re looking for a primer on how investigations work, this one is pretty darn good.  


Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at

Finance Fridays – The Financial Conspiracy

Aaaahhhhhh…Friday, time to sit back, relax, fish through the fridge for the good beers, not the crap at the front that you serve your moocher friends that come over, we’re talking one of your favorite IPAs here, or perhaps you’re going Mexican tonight. Let’s face it, it’s a lot safer these days to sit on your back porch enjoying a Tecate or Corona than traveling south of the border to do the same thing.

But, my friends, since it’s the first week of the revamped Mark Fadden’s Blog, it’s also the inaugural Finance Friday. Why Finance Friday from a guy who barely made it through Bucknell University (they got into the tournament tonight, Go Bison!!!) with a BA degree? Because I spent the better part of a year painstakingly researching the international monetary system to come up with the foundation of the plot in my latest award-winning thriller, The Brink. Yes, it won an award, two actually, so that means I now know a thing or two about the world of international finance. At least, the award panel thinks I do, so pay close attention.

I love conspiracies. Is it because I seek to an easy explanation to the complex? Probably. But don’t most of us? I love books about conspiracies. I think The Da Vinci Code should be considered The Bible for all those challengers to the conspiracy-based thriller crown. Hence tonight’s topic. The conspiracy behind the 2008 financial meltdown.

No matter whether you were neck-deep in the stock market, or you kept all your savings in the butter dish, you were affected by the 2008 financial sh**storm. Michael Lewis gave us an inside peek into what happened in his unbelievably awesome The Big Short. But, for me, not enough conspiracy. Where’s the shadowy figures, the clandestine agenda, the guy with an eye-patch that has no name, and leaves no fingerprints or DNA behind?

Okay, maybe the ghost pirate dude is a little much, but reading this post about the 2008 Economic Crisis: The Creation of a Manufactured Meltdown will take you right into the heart of the world of conspiracies. As a writer, you should be able to curl up in there with your Stephen King limited edition Cujo blanky and embrace the madness. It should inspire the old noggin to come up with some other mad conspiracies over the weekend. Should we make it a homework assignment? Oh, what the hell, let’s do.

For next week, aka next Finance Friday, it’s your job to come up with a financial conspiracy in 30 words or less. Enjoy your weekend!


Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at

The Writer’s Audit

It’s the first post of “Writing Wednesday” in the new and improved Mark Fadden’s Blog, and with tax season in high gear, I think it’s time that we borrowed one of the most unpleasant things that you can go through – a tax audit – and use it to make sure that we’re budgeting our writing time correctly. After all, our time is just as important, even more so, than our money. So, what’s good for the IRS Goose is good for our Writing Life Gander.

First, let’s take a look at a typical workday:

24 hours in a day – out of that we’re probably working, getting ready for work, and commuting to and from work around 11 hours a day; let’s give us kids or a hobby, which includes trying to get our daily exercise, so that’s around 3 hours a day; we need to eat – 2 hours for that; finally sleeping, let’s give ourselves 6 hours.  Add ’em up and, wham, there’s 22 hours. So, we have 2 hours a day leftover for writing. Question is, is that enough?

Well, like my statistics professor in college once said, numbers can, and do, lie. While they aren’t lying here, this is a typically workday schedule. Let’s give us 2 days off a week from our day jobs, and throw in a little time to hang out with friends and family, drink a few cervezas, and sleep in a little and we go from having 2 hours free a day to 20 free hours a week (2 hours a day during the week plus 5 hours on Saturday and 5 hours on Sunday). Sounds better, doesn’t it? So, will 20 hours a week give us enough time to not only write, but research, edit, blog, promote, and do everything else there is to do to be a writer in the 21st century?

The answer is, I don’t know.  But like saving and dieting, the proof is whether you actually adhere to your budget. Is your butt in your somewhat uncomfortable writer’s chair and are you actually doing the work? Or are you sitting there playing Angry Birds on your computer and ticked because you just can’t get the little house to crumble the right way to smash the oinking pig?

