February 3 – 9: “How do you determine when a story is ready?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5We’ve got a full house this week, with ITW members Tom Threadgill, Debbie Herbert, R. J. Pineiro, Christina McDonald, Ann Parker, Jon Bassoff, Jeff Gunhus, Frank Zafiro, Natalie Walters, Robert Walton and Mitch Silver discussing how they determine when a story is ready. Scroll down to the “comments” section to follow along. You won’t want to miss it!


Christina McDonald is the USA Today bestselling author of The Night Olivia Fell (Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books), which has been optioned for television by a major Hollywood studio. Her next book, Behind Every Lie, is out Feb 2020. Her writing has been featured in The Sunday Times, Dublin, USAToday.com, and Expedia. Originally from Seattle, WA, she has an MA in Journalism from the National University of Ireland Galway, and now lives in London, England.


Tom Threadgill is the author of the Jeremy Winter series and Collision of Lies, available February 4th. His books have a distinct focus on clean, suspenseful action with strong character development. In his downtime, Tom enjoys woodworking, riding his Harley, and chasing the elusive Yard of the Month award. He currently resides with his wife in the Dallas area and can be reached on Facebook or through his website.


Natalie Walters is the author of Living Lies and Deadly Deceit. A military wife of twenty-three years, she currently resides in Hawaii with her soldier husband and their three kids. Natalie comes from a long line of military and law enforcement veterans and is passionate about supporting them through volunteer work, races, and writing stories that affirm no one is defined by their past.


Debbie Herbert, A USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly & Washington Post best-seller, writes psychological suspense. She’s published by Thomas & Mercer and Harlequin. Her latest book, Scorched Grounds, is a chilling, fast-paced story about family tragedy and confronting what terrifies us most. The main character struggles with chromophobia as she works to prove her father guilty of murdering her mother and brother when she was a young child. Visit her website for a free story.


R. J. Pineiro earned a degree in electrical engineering from Louisiana State University in 1983 and joined the high-tech industry in Austin, Texas, working in computer chip design, testing, and manufacturing. R. J.’s first published work, Siege of Lightning, a novel about a sabotaged space shuttle, was released by Berkley/Putnam in May of 1993. A second novel, Ultimatum, about a second Gulf War scenario, was released the following year, 1994, by Forge Books, which went on to publish R.J.’s next 12 novels over the following 13 years.


Ann Parker is a science writer by day and fiction writer at night. Her award-winning Silver Rush historical mystery series, published by Poisoned Pen Press, is set in the 1880s, primarily in the silver boomtown of Leadville, Colorado, and more recently in San Francisco, the “Paris of the West.” The series was picked as a “Booksellers Favorite” by the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association.


Jon Bassoff was born in 1974 in New York City and currently lives with his family in a ghost town somewhere in Colorado. His mountain gothic novel, Corrosion, has been translated into French and German and was nominated for the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, France’s biggest crime fiction award. For his day job, Bassoff teaches high school English, where he is known by students and faculty alike as the deranged writer guy. He is a connoisseur of tequila, hot sauces, psychobilly music, and flea-bag motels. THE LANTERN MAN is his seventh novel.


Jeff Gunhus is the USA TODAY bestselling author of thriller and horror novels for adults and the middle grade, The Jack Templar Chronicles. The first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year-old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. His books for adults have reached the Top 30 on Amazon, have been recognized as Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalists, an ITW Thriller Award nominee, and reached the USA TODAY bestseller list.


Frank Zafiro was a police officer in Spokane, Washington, from 1993 to 2013. He retired as a captain. He is the author of numerous crime novels, including the River City novels and the Stefan Kopriva series. He lives in Redmond, Oregon, with his wife Kristi, dogs Richie and Wiley, and a very self-assured cat named Pasta. He is an avid hockey fan and a tortured guitarist.


Robert Walton is the author of the Harry Thursday thriller series. He studied Archaeology at Penn State. For the last undisclosed number of years he has honed his skills as a chef and as the master baker of his world renowned Bob’s Bagels. Bob started writing short stories, and poetry over forty years ago. He now concentrates his time writing his own brand of thriller featuring the intrepid archaeologist Harry Thursday. Bob is a member of International Thriller Writers, and of Pennwriters, a multi-genre writers group based in Pennsylvania. He lives in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.


