Friday, May 21, 2010

Guest Blogger, Stephen Listow

Please join me in welcoming author Stephen Listow as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.

Stephen is the author of WHO WROTE THE BOOK OF DEATH? Here’s a brief synopsis of the book: In Who Wrote the Book of Death? someone wants to finish off the writer instead of the book. When PI Greg Nines agrees to protect a woman from death threats, he assumes that her name isn't really Taliesyn Holroyd. 

Unfortunately, he also assumes she's really a romance novelist with a book in progress. She assumes he's stopped drinking after his own wife's murder. What else they don't know could bury them both along with the book. Greg Nines fell into a bottle after his pregnant wife's murder. Now nearly three years sober, he fights to protect a woman whose pain is even deeper than his own. If he can save her, maybe he can save himself, too. 
Beth Shepard thought masquerading as romance novelist Taliesyn Holroyd would be a lark until someone threatens to kill her. Terrified, she turns to Greg Nines, who revives all the guilt she has run from since being raped in college. Nines wonders why none of Taliesyn Holroyd's books show a photograph. When he realizes that the author's bio is fake, he wonders what else his gorgeous client isn't telling him. By the time "Tally" admits the truth, Nines has a full line-up of suspects: a bitter ex-husband, a college rapist, and a philandering politician with mismatched eyes. He's falling in love with a woman who doesn't even exist, and if he can't unravel the lies that bind him and Beth Shepard to their separate pasts, nobody will have a happy ending.

Stephen has stopped by today to talked about “the Susan Saga.”

I haven’t known a woman named some variant of “Susan” since early in my college days, but the name was a perennial favorite as I grew up. It finally dropped out of the top seven most popular names for girls the year I graduated from college and hasn’t returned, but the name has more connections to my writing than a circuit box. Why? Beats me.

It still evokes images of my misspent youth: the traditional “Oh, Susannah,” Frank Zappa’s Suzy Creamcheese, and the rockabilly classic “Susie Q” (Which
gave me the idea for a short story), lead the list.

The first Susan—Susie, actually—appeared in an early work that I turned into my sixth-year thesis at Wesleyan University. Her full name was Susannah for the biblical allusion, but everyone in the book called her Susie. She was a pregnant cheerleader who claimed that her high school math teacher fathered her unborn child, and her name is one of the very few details I haven’t changed in the succeeding rewrites. She’s still exactly what the story needs. In fact, all the story lacks is a publisher.

The second Susan is Susie, too, or maybe that should be Susie II. My high school class graduated nearly 700 students, so we never met until our reunion a few years ago. Susie played keyboard in Detroit and I play guitar badly enough to annoy the neighbors, which sounded like a good premise for a PI story, maybe even a series. Eventually, I dumped the reunion set-up because it sounded too much like a cozy. Unless your favorite pet is a pit viper, you wouldn’t call my stuff “cozy.”

Susie gave me the technical background for “Stranglehold,” the novella which appears in this summer’s Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, too. Technically, that story follows the second novel, but the series is still wending its way through the agent wilderness. Former keyboard goddess Megan Traine, a shorter, darker version of the real woman, has a name that rhymes with her inspiration.

After meeting Susie, I came home with the idea for a rock ‘n roll short story, too. “Susie Cue,” about a sexy pool hustler, appeared in print in 2008. It’s still one of my favorites, and Susie has an autographed copy.

Suzanne (That’s “Susie III), whom I was directing in a play, dared me to write a romance, and, over the next few months, her challenge morphed into Who Wrote The Book of Death? It became my all-time rejection leader before finding a home, but it’s in print as of last week. Naturally, by the time you read this, the very first autographed copy of the book should be in Suzanne’s hands. Some traditions bear keeping.

My current WIP has no Susan in it. Maybe I need to change that to keep my lucky streak going, but it felt like time to widen my fan base. That’s why the women are Tina G. Wasteland and Molly Ringworm.

Stephen, thanks so much for guest blogging today. You have an interesting theme going with Susans, but I do like the Molly Ringworm name too. WHO WROTE THE BOOK OF DEATH? sounds very intriguing. Best of luck.

For more information on Stephen and his work, be sure to check out his website at


  1. Mason - Thanks for hosting Stephen.

    Stephen - Thanks for sharing your Susan saga with us. It's so interesting to learn how different life experiences affect even our choice of names. Who Wrote the Book of Death sounds really interesting, and I wish you well with it.

  2. Don't veer from the Susan success now!

  3. Stephen, Congrats on the book. I am feeling better now that your book was your all-time rejection leader. A good point for persevering.

    Mason - Thanks.

  4. I like the idea of a Susan in all your stories. It gives a fun quality to the body of work, leaving readers looking for the next Susan. Best wishes with Who Wrote the Book of Death.

  5. Morning everyone, thanks so much for stopping by. Hope you all have a wonderful day.

    Stephen, thanks again for guest blogging. The Susan story is quite interesting. Best of luck.

  6. This was fun - reading your morphing of Susan. And I like the title, Who Wrote the Book of Death?.

    Wishing you many, many sales.

    Straight From Hel

  7. Isn't it funny how some names stick with us? Good luck!

  8. I'm going to come more often whenever I have time to browse the blogsphere.. I have added you to the list of blogs I follow ...

  9. It is funny how some names stick with us or follow us around. As a teacher I definitely associate some characteristics with certain names :)

  10. This sounds like a great book--very intriguing! I'd like to read it.

    I struggle with and am fascinated by names almost to the point of absurdity.

  11. Fun guest post! Thanks Mason and Steve. (I love "Molly Ringworm".)

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  12. steve, i cannot express enough how happy i am for you..
    i am so very glad to be included in your "susie group" and to know that i helped in the 'push' to make it happen.. may you have only success from here on out...
    as always you remain my favorite director to work for...
    take care..


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.