So let’s say that we’re all being good and we’re doing our work. Let’s take a look at my numbers. For me, I work from the house, so cut commuting out of my work schedule and I free up an hour each day. But, I’m also the primary caregiver for our sons, so add two hours to my kid portion of my day. That puts me around 15 hours a week. Is it enough? If I budget my time, yes. often, I let some of my writing time bleed over into other parts of the day with a little thing I like to call multi-tasking. While I’m riding the exercise bike, I’m doing research by reading a book on the secret service. When I take the kids to the library for story time, I review the 5 pages I wrote the night before. These are small things, but like saving and dieting, small changes add up to big gains over time. Making sure we are using our time wisely can mean the difference between a finished manuscript at the end of a year or starting yet another year with that same old New Year’s Resolution: “This is the year I finish my novel.”

Now it’s your turn. How does your writing audit stack up? How many hours can you devote to writing a day? How much does your actual time compare to your budget?   To the keyboards!


Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at

Mystery Monday – The Murder Room

It’s the first post of the New and Improved Mark Fadden’s Blog! And for “Mystery Mondays” what better subject for writer’s to talk about then mystery books we love! They are at the same time our inspiration and our research. I can think of no better book that fits each of those roles better than The Murder Room by Michael Capuzzo.

Opening with a scene where one of their founders breaks, of all people, a priest into admitting he had relations with young boys,  Capuzzo chronicles the adventures of the Vidocq Society, a group comprised of the Top Guns of criminal profiling, former FBI agents, and homicide veterans that meet in a room in Philadelphia to work on unsolved cases pro bono, while they feast on spectacular meals on white tablecloths. 

Reading like a best-selling mystery novelCapuzzo dredges up the details of each cold case featured in the book with a tenacity and doggedness seen in the best of today’s investigative reporters. Another facet of the book is that he also gives us an intimate, almost too much at times, look at three of the group’s founding members – William Fleischer, Frank Bender and Richard Walter, who is also known as the “living Sherlock Holmes.”

From a research aspect, I’ve dog-eared many pages in the book. The cases and characters are on full frontal display throughout. Beyond that, the writing itself is worthy of becoming a study aid for writers. Alot of non-fiction, at least the amount that I’ve seen, has a tendency to drag in places. Non-fiction about forensics and murder can, at times, be a marathon of how-much-gore-can-you-handle. But Capuzzo puts a human face on these stories; the research he completed has been exhaustive. The story that he keeps coming back to throughout the book about the “Boy in the Box” will absolutely break your heart.

Thank you to Mr. Capuzzo for putting this book together. I’m sure I’m not the only writer that will continue to use it for inspiration for years to come.


Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at

The future of publishing, part 2 of 2

As I blogged about yesterday, and to give a nod to Mr. Mark Twain, the rumors of the publishing industry’s death are highly exaggerated. With advancements in self publishing, eBooks and social media, there are simply more ways for more players to get into the game. What does that mean for us? It means that we have to make our product the BEST THAT IT CAN BE if we want to gain the attention of agents, editors and, ultimately, readers. In other words, first write a damn good book (DGB).

After writing the DGB, if you believe what the presentors, editors, and agents talked about at the 2011 DFW Writers Conference, there are a few paths you can go down:

1. Traditional book deal – the first step in this process is to get an agent. How do you get an agent? You query an agent with a letter, synopsis and sample chapters. At the conference, they set up a “gong show” and had a volunteer read actual query letters from conference attendees while both the audience and agent panel listened. At any part of the letter, the agents could bang their gong; three gongs would bring an end to the evaluation, and then the moderator would question the agents why they gonged. Surprisingly, the answers revolved around three main complaints: 1 – too much stuff going on in the letter. The agents all said that writers should get in, talk about how many words their manuscript is, whether it’s completed or not, talk about the main plot (not subplots) and the main characters and get out. Don’t drone on how it’s a vampire mystery with a little romance and YA stuff thrown in. Oh, and by then way the heroine has cancer or some funky disease. Too much too soon. 2- don’t be cheesy. Just don’t be cheesy. 3 – keep it to one page. I got the impression that agents think of query letters like a first date. Don’t come on to strong, don’t bathe in Aqua Velva, and always, always leave them wanting more.   