Mitch Silver was born in Brooklyn and grew up on Long Island. He attended Yale (B.A. in History) and Harvard Law School (“I lasted three days. I know the law through Wednesday, but after that…”). He was an advertising writer for several of the big New York agencies, living in Paris for a year with his wife, Ellen Highsmith Silver, while he was European Creative Director on the Colgate-Palmolive account. They have two children and live in Greenwich, Connecticut. The Bookworm, Mitch’s second novel following In Secret Service, just came out in paperback. His upcoming thriller, THE APOLLO DECEPTION—about what did (and didn’t!) happen on the moon 50 years ago—will be published this fall. Mitch also won the American Song Festival Lyric Grand Prize for “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed.” His blood type is O positive.


  1. Writing “The End” is both the most satisfying and most frightening part of the process. There’s relief at being done (except for the umpteen revisions your editor will demand) but your mind is flooded with trepidation. Did I miss a huge plot hole? Are my characters realistic? Most of all, is this story any good?

    So how do I know when the novel is ready? First, there must be a resolution to the primary plot. Whatever promise was made to the reader in the opening chapter has to be kept. That doesn’t mean every question has to be answered, but there must be a definite conclusion to the main story arc.

    Second, I make multiple editing passes through the manuscript looking for anything that might make the reader pause. Wordy paragraphs, major coincidences (hate ’em), stupid decisions by characters. Oh, and I use a program to highlight all the words I tend to overuse (and there’s a ton of them).

    Then I slap on some headphones and let my computer read the novel to me. Does every chapter move the story forward? Is there enough detail to set the scene, but not so much that it bogs down the reading? How’s the flow? If I was watching this book on the movie screen, would I like it?

    Finally, I may or may not put it out to a select few beta readers. Depends on how comfortable I am with the story. Once that process is complete, it’s off to my agent for submission. For self-published books, this is the point I’d put it out for editing and proofreading.

    There’s a difference between being done and being ready. I could go over a manuscript ad nauseam and find something to change every time. The bottom line as an author is to never submit or publish anything until it’s ready. If you’re unsure, get all the feedback you can before putting your baby out to the world. You’ll get one shot at a new reader. Don’t waste it.

    1. Hello Tom,
      Wow! I admire your process… it’s very thorough! I particularly like this: “There’s a difference between being done and being ready. I could go over a manuscript ad nauseam and find something to change every time.”
      So true!
      And I know more than a few folks who get caught in what I call “the deadly do-loop” (that’s my ancient FORTRAN training speaking), where they circle around, and around, and around (we are talking YEARS here, on a single ms–and in one case, a single chapter). For whatever reason, they just can’t get to the point of saying, “It’s done.”

      Do you (or anyone else here, please chime in) have any advice for those folks, to help them get to “done?”

      1. Hi, Ann.

        You’ve got to get different sets of eyes on the manuscript. (I keep mine in the freezer. They last longer that way. Sorry… had to say it. I write suspense.) Anyway, at the point you’re ready to either say “Wow, what a great book I’ve written” or “Wow, if I have to look at this manuscript one more time I’ll puke,” roll the dice and let a select few take a peek.

        Seriously, whether it’s beta readers (never family or friends) or editors or your agent, find people who aren’t afraid of hurting your feelings. If two or more identify the same issue in the story, it probably needs to be fixed.

        You have to be willing to take criticism. Ultimately, it’s your story and you can tell it however you want, but if you want readers to keep coming, you have to listen to what they say.

        1. Hi Tom,
          Yep, I believe in “data.” If just one beta-reader/critique partner says something needs fixing, I take note, factor in who they are, and consider it. If three say the same thing, then I *definitely* take a serious look and address it. Of course, agent and editor comments carry the most weight.
          And I agree: A writer has to be willing to listen and take criticism.

  2. Finishing a novel is really only the beginning. Making sure it’s ‘ready’ is where the real work begins. Because sending your manuscript out into the world before it’s ready can be a huge mistake. You want to develop a reputation among agents and publishers as someone who turns in polished work. Plus, with readers, you only get one shot.

    So when is your novel ‘ready’?

    In order to determine when a story is ready, you have to not only define what ‘ready’ is, but also determine the results you want to achieve.

