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What Does It Look Like?…..From ‘no book’ to ‘finished book’?

write, create, writing, authors, blogRecently a fellow writer and friend asked me this question:  “What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like?”  

My first novel, Women Outside the Walls began as a full length play.  I used my play script my book outline/treatment.  As the scenario was so current (because it was a play), I found that flashbacks were a great way to flesh out each woman’s story and it served me well.

It took me a year and four months to write it, format it and edit it. That equals 72,000 words.

I did not have a deadline and it probably would have really helped. I was my own deadline setter and that didn’t work out so well. On the other hand, I think having a publisher breathing down my neck would have stifled my creative flow.  When life got in the way I wouldn’t work on it for weeks but then I would get inspired and work on it for days, weeks, non-stop, sometimes 10-14 hours a day. So I guess it all evened out.  Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t write for a few days….you’ll make up for it with better, more relaxed creative writing.

Because I inherently ‘rush’, I found that I had to watch-dog myself and be careful not to leave out important roads of the story. I was in early proofing of the final product of my novel and realized (in a countless re-read) that I had never described my female negotiator’s physical appearance. (Yikes!).  Again, (if the writer tends to rush) go back and re-read your work to see where you need to flesh out a chapter or a character.

I am not structured at all. I write a new project in my head for days, weeks and then when my brain is about to burst I begin putting it down on paper. I also write out of sequence and I think that’s okay. My novel’s last chapter was completed months before the middle was written.

Some writers have actually written whole books while blogging; they found it less daunting by writing in segments. At the end they had a book.  If you need a deadline the days that you commit to writing a blog would serve.  For me this wouldn’t work;  I would feel too exposed having my rough draft out there for the world to see as I am a writer who slams it down the first time around and then edit, edit, delete, edit.  Did I mention that the lettering ‘D’ is worn off my ‘delete’ key?

Frequently I will begin a story that has inspired me, not knowing much about the subject. It has sometimes stopped me dead in my tracks while I researched (example: hostage negotiations).   I had 8 pages of a new play, about Winston Churchill, written and  had to stop to do research. I find that it can be done while I am writing and that is what I prefer. It’s more fun and keeps me interested. I don’t think I would do well having my research all done before I put my story down. I find that the research itself inspires my story line.

WRITE WITHOUT FEAR
EDIT WITHOUT MERCY

And then there is that unseen, unheard phenomenon where, with any luck, the characters take over and you become the typist.   This has happened to me time and again, and while I resisted at first (being a control-freak) I now embrace and welcome it.  In Women Outside the Walls my character Alma, at sixteen, is abandoned by her promiscuous mother.  Alma is befriended by the ex-girl friend of the man Alma had a teen crush on.  They end up being room mates.  I could never have dreamed that one up;  but my characters got together and decided that this was what they would to do.

I don’t think that there is a right or wrong way to go through the process. Each writer should be unique in how they work. Instead of thinking of it as a project/deadline ‘thing’; think of it as a work of art, created just for you and by you. Where possible, let the characters lead you. They will never steer you wrong!

well, there you have it…the process such as it is and how it works for me.   

(Originally published January, 2013.)

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!     December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan
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The Listening Path ~~ Book Review

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 5 out of 5 quills 

Back in 2006, The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron was published.  I had just begun my journey as a dabbler in watercolors and( since 1998), had been writing stage plays. In that same year, I still considered myself a dabbler in watercolors and a junior level playwright….learning as you go.  I certainly would never have called myself an ‘artist‘ in those early days. This was a workbook that I treasure to this day. 

Now Ms. Cameron has written another lovely, insightful, encouraging book, The Listening Path. A successful communicator’s first skill is LISTENING.  A successful artist and human being should be listening; not just to other people but listening to their surroundings, and even listening to silence. Much can be learned.

This book is not only instructional but filled with tasks to practice your listening and become a better communicator. 
I highly recommend this book to my readers who are interested in furthering their self-awareness and their world around them. 

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!     December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan
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A Little Poetry and Where It was Born

ferry landing, poetry, foggy night, blogs, writing,I was sitting, late one night, at a ferry landing, waiting and watching the boats ferry back and forth until it was my turn to board.  Fog horns, misty fog, reflections on the black water, the screech of the gulls, and the silent hunting of the pelicans.

The wet air, the silence, the sound of a lone fog horn warning vessels of danger.  The fog smearing everything I looked at… I was inspired  to write poetry.  But the scene could have inspired a murder mystery writer to write about a body, weighted down, being slipped into the water;  or it could have inspired a romance writer to write about two lovers parting as the boat docked.  Never to be together again.  For me, it was poetry.  Here is an excerpt of what came out of that black night……..

