Category Archives: Writing

A Free Short Story Offer


Two other suspense writers featured in the Murder U.S.A. anthology and I are offering a free collection of short stories. This offer is only good through May 7, so act now to receive our book.

Just click here to download the free stories.

Giveaway banner (final)

Happy reading!

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Book Review: The Last Days of Night, by Graham Moore


moore-coverI haven’t posted many book reviews on this blog. Most of the business books I read aren’t that compelling. Most of the fiction I read doesn’t pertain to the themes of this blog. But I recently finished a novel that provides a fascinating look at corporate and legal culture in the 1880s—The Last Days of Night, by Graham Moore.

The protagonist in Moore’s novel is Paul Cravath, a fictionalized version of the attorney who later founded the New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore. Other major characters include Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, J.P Morgan, and Nikola Tesla. None of these men comes across very positively. In this novel (and the author makes it clear that the book is fiction, though well-researched), Edison obtained his patent on the electric light bulb fraudulently, Westinghouse ordered a fire set in Tesla’s warehouse, J.P. Morgan switched his allegiance from Edison to Westinghouse for financial gain, and Tesla was a complete kook (albeit brilliant).

The book is engaging. There’s enough science in it for science lovers, but it’s easy enough for non-aficionados of science to gloss over it and still enjoy the story. Cravath’s character clearly is representing Westinghouse without really understanding direct current and alternating current, giving readers permission to do the same.

What I enjoyed the most was the look into early corporations—the forerunner of General Electric owned by Thomas Edison, Westinghouse owned by George Westinghouse, and even Morgan’s banking firm—as well as the development of the modern law firm associate structure created by Paul Cravath. There were plenty of corporate and financial shenanigans depicted in the novel, as well as one-up-man-ship between Cravath and his partners. The story could easily have taken place today in the internet world. In fact, many of the chapters open with quotes from Steve Jobs and Bill Gates that are eerily relevant to the electrical industry of more than a century ago.

What I didn’t like was wondering what was true and what wasn’t as I read. Moore confesses in his author’s note,

“This book is a Gordian knot of verifiable truth, educated supposition, dramatic rendering, and total guesswork.”

He offers a chronology of the actual events on his website. However, his changes to the true chronology and the unverifiable actions attributed to the primary characters ultimately caused me to be more skeptical of the book than I wanted to be. Had it been a novel not using real people as primary characters, I could have accepted it much better.

I’ve had some experience at incorporating historical characters into novels (though not in Playing the Game; I’ve written books under another name as well), but I have never depicted true personages as murderers, thieves, frauds, and corporate moles. And when I’ve written historical fiction, I’ve kept my description of events as close to their true chronology as I can.

Still, the author’s note gives me some satisfaction that Moore has accurately described the flavor (if not the chronology) of the invention of the light bulb, the “battle of the currents” between direct current and alternating current, the development of the modern law firm, as well as the implementation of the electric chair for the death penalty. I do recommend the book. But take it with a grain of salt.

What books depicting corporate intrigue have you enjoyed?

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A Novel Idea


For all of you who received new tablets, ereaders, or other devices that can handle reading apps, I recommend my novel Playing the Game to you as a true-to-life diversion.

The book revolves around a business in trouble and the people who lead it. The CEO and the Vice-President of HR and a host of other corporate officers—some well-meaning and some not—try to save their toy company from bankruptcy. Along the way, murder and mayhem result, along with a reorganization and a major product launch.

Playing the Game is not only good fun, but useful as a case study for corporate training exercises.  Click here for a list of discussion questions about the book.

Enjoy your holidays. We’ll all be back playing the game soon enough.

PTG Rickover cover

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When a Major Project Is Over, How Do You Decide What Comes Next?


2A83XPT89B.jpgI have just finished a major project and I’m at loose ends. I’ve been at this point many times in my career. When I worked for a corporation, there was usually another project waiting to take the place of the one just finished. In fact, I generally had many projects overlapping, though sometimes one took precedence. But now that I work for myself, when one big project ends, I need to motivate myself to move on to the next.