    For me, ‘ready’ means ready to send my final draft to my editor. Through all the other stages of writing and self-editing, I’ve gotten critical feedback from my agent in order to continue crafting and polishing the story. So once I’ve finished all of my edits and drafts and I’m ready to send the book in to my editor, I break out my handy ‘Breakout Novel’ checklist.

    *Stakes – Are both my internal and external stakes high enough. If my character isn’t successful in this story, then what? What do they lose?
    *Theme – Have I stated my theme appropriately in the beginning and incorporated the answer to that thematic question at the end?
    *Timestamp – Have I included a strong enough timestamp/deadline in order to increase pressure on my character?
    *Show vs tell – Am I showing tensions, fear, anxiety, not just stating it?
    *Larger than life characters – Have I made each of my characters real, relatable and larger than life, even the secondary characters?

    Every author has their own in-built idea of when a novel is ready. But no matter what, you should never submit until that book is in the best possible place and you can’t or don’t know how to improve anything else.

    1. Very interesting, Christina, and I love your checklist. It sounds to me as if you are very organized in your approach.
      That’s great that you get feedback from your agent at each step along the way, which makes me wonder: Do you use beta-readers at all, or is your agent essentially your beta-reader before sending it to your editor?

      1. Hi Ann,

        I don’t have beta readers at all. I do let my husband read my first draft, but other than that nobody is allowed to read anything until my agent has. I trust her completely. The thing is, books are so subjective. One reader might hate something while another loves it, so I just skip all the wondering and go directly to my agent, and from there to my editor. 🙂


        1. Hi Christina,
          I actually save my husband for the final read… He’s a VERY good copy editor/proofer, and at that point I’m usually so sick of the thing I can’t even stand to look at it. I definitely give the most weight to agent and editor comments/suggestions. I consider them the ultimate beta-readers. 🙂

          1. I completely agree! Agent and editor are crucial for knowing what works/doesn’t work at not only the high level, but also the granular detail. Ultimately, we write a story but an editor makes it a book.

  3. One answer is when I’m so sick of the characters that I’m dreaming of ways to kill each and every one of them. The real answer is a bit more complicated. Here’s the thing: I usually plan out my novels pretty tightly. I start out hopeful that I know exactly where the story is going and where it will end. Unfortunately, my characters make unwise decisions (just as I do), and the plot tends to shift and slide from my original intentions. Since I tend to be fairly obsessive, I usually revise as I go in the hope that things don’t spiral too far out of control. Sometimes that works, sometimes not. In the end, I always want to ensure that any plot holes are fixed and that the characters’ voices remain consistent. But the reality is that I never feel totally satisfied when a book is finished. I’m always left with the nagging feeling that I didn’t get it quite right. And so I try again with another novel.

    1. Hello Jon,
      Hello Jon,
      Ah, I can relate. For me, when I reach the point of wishing death and destruction upon my characters, I usually am also ready to slam an apocalyptic disaster upon the setting. (Burn it! Burn it all!)
      Like you, I tend to start with an outline, or at least a synopsis. Early on, I create a list of bullet-points (events, turns, reveals, etc.) that leads the plot along to a conclusion. Sometimes I think I shouldn’t bother with that list, because “shift and slide” pretty much describes the ensuing journey to the end.
      I also always feel that, whatever the result, I “didn’t get it quite right.”
      As you point out, it’s great motivation to try again.

      Question: Did you feel that way with your first book?
      Usually, with that first, folks get to spend their time polishing to a fare-thee-well until they feel it’s “done.”

      1. Hi Ann,
        Thanks for the response and the question. There was definitely a difference between my first novel and the ones that followed. In a lot of ways, for better or worse, I was less controlling and obsessive with my first novel, The Disassembled Man. While I had a basic idea of how the story was going to end, I really had no idea how I was going to get there. In the novels that have followed, the plots have become tighter with a bit less improvisation. I think it’s only natural that the longer you write, the more self-conscious you become. The challenge is allowing the creativity to flow within those tighter constraints.