2. Self-publish – I’ve self published 2 books, my latest one, The Brink, was self-published through iUniverse. With 90% of novels selling less than 500 copies, I can tell you that I’m in the other 10%. But, if I ever self publish again (my goal is to get a traditional deal) I won’t go through a self-publishing company. I’ll do it myself. Fort Worth Star Telegram columnist Dave Lieber, who as the Watchdog Nation founder, is like DFW’s answer to John Stossel, showed us how he does it, and even gave us the numbers that make self-publishing by yourself or becoming a publisher yourself makes the most sense if you choose to self publish. Want more info on it? Well, I wouldn’t be a good suspense thriller writer if I gave it to you now. More on Dave’s presentation next week.

3. eBook publishing – Mark Hollingsworth, a rep with Barnes & Noble, taught a class on how to publish for free with B&N’s new Pubit platform. It really is simple to do, and depending upon the price point at which you choose to sell your novel, you can keep up to 70% of the profits. If you want to hit all the eBook publishers at once, you can do it for a fee through Smashwords. A note to PC users, if you want your book on iBooks, the only way to do it is to go through Smashwords.

I could have written much more about what I learned about the future of publishing at the DFW Writers Conference, but as Kristen Lamb taught us in the blogging class, keep your blogs short. I’m at about 600 words here, so I’ll just mention a few words about the new format. Starting next week, Mark Fadden’s blog will come to you Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and we’re going to have themes:

Mystery Monday – Since I’m a mystery/thriller  author, we’ll discuss all topics mystery related including infamous murder cases (and what made them that way), forensics, and possible plots.

Writing Wednesdays – We’ll talk about the craft of writing and all things “authorpreneurial” including marketing and promoting our books.

Finance Fridays – Since my latest thriller, The Brink, uses the current financial meltdown for it’s foundation, we’ll talk about the cluster**** that is our nation’s current financial condition. Trust me, there is no lack of topics for this subject.

So, that’s the new format. I hope you’ll like it and tell others about it.

Questions? Comments? To the keyboards!


Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at

The future of publishing, part 1 of 2

The big talk in both the blogosphere and the traditional news outlets these days is that the publishing industry is at a crossroads. If you attended the DFW writers’ conference this past weekend, you heard that authors are embracing self publishing platforms and social media and that traditional publishing is on the ropes.  Those same folks said that you were a fool if you still chased after a traditional publishing contract. Traditional publishers are simply middle men taking a big cut of profits out of the pockets of authors. Why, they even showed us how we can become our own publishers and publish our own real books for nominal fees, promote those books to the right groups, and make out a pretty good living doing so.

But then you also heard that traditional publishers have fully embraced social media. They have the ability to maximize what social media has to offer. They will continue to promote their workhorse authors that have shown up on the bestseller lists for years as well as publicize new and upcoming authors that show promise.   

There were those that talked about eBooks being the Holy Grail, that they will put more books in more people’s’ hands for much less money . You also heard those that believed there will always be a market for real books that you can touch, smell and take along anywhere, wi-fi connection and power source be damned.

So, that begs one question: who’s right? I think they all are. I think that there has never been a better time to be a writer than right now. Sure, the emergence of self-publishing and the ability to publish an ebook for free on Barnes and Noble’s Pubit or Amazon’s self-pub service has definitely crowded the market, but it all comes down to one thing: is it a good book? Because whether you believed the agents at the conference that work hard to get their client’s a book deal with a traditional publisher or you are out there by yourself  hand selling each and every copy of that book that you sweated over for the better part of three years, one thing you must do to make sure you get the recognition you’re after is to make sure that book is your best effort. Have you reviewed it until you’re sick of looking at it? Has it been edited by a professional? Is the cover the most eye-catching it can be? And so on.  

Whatever route you want to take to get your book published, it seems you can take it these days. But, like I was reminded at the conference, make sure the book you’ve got is the best you’ve got. If not, then you’re just spinning your wheels. And whatever direction the publishing industry takes, if you’re spinning your wheels, you’ll go nowhere fast.


Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at