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Jearl's books

A Dance with Dragons
The Death Factory
The Footprints of God: A Novel
Winter of the World
The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
A Game of Thrones
A Storm of Swords
Cross My Heart
Girl Missing
Spandau Phoenix
A Feast for Crows
Odd Apocalypse
A Clash of Kings
Fall of Giants
The Art of Racing in the Rain

Jearl Rugh's favorite books


From the time Jearl was thirteen and completed his first term paper on ancient Greece and Rome, the passion to write ignited. At first, journalism seemed a logical pursuit, but the path down newspaper and magazine publication wasn’t broad enough for his drive. He needed a motor speedway; somewhere he could floorboard the throttle of his imagination. He now writes suspense novels where his unsuspecting characters best buckle up.

Jearl makes his residence on the Washington State coast just an eight minute walk to the Pacific Ocean. Free range black tail deer grazing on his lawn, bald eagles keeping the rodent population in check and power walks with the pounding surf at his ear are only part of the inspiration he finds near home. Whether it’s the deserts of eastern Washington, the streets of downtown Seattle or the ocean’s shore, he draws the settings for his character-based novels from the diverse pallet of the Pacific Northwest. 


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Everyone has a story.

Here's mine and I'm sticking to it.

After weeks of study and the exam behind me, waiting was the next thing on that list. In four weeks, just four sedentary and solitary weeks, I’d know for certain the direction my next career would take.

 At the end of my junior year in high school, in conversation with my assistant English literature teacher, who insisted the punctuation at the end of a sentence was called a “full-stop” not a “period,” asked, “What do you want to do with your life?”

“Write books,” I said without hesitation.

“You should do just that,” he responded with a nod of encouragement.

With his voice still resonating in my mind after two plus decades of making excuses why not to write—college studies, a wife I wanted to love, a new family that needed rearing, and a career demanding fifty to sixty hour work weeks followed by a painful and unexpected three-year career change (at that time still in progress)—now, with four weeks to dedicate to something other than soap operas, Donahue, and Oprah, I dug out a package of three by five index cards stowed in a drawer since college and a fresh 5¼ inch floppy disk. It was time to write that book; it was time to write “Unfinished Symphony,” a romance novel under the pseudonym of Michele Greenwood. (In 1991 my uninformed theory was that women wouldn’t read a romance novel written by a guy. It wasn’t true then nor is it today, but I was entitled to my own assumptive opinion, right?).

Over the next few days, with the lined cards spread across the dining room table, I penned a brief chapter outline, each card dedicated to one chapter. Eight years before Chris Baty introduced NaNoWriMo to the world, it seemed right to target one chapter a day so I’d be able to complete the first draft in the month I had before my exam results. With my Kaypro II, my twenty-eight pound “laptop” with a nine-inch green-eyed monitor, I started to type.

The words flowed like warm raspberry syrup over a stack of hot pancakes and the characters breathed life. Hamilton, the wealthy but shy stringed-instrument manufacturer, shop-owner, teacher and orchestra-conductor extraordinaire, and Krista, his gorgeous blond new student, customer and first violinist in Hamilton’s orchestra, fall in love over shitake mushrooms during a shopping trip to Pike’s Market. How hard can this be? Maybe writing should be my new career, not real estate. After all, isn’t that one of the reasons I moved from the smog cloaked valley of LA to the pristine climes of the Puget Sound? Damn the bumbershoots, I’m going to write.

With the first draft completed, I got the news, both bad and good. I failed a section of the real estate exam and had to retake it. Now, my sales career—and the income my wife and I needed—was to be delayed another month, but, I would have that month—with no need for further excuses as to why I don’t have a job—to rewrite the next best-seller. Back to the keyboard—edit, delete, backspace, insert—until my two-hundred page novel was complete.

Now came the next natural part of the process, finding an agent who believed enough in the project to take me on. I got my hands on the most current edition of “Writer’s Market” and located six agents who were looking for something like what I had to offer. Once the query was polished, I sent it the only way I could in 1992, via snail-mail—we just called it mail back then.

How surprised I was when one of those agents wrote back with interest. I’m not sure if she responded because her first name and my penname were the same, if she really saw merit in the work (she did say my book had an unusual twist; he doesn’t want “it” and she does), or if I was just a source of revenue. Since I didn’t know I shouldn’t pay a reading fee, I wrote the check and sent the manuscript. Soon she returned the novel with a few notes and a letter of intent for representation.

You could have knocked me over with a writing quill. Why had I wasted more than a quarter century? This was simply too easy, easier, in fact, than selling real estate. One house sale in six months proved one thing, I’m no salesman.

Well, fast forward one year and, after exhausting the US and Canadian publishers, Michele returned the “Unfinished Symphony” manuscript with a note of apology. “Sorry, there’s no market.”

Disappointment, disenchantment, shattered pride, or hack, call it what you will, the next voice I heard was the voice of betrayal, my own. “I’m a failure.” My work was neither destined for the best sellers list nor the shelf at the local bookstore. And worse, “Unfinished Symphony” now haunted my file cabinet like a menacing poltergeist. Something I always thought I should do, would do, and could do went down to ruin because I allowed a single failure to dictate my future, quash my spirit, and dry my inkwell.


Since the career change had become protracted and had now taken such an unexpected turn—the double failure of real estate and marketing my book—I shifted my focus back to the familiar, making a living by working a “real” nine to five … until 2008.

That summer, a woman who wasn’t named Michele and who has more tolerance for me than any one should be required to extend, gave me the “put up or shut up” speech—in the nicest of way, of course. My wife encouraged me to join a new local writers’ group. There, I found another voice. Casz, my writing coach, said I needed to rewrite the script replaying over in my head. “Say it with me, ‘I’m a writer.’” Her praise, the opposite of what I had been listening to for the sixteen years, said I needed to stop grieving over the past. I was anything but a hack.

Under her tutelage, she taught me three valuable truths: the disappointment of rejection is part of the writer’s journey, (I’m still not much of a salesman judging from the scores of rejections cluttering my Inbox, but …), pride gets in the way of improving your art (if you think you’re all that and bag of chips, you’ll end up with just a bag of chips), and, if you’re a true story teller, disenchantment will never stand in the way of filling a blank page with your words.

My work is still not on the shelf at the local bookstore, but I was encouraged recently by yet one other voice. When asked, “How many novels did you write before you were published?” international best-selling author, Ken Follett, told me (okay, he told the hundreds who had gathered for a book signing) “Eight.” When ask why, he said, “The first seven weren’t good enough.”

Maybe I can cut that in half with book four, but no matter. A new voice greets me each morning. No, it’s not a new wife. It’s Seneca, my protagonist, telling me what she’s up to next. I can hardly wait.

Jearl's books

A Dance with Dragons
5 of 5 stars
No spoilers here, just total enjoyment in reading. Martin continues to be the master of suspension of disbelief in this his fifth edition to the fantasy novel series "Song of Fire and Ice." He moves from point of view to point of view,...