        1. Hi Jon,
          I did much the same thing with my first book. While writing Silver Lies, I just went wherever the spirit took me… and ended up with a first draft that was 600+ pages! (Lesson learned. Kind of.) In drafting the later books, self-consciousness is definitely an issue. I have to work hard to banish what feels like eyes peering over my shoulder as I write.
          Do you have any tricks or techniques you use to banish that feeling? Or do you just muscle through it? (A little off-topic, perhaps, but I am curious and I bet other folks are too.)

          1. 600 pages! That’s impressive. I think I do better when I just try writing a book that I would like to read. Whenever I get into the trap of trying to figure out the market or determine what this person or that person wants to hear is when I start becoming more self-conscious and having those “eyes peering over my shoulder.” My writing is “truer” (I don’t know if that’s a great word) when I’m writing for an audience of one–or maybe an additional few people who have similar literary passions as me.

  4. For me, it’s a question of ready for what? Since others have done a great job exploring what it means for the story being “done”, I’ll take a stab at this from the perspective of how to choose when a story is ready to move from your slush pile of ideas into the writing phase. Making the decision to pluck one of these ideas from the pile leads to months of serious commitment and energy. It’s worth considering how best to know that story idea is ready.

    Like most writers, I have more ideas than time to work on them all. The problem is, not all of them are great and worth 100k words to explore. How to decide when an idea is ready to dive into fully and commit to is a challenge. Choose the wrong idea and it could be months of needless suffering as you go down dark alleys and by-ways only to discover it’s nothing but a dead-end. If you’re an outliner, maybe you save yourself too much angst as you catch it early. But if you’re a “pantser” and explore the idea by writing it, then you might be a few months in before you realize the well won’t produce.

    Everyone has their own process on how to determine whether their idea is ready for commitment. For me, I don’t write my ideas down at first. If the idea is so great, then it’s going to burrow into my brain like a worm and park there, no notes required. It’s the ideas that won’t let themselves be forgotten that make the cut. After a few months (or years in some cases), I’ll map out a version of what the idea might look like as a novel.

    This includes an exploration of the conflict and plot, the world of the story, what interesting characters might inhabit it, what I want to say through these characters.

    Most importantly, would this be a book I would want to read?

    Sometimes in that process, the idea decides it needs to be a short story or a novella. Or a series. One thing I never do is shop the idea around with other people. The creative process is a fickle thing, and just one person having a bad day who wants to hate on something can put the kernel of doubt in my mind. I create enough self-doubt all on my own… no need for outside sources. Then, after it’s turned into a brain worm, survived the gestation period, looks good on the page as an outline, I leave it alone for another month or two. If I can’t stop thinking about it, if I can’t wait to be done with the thing I’m working on because this other idea is calling my name, then I might have something. Once the schedule opens, I look at the 10-12 ideas that have made it to that stage and read through them to see what I respond to the most at that moment. Fortunately, there’s usually a clear winner after all this and I start writing knowing I’ve put in the work ahead of time to make sure the story is ready for the hard work ahead.

    1. Hello Jeff,
      I’ve always admired people who generate so many ideas that they have a hard time deciding between them all. I’m guessing that, with your decision process, you seldom/never end up halfway in with no way out?

      1. Hi Ann,
        Sometimes I’ll get into a story and find it’s not working. Then I try to define if it’s the idea or the execution. Because of my process, it’s usually a decision I made in the execution of the idea. Then comes the hard work to figure out where I went wrong and how to fix it. Usually, since I’m working on an idea I love, I’m able to suffer through reworking the idea, even if it means deleting 20-25k words (which I’ve done before.) Thanks for the question!

  5. The answers so far are so awesome and inclusive that what I’d originally written in advance for today’s question ended up being rather redundant. So I’ll explore something additional to the craft aspect – feel.

    A book can be “done” in the sense that the story is over, the plot resolved, the stakes won or lost, and still not be truly done. What do I mean?

    I had what I believe was a great idea for a story when I first conceived of my newest novel, In The Cut. I labored over the intracacies of the plot in order to make every turn and twist work within the context of the story and all its characters, but I was always missing one thing — I didn’t know who Boone, the main character, truly was. He performed admirably in service to the plot, and I finished a couple of drafts with him playing that role. As I prepared to send the book to the publisher, though, I found myself strangely hesitant.