For the last couple of months, I have been bringing a huge writing project to closure. It is about to be published (not under the Sara Rickover name, so I can’t tell you what it is). I have spent countless hours on the minutiae, and I am just now able to raise my head and look around me. What work do I take on next? I ask myself.

In the corporate world, when I had a moment to think about what came next, I would assess what in my job was boring me (that I wanted to do less of), and I’d think about what interested me and how I might expand my expertise (that I wanted to do more of). That’s how I moved from defending employment cases into drafting employee benefit plan documents—it felt like it was time for me to broaden the service I could provide to my Human Resource clients, and employee benefits was a way to do it.

At other points in my career, my boss asked me to move into new areas, and I had little choice. That’s how I got into handling property tax assessment disputes for one division and specialized contract work for another division. Not glamorous stuff, but these matters did teach me more about business, and I’ve used both skills in non-profit work I’ve done in recent years.

Now I am faced with several possibilities for what comes next. The advantage is that I get to choose. So, how do I choose? Here are some of the questions I am asking myself:

  • Do I do what seems like the logical next step?
  • Do I do what will teach me the most?
  • Do I do what will make me the most money?
  • Do I do what I most want to do?

And after asking myself these questions, I asked: How can I make one project address most of these needs?

I think I’ve landed on my next project. It is an outgrowth of the project I just completed, but I want to structure my approach to this issue differently. I hope with a new approach I will learn new things. It isn’t necessarily what I most want to do, but I am getting excited about it as I plan the first steps.

What do you do when you get to choose your next project?

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How Realistic Do You Want Your Fiction To Be?


I don’t post much about my novel, Playing the Game, but I thought it would make a nice Labor Day diversion.

Recently I was asked whether the book is true to life. My answer: Yes and no.

Playing the Game is fiction. None of the events in the book happened—at least not the way they are depicted. The facts and faces have been changed to protect the innocent. But the plot is realistic. It deals with issues that many corporate executives face, such as managing budgets and people, planning new product lines, deciding who will succeed departing key personnel, and integrating work and family time. And, of course, dealing with the personal peccadilloes of the colleagues we encounter in the hallways every day.

But the plot is realistic. It deals with issues that many corporate executives face, such as managing budgets and people, planning new product lines, deciding who will succeed departing key personnel, and integrating work and family time. And, of course, dealing with the personal peccadilloes of the colleagues we encounter in the hallways every day.

One reader told me after reading the book, “I know these people.” This reader and I have never worked together, and we have only a few common acquaintances. In other words, the characters are like co-workers we have all known, with common foibles and insecurities.

I market Playing the Game as a thriller, but it isn’t a thriller like Dan Brown’s or Brad Thor’s novels. It is a thriller in the same way that Arthur Hailey’s books such as Hotel or Airport were thrillers. The business is going through a make-or-break time, and the question is whether it can be saved. There are criminal activities in the book, but the thrill is not from solving the crime but from the highs and lows of living through difficult circumstances.

Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park and other far-out thrillers also wrote Disclosure, which dealt with sexual harassment in the workplace in a very realistic setting. While I enjoyed Jurassic Park and his other fantasies, I was captivated by Disclosure, because “I knew those people.” I had dealt with similar situations in my job. That’s the kind of fiction I aspired to write in Playing the Game.

So, as a writer, my question to readers is:

How realistic do you like your fiction? Do you want to read books that deal with things you know, or do you want to explore worlds of fantasy to escape your daily routine?

Happy Labor Day

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MURDER U.S.A. Anthology now available! Features My Novel PLAYING THE GAME


Murder USA final cover

Kristen Elise of Murder Lab Press has edited an anthology of mysteries with U.S. settings. This anthology features excerpts from a number of writers, including my novel, Playing the Game, as well as mysteries by several other authors I know. The anthology is free on most platforms and offers readers the opportunity to explore some recent mystery novels.

Here are the particulars:

Murder, U.S.A. contains excerpts from thirty-one full-length crime fiction novels. Each novel features a location in the United States. Thus, the collection offers a “murder tour of the nation” to readers of all sub-genres of crime fiction.