FOGGY NIGHT  © 

The white orb, saturated with tidal flows 

peers through the veil, 

a ghost ship slips up the fog laden channel

 Night gulls’ sing with strident cries 

fog seeps in, the tide rolls out, 

day is gone, the night creeps on

Trees, dressed in ebony, drift by 

water glistens, gold and wet 

Night is soft and tender, edges blurred 

damp seeps into cloth, hair, bone 

Fog casts tents of light over the landing 

Hunters of the sea know not day nor night 

Fishers all, white feathers stark 

against the night shadows 

Palm trees, silhouetted against the ochre gauze,

brushes hardened with black paint……

I raced home as I had nothing to write with in the car.  Opening my front door, I dropped my keys and purse onto a chair, tore off my coat as I sped down the hall to my studio.  Waking up my computer, my fingers flew across the key board, lest I forget the words that were born in the night.

To read more click here for the books, Butterflies and Bullets and Moths and Machetes
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!     December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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Book Review ~~ Band of Sisters

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing                                5 out of 5 quills                         BOOK REVIEW

This is an exceptional, sweeping saga about a group of women, all alumni of Smith College, who volunteered to go to Europe to assist the ravaged French villages during World War I.  What is extraordinary is, if an event happened in this book, it happened in real life. Based on old documents and letters, the new Smith College Relief Unit, composed of women from all walks of life, signed up for six months to try and assist villagers who were devastated by the war raging across Europe. They were later to be affectionately known as ‘the Smithies’. 

Their careers in social work, medicine, teaching couldn’t prepare them for the conditions they found when they disembarked from a train from Paris onto the muddy track leading to the village, Gricourt. The village existed hand in glove with an always changing ‘front line’ of battle between the Allied Forces and the German juggernaut.

Each woman’s life is showcased with beautiful writing from this author, Lauren Willig.  Sometimes novels that are based heavily on actual historical events slip into being dry and dusty reading.  It never happened in this novel, I am happy to report.
A real page turner to the end. A beautiful book of prose and an exciting, action-filled, story.  

Released March 21st
Did you miss my INTERVIEW with Lauren Willig?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica  March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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Interview with Lee Matthew Goldberg, author (part 2)

Yankee Stadium with friends….the good old days…packed seats

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

LMG. When I went for my MFA at the New School. It was the first time I really starting thinking of it as a career. I had written a few books before that still needed a lot of work, and even sent one out to a few agents, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. My MFA program really helped shape me as a writer, and then afterwards when I got an agent, he was a great mentor in honing my craft. About a dozen years later, he’s still my agent.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

LMG. Nope, never. People will always want physical copies, but there will definitely be less. Personally, I’ll read on Kindle but I prefer a book a lot more. I can read e-books on like a plane, that’s about it. Physical books have a smell to them, you carry them with you, you make notes in the margins. I know you can do that with e-books but it’s not the same. I still have my high school copy of The Great Gatsby with all my notes from when I was teenager. It’s a treasure. That wouldn’t be possible with an e-book.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

LMG.  Depends. Sometimes the character comes first, sometimes the idea. Sometimes I’ll hear a song and that inspires the book like with my last novel The Ancestor. I heard a song called “The Ancestor,” and the first line was “Go on bury me.” It was wintertime and I just pictured a man buried in ice who wakes up from it after a hundred years. The rest of the book began to unravel from that image.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

LMG. I’ve always been a writer since I was a little kid. I used to make up stories about my dog getting into crazy situations, so this was always the career I was meant to have. I think that there are people who are just born writers. When I’m not working on a project, I get a little depressed, so I have to write. It’s a part of me. And it’s always been liked that.

Two Lees at book signing with Charlaine Harris

Lee and……Lee

TS: What are the chances that two gentlemen are named Lee Goldberg, both authors, and I interviewed the first one six years ago. And they, one from L.A. and one from NYC met and became acquainted at a couple of book signings? Too weird and wonderful.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation? 

LMG. Depends. Usually they start to emerge in tandem.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

LMG. That’s when I know I’m really writing something great. I’ll leave my body for a few hours and forget what I’ve written. Then I’ll spiral back down. I’ve heard Stephen King describe a similar thing. I don’t know where I go, but I go somewhere. It’s the same when I’m reading a book I’m really into, I’ll lose time in the best way.