    It was my wife Kristi that bulls-eyed the problem to me in more specific detail. With incisive criticism, she pointed to the flaws in Boone’s motivation, his thought process, and perhaps most importantly, in my belief of who he was. She was pretty sure I had pegged him wrong.

    So I did a deep dive. Why did I feel this way about him? Who was Boone? How did he feel about everything and everyone inside that novel? Why did he feel that way? Why did he make the choices he made?

    I thought about it a lot Between conversations with Kristi and another close writer friend, and then some serious time alone with a pen, a yellow note pad, Boone was slowly became revealed to me.

    That changed everything. It all fit (after the revisions to account for his true thoughts and reactions). See, the course of the book didn’t need to change, but his perception of it did, once I figured out who he was.

    Once that was over, everything felt right. I knew I still had to do some of the things you’ve read about in other posts here — multiple edit passes, beta readers, ect.– but I also knew the book was mostly finished.

    Because it felt right.

    So that’s my contribution – in addition to all of the technical aspects that are crucial, the book has got to feel like it is done.

    1. Hello Frank,
      I also have to get that “feel” about a book before I can consider it done. Kudos to your wife for her insight!
      One thing that helps me realize I’ve “stepped away” from the character in service to the plot is when I get the sense that I am simply pushing the character around on a chessboard. It also helps when folks in my critique group say: “Why did so-and-so do that?” If my answer is, “because it says so in the synopsis!” or “because they have to!”… that’s a pretty definitive sign for me to stop doing what I’m doing and move back into the character.

      1. Ann,

        Your take is bang on.

        There’s a goofy YouTube series of shorts called “Pitch Meeting” on a channel called Screen Rant. It’s basically one guy “pitching” his movie to a movie producer, but the actor plays both roles. It lampoons many of the ridiculous things that movies do.

        I mention it here because inevitably the producer will ask exactly those kinds of questions that you and your critique group pose – “why would she do that?’ or “why wouldn’t she just do this?” or “that seems out of character.” Invariably, the scriptwriter responds with some version of “Because she’s the main character.” Or “Because I need her to do that to advance the plot” or similar admission.

        Since I came across this little diversion, it’s that exchange that I imagine (try to avoid!) when those questions pop up…

        1. Hi Frank,
          Of course, I had to go check out “Pitch Meeting” and got sucked into first one video, then another, then another…
          Well, okay then!

  6. I know a story is finished when I’ve double-checked and rechecked for plot, consistency, characterization and the small details like word choice. When I find myself haggling for several minutes over the choice of a single word, I know that the book is finished. I do believe there is such a thing as TOO much polishing–to the point where the story loses some of its raw power.

    1. Hi Debbie,
      I agree!
      The word haggling goes hand-in-hand with the “sentence reverse.” Reverse the order of two sentences. Stare at them. Reverse them back. Repeat.
      When I tinker so much I feel like a sentence/passage/scene is “coming apart” in my hands, that’s my sign to stop.
      I think sometimes one can polish to the point where it ends up being all shine and artifice.

  7. The short answer: when I read through the story (typically after countless revisions) and no longer see the need to make edits.

    Writing fiction is really about “rewriting” fiction. My first draft is little more than a noble effort to get the characters and the basic story down. I have shown the protagonists and antagonists (though they may not be fully fleshed out) and there is a clear beginning, middle, and ending to the conflict. And that’s when the real work begins: getting those characters to truly come off the page through actions, dialogue and thoughts. This step takes considerable thought and effort, and at least to me, it’s the longest and most difficult part of crafting a new story.

    Once that is complete, I start the process of reading through the story multiple times to tighten it, always remembering to show more with less. I will continue this process until I no longer see any need for edits. Up to this point, all of the work has been done on my laptop, reading the text on the screen. The final step (and one that I learned over thirty years ago from my first editor at Berkley/Putnam) is to print the entire thing and read it again. You’ll be amazed how many errors you’ll catch when the story is physically on paper.

    Then I know the story is ready.

    1. Hello R.J.,
      I’m also a big believer in printing out the book and editing from hard copy, although I usually do this after my first draft. Another trick I use when editing on the screen: I change the background of the file I’m working on to a different color (something easy on the eyes, like a pale blue, for instance). It adds a bit of much-needed distance, so I can get some perspective as I read and fix…

  8. I just happen to have a book coming out this week (The Apollo Deception), and the ending that’s being published is very different from the one I envisioned when I had the original idea some time ago. So, merely paying off the problem you started with doesn’t make a manuscript “ready.”
    For me, it’s simply running out of changes for the better.