Organized by U.S. location and labeled by sub-genre, the collection features excerpts of romantic suspense, cozy mystery, legal and corporate thriller, paranormal mystery, historical mystery, dystopian suspense, near-future thriller, medical mystery, traditional mystery, political procedurals, hard-boiled/noir, international thriller, and psychological suspense.

Something for everyone.

My novel, Playing the Game, is one of the books excerpted in the anthology. Playing the Game is set near the Rocky Mountains. The book is about a business in trouble and the people who lead it. The protagonist is Maura Ramirez, head of Human Resources. (Who says HR can’t be a hero?) Maura battles the egos, incompetence, and backstabbing of her fellow executives while the CEO of the company is comatose. Meanwhile, a murderer lurks among them.

Murder U.S.A. features a fine cast of authors: Patrick Balester, Stephen Brayton, Joyce Ann Brown, Craig Faustus Buck, James R. Callan, Lance Charnes, Sue Coletta, G.G. Collins, Diana Deverell, Lesley A. Diehl, Pam Eglinski, Kristen Elise, Ph.D., Elaine Faber, Sunny Frazier, M.M. Gornell, Michael Hebler, Dorothy Howell, Gay Kinman, Tracy Lawson, Sheila Lowe, Janet Elizabeth Lynn, Kathy McIntosh, Kelly Miller, Cathy Perkins, Sara Rickover, Carole Sojka, Linda Thorne, and Will Zeilinger.

The book is free on all platforms except Nook at this time, but the free Smashwords EPUB version will work on Nook ereaders.

So go ahead and download Murder U.S.A. at the following links:

Amazon (free)
Kobo (free)
iTunes (free)
Smashwords (free)
Nook (99 cents)

The anthology offers you a great way to expand your reading horizons for free. If you like any of the excerpts in the anthology and want to read that complete novel, each excerpt contains links to buy sites for that book.

Download Murder U.S.A. for free and enjoy! (Perfect spring break reading.)

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A Plug for PLAYING THE GAME


What does it mean to play the game? Winston Churchill said:

“Play the game for more than you can afford to lose . . . only then will you learn the game.”

That is the theme of my novel, Playing the Game. Which of the characters play the game to Churchill’s standard, and which do not?

I have been focused on other work in recent months and have not posted about my writing. So today I am putting in a shameless plug for Playing the Game, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in both paperback and ebook formats.

Here are quotes from some of my favorite reviews of the book:

On Amazon: “This is a fascinating, fast-paced novel about the issues facing the modern corporation . . . . The characters are sharply drawn and the plot is full of interesting twists; I lost a few hours of evening sleep reading this one, as I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommended!”

On Barnes & Noble: “I loved this book from beginning to end . . . . It captures the nuance of corporate shenanigans and gives unexpected insight into the closed boardroom, a place where there really are no winners. Sara Rickover is impressive in her understanding and portrayal of the company.”

On Amazon: “Just finished Playing the Game. As an HR person, I think the book really nailed it. For those interested in an insiders view of life in human resources, it is a great read!”

On Amazon: “As other reviewers noted, this book is fast-paced, entertaining, and wonderfully written! . . . . fully fleshed out characters with psychological traits and flaws . . . . If you don’t know anything about the details of how organizations and HR operates and you don’t want to pick up a dry textbook, pick up Playing the Game . . . .”

On Goodreads: “A wonderfully written novel. Although it deals with a corporate crisis and chaos, it reads like a thriller. It kept me up nights to find out how the Playland team would manage through all the problems that surface. Rickover obviously understands the corporate world.”

PTG Rickover coverPlaying the Game would make a great gift for corporate managers and professionals you know, and would also be a fun discussion or training tool for a Human Resources or management staff.

I encourage anyone with an interest in a fast-paced story of corporate intrigue to take a look at Playing the Game. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble provide the first few chapters for free. So check it out!

Thank you for your consideration.

 

P.S. Playing the Game will be featured in an upcoming anthology, Murder U.S.A., to be published by Murder Lab Press.

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