WANTED: A few good crime writers.

Good writers who want to be great ones, or dedicated beginners looking to sharpen and deepen their understanding of the writing craft. 

If this sounds like you, I'd love to invite you on a journey of discovery. How good can you get in the next three months? Six months? In the next year? Because no matter how good we are, don't we always want to be better? I know I do.  

One of my favorite reviews came from Sheila Deeth at Cafe Libre. She had this to say about A Cup Full of Midnight, the second book in my Jared McKean private detective series:  "A story this powerful is hard to find, a mystery this intriguing, or a narrator as brutally honest and generous and kind." This five-star review from the San Francisco Book Review is a close second: “…Pleasingly spiky prose which positively bristles with the darker side of wit." 

These reviews make me happy every time I read them, but they also inspire me to hone my craft so my next books will be even better. Like the writer who, when asked which book was his best, said, "My next one."

Does that resonate with you? Then this course might be for you. How about the rest of these? 

  • You care about the craft of writing; while "having a good story" is great, it's not enough for you
  • You have (or can make) time to read a book each month (or at least most months) and discuss it at the end of the month
  • You strive to make sure your next book is your best one
  • You feel you have room to grow as a writer and are committed to it
  • The idea of learning the craft by studying current successful novels appeals to you

You may not be sold yet on this last one. I know some authors who won't read other authors in their genre for fear of being influenced by another writer's voice. But think about it for a moment. Great artists learn to draw and paint by copying the masters: "Here's how Rembrandt captured the texture of light on velvet...," "Here's how Caravaggio used light and shadow to guide the viewer's eye..." Great composers learn musical theories and techniques by playing music by other composers. Once they've mastered those techniques, they're able to apply them in original ways to their own art--and sometimes even to transcend them. 

The same is true for writing.

When I was working on A Taste of Blood and Ashes, my fourth Jared McKean book, I was unhappy with the transitions between chapters. I pulled down a couple of John Connolly books and studied how he moved from one scene or chapter to the next. I didn't copy him--our stories had very little in common, so that wouldn't have worked even if I'd wanted to--but I did see the various techniques he used and was able to adapt them for my needs. The payoff came when I turned the book in and the editor said, "I loved your transitions. Moving from scene to scene was seamless."

Later, I served on the Mystery Writers of America board with an author who had served as an Edgar judge for the Best Novel category. Since she had to read so many entries, she decided to treat those months as a crash course in writing an award-winning novel. What worked? What didn't? How did this structure serve--or not serve the book? Why did the author do this in this particular way at this particular time? Her next book was a  bestseller that either won or was nominated for every major award in her genre.

"Okay," you may be saying, "I'm open to the idea. How would the course work?" 

Well, each month, we'll read a top contemporary crime novel. On the last Thursday of each month, we'll have a live Zoom discussion about the book. A small group of pre-selected participants will discuss the book on camera. Other participants may submit their insights and question through the chat.

These calls will focus on craft. How does the author use various story elements like plot, structure, dialogue, exposition, subtext, and so on? How does the author control pacing? How does the author evoke tension in the reader? Why did he or she make the decisions that were made? 

You'll not only learn what worked in these particular books, you'll learn strategies you can apply to any book you read in the future. Imagine being mentored and taught the craft of writing by your favorite authors. This course is the next best thing. 

The video discussions be recorded and posted, so you can join any time. New discussions will be live, and you can watch the replays of anything you missed. There will also be occasional supplemental lessons, like scene analyses and a deep dive into creating effective dialogue.

Interested? You have two ways to join. For only $10 a month, you'll have access to all course materials for the duration of your subscription. Or you can choose to make a one-time payment of $147 for lifetime access. This means that, no matter how long the course runs, you'll never be charged anything extra. In essence, your second year is only $27--and any subsequent years are free. Also, if I'm ever unable to continue hosting it, you'll be given an opportunity to download all the materials for your personal use. 

Course Curriculum: 2023 Book List

January: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

 February: Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

 March: Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby

 April: Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn

 May: The Kingdoms of Savannah by George Dawes Green

 June: The Marlowe Murder Club by Robert Thoroughgood

 July: Deer Season by Erin Flanagan

 August: A Sunlit Weapon by Jacqueline Winspear

 September: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

 October: The Maid by Nina Prose

 November: Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukufka

 December: The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny

 2022 Book List

January: Shot in the Dark by Cleo Coyle

February: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

March: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing  

April: The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker

May: Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger

June: Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

July: Ninja Daughter by Tori Eldridge

August: The Dry by Jane Harper

September: The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

October: The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

November: Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

December: In Fields Where They Lay by Timothy Hallinan

 2021 Book List

January: Paper Son by S.J. Rozan

February: The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly

March:  Careful What You Wish For by Hallie Ephron

April: The Burial Hour by Jeffrey Deaver

May: The Wife by Alafair Burke

June: In a Dry Season by Peter Robinson

July: A Borrowing of Bones by Paula Munier

August: The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

September: The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger

October: IQ by Joe Ide

November: Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

December: Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Participation is limited, so reserve your spot now. 

If you have any questions about the course, please send me an email at [email protected]

About the instructor


Jaden Terrell

Jaden Terrell is a Shamus Award finalist and the author of the internationally published, Nashville-based Jared McKean private detective mysteries. On the other end of the spectrum, she's a proud Mad Catter and the author of TROUBLE MOST FAIRE, a cozy cat mystery. She write a semi-regular series of author interviews for the International Thriller Writers' The Big Thrill online Magazine and is also a contributor to the Killer Nashville Noir anthology and to Now Write! Mysteries, a collection of writing exercises published by Tarcher/Penguin for writers of crime fiction. Terrell is a recipient of several awards for service to the crime writing community, including the 2009 Magnolia Award (Southeast Mystery Writers of America, or SEMWA), the SEMWA 2017 Golden Quill Award, and the 2017 Killer Nashville Builder Award. A former special education teacher with thirty years of experience as a teacher and trainer, Terrell is a writing coach and consultant who also teaches workshops on the craft and business of writing fiction. Contact her at: http://www.jadenterrell.com.

Are you as good as you want to be? If not, for less than a dollar a day, you can join me on this journey toward excellence. Can I count you in? 

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