    1. Hi Mitch,
      Yep. I think this is something that happens often. You start off thinking it’ll end one way and then… somewhere during the journey… it changes!

      And congratulations on your book release!

  9. For me, a story is ready when my characters have crossed a threshold of change. Where they start at the beginning of the story, their beliefs about themselves, others, and the world, needs to shift by the final page. I believe life is about growth and stories reflect life, so if my character(s) haven’t grown in some capacity, good or bad, the story isn’t ready.

    1. Hello Natalie,
      I agree. It used to be characters could stay the same, book to book (Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, etc.). I’m trying to think if I can come up with a similar, current-day example of a protagonist that doesn’t “change” significantly from the beginning to the end of a story. Maybe I’m just tired, but I can’t think of one.

  10. Hello all, and good evening!
    When is a story done? My short answer: When the deadline is breathing down my neck!
    A longer answer (that perhaps more directly relates to the line/arc of a story): I usually look for an “end” that resonates with the beginning of the story. A scene, a line of dialogue, a resolution that reflects back to the opening. For me, identifying that “end” happens at the subconscious level. It’s usually something I sense more than engineer. Of course, the clock ticking down to the manuscript submission deadline helps determine a story’s “done-ness” as well! There’s eventually a point where I just have to say: Good enough. It’s done.
    Given that I’ve posted this pretty late on Monday (it was a looooong day at work, what can I say?), I’m going to circle back and see what everyone has to say on this subject. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot!

    1. Well, I just finished reading all the initial comments from everyone and I *did* learn a lot!

      I also see that no one else mentioned deadlines. Am I the only one who has been in the position of saying “Done!” because there is no more time to tinker?

      1. That’s a good point! I do have deadlines, but so far I stay way ahead of the curve. I come from a journalism background, so I know the pressure of deadlines and try to turn my work in well ahead of time.

        I totally agree that the ‘end’ is a little bit subconscious. I wonder if it’s like this for all authors – that it’s just a sense that the manuscript is read.

        1. Deadlines, deadlines, and more deadlines. I don’t have them. There is no pressure for me to get the next book out other than my own mortality. I’ve got plenty of time left. Although I did do that app that shows what you’ll look like in twenty years and i got a tomb stone..

          For me my story is ready when I’ve gone over it about a zillion times, tweaking this minute detail, or rewriting that chapter hoping to make it perfect. Then I turn it over to my editor who throws it in her ringer and squeezes out what eventually becomes the finished product.

          One thing I don’t do is read my finished novel once it’s out in print. NEVER, because I’ll want to rewrite it again.

          1. Hi Robert,
            I also don’t like re-visiting my work once it’s out and about. My “edit antennae” start to twitch, and I want to take a red pen to the printed page. So, maybe in some sense, “ready” is a state of mind… It’s ready when I’ve had enough and it’s time to let it go…

        2. I have to say, I envy you, Christina! My day job also involves meeting writing deadlines, and it seems like I’m always racing the ticking clock. (Hmmm… sounds kind of thriller-ish, but definitely not in a good way.)
          I also wonder if others feel the “done” on a gut level. I suspect many do…

  11. Hi Christina. I Like what you said the other day about beta readers. I hear people talking about them and read how they use and rely on someone else to read their script before submitting it and I’m like, What am I doing wrong? I don’t use anyone else to review my story before sending off to the next stage. In the beginning I though my wife could read, or even proofread my novels, but she never has. Not much of a reader.

    I look at writing as an art form. How many artists, (painters or sculptors) get second opinions about their work before selling it? I can’t think of any. I have a writer friend living in California who is young and very creative. She writes in another genre than I do, but I respect her opinion and asked her to proof my last novel “Wish To Die” and what I got back was the beginning of a full out edit. So I kept her on and my publisher used her as the stated editor.

    She did a fantastic job and helped me craft a great piece of work. Still it is up to me to hand over a “ready” piece of work, and not rely on her to polish it off. If you polish a roughly cut sapphire, it will look like a shiny hunk of blue rock and not a priceless gemstone.

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