Q.  Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

LMG. I’m always working on something. I have a YA series coming out, so I’m working on the idea for the third book. The first two have been written. And I have a screenplay project as well based off of my books that I’m working on with a production company. I’m very excited about that, since it’s been about three years in the making. I also have a few ideas for books I want to write. One takes place in the 1950s and would be a Jewish Mad Men. The perspective of a Jewish man breaking into the ad world then and the different kinds of anti-Semitism he faced. I was inspired after watching the HBO show The Plot Against America.

Q. I understand that you are about to release ORANGE CITY, an exciting sci-fi novel. Tell us about it.

LMG. Imagine a secret, hidden City that gives a second chance at life for those selected to come: felons, deformed outcasts, those on the fringe of the Outside World. Everyone gets a job, a place to live; but you are bound to the City forever. You can never leave. Its citizens are ruled by a monstrous figure called the “Man” who resembles a giant demented spider from the lifelike robotic limbs attached to his body. Everyone follows the Man blindly, working hard to make their Promised Land stronger, too scared to defy him and be discarded to the Empty Zones.

Did you miss Part 1 of our interview?

Don’t Miss Part 3 of this Interview ~~ June 19th
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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“I just always wanted to tell my stories.” Author, sports writer, Mike Lupica Interviews with this Blogger

TS. Mike Lupica is one of the most prominent sports writers in America. His longevity at the top of his field is based on his experience and insider’s knowledge, coupled with a provocative presentation that takes an uncompromising look at the tumultuous world of professional sports. Today he is a syndicated columnist for the New York Daily News; at the same time a prolific author under his own name and writing for Robert B. Parker and James Patterson. 

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

ML. Just start writing. I do it all the time. Just get into it, even if the first few pages might not ever get into your book.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

ML.  In my imagination? Where else? I get them together and get them talking, and then all of a sudden one of them will say something I didn’t know they were going to say, or do something I had no idea they would do. In moments like that, I feel as if I have the best job in the world.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

ML. I always just wanted to tell my stories. When I was ten, I was writing mystery and adventure stories – longhand of course – with myself as a main character. Old-fashioned, Catholic School blue essay books. It’s all I ever wanted to do. Tell my stories. When I was traveling extensively to talk to kids in schools for my Middle Grade books, I’d always tell them that they had to buy my books, because I had no other skills.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

ML. Characters. Always.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

ML. All the time. At the home we once had in Connecticut, my wife Taylor transformed a shed about fifty yards from our back door into an amazing writing cottage. The first time I walked down the hill, my son Alex turned to his mother and said, “He may never come back.”

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

ML. Well into this September’s Jesse, called Stone’s Throw. And back with Mr. Patterson for a new one. Working with him has been one of the great experiences of my career. Like getting a master class in getting the reader to keep turning pages.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

ML. College. Three school papers. Working nights at the Boston Globe. Writing for the Globe and the old Boston Phoenix. Chasing my dreams as hard as I could. Now here I am, getting to write about characters that Robert B. created. Honor of a writing lifetime.

Q. How long after that were you published?

ML. I was in my early 30s when “Reggie” put me on the Times list for the first time. My first mystery, Dead Air, followed shortly thereafter.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

ML. Never.

Q. What makes a writer great?

ML. It’s like asking what makes oceans deep. It’s a wonderful mix of talent, imagination, work ethic, and writing stories that make you, the person writing them, keep going to find out what’s going to happen next. And never getting up from the desk until you’ve done your best work that day.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

ML. There is nothing more exciting than Chapter One for me. Nothing. It’s the beginning of the adventure. And for me, there is no end to the adventure, even with The End. Because my head goes right into the next one.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

ML. I have been blessed. My parents, in their 90s now, still living in their own home, have been a constant blessing. I’ve never met a smarter or better or kinder person than my wife. And we have these four amazing children. They make me smarter every day, by always reminding me that they think the good old days are now.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

ML. Down time? What’s that?

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

ML. I am thrilled to be back in the world of writing mysteries. I feel as if I’ve left my mark writing novels set in the world of sports for young readers. And I am so proud of the work Mr. Patterson and I did on “The Horsewoman,” a great big novel set in show jumping (spoiler alert: My daughter is a champion rider.) I never think genre. Just good stories.

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)
It’s what I’ve constantly told my younger readers: Once a good idea gets inside your head, it’s impossible to get it out.
And the only thing more powerful than a good idea is a random act of kindness.

Did you miss part 1 of this wonderful Interview?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

Interview with Author, Sports Columnist, Mike Lupica

TS. Mike Lupica is one of the most prominent sports writers in America. (http://www.mlb.com) Besides being an author, in his own right, he is the voice of Robert B. Parker in the Jesse Stone series. I am thrilled that Mike has given us his time and insight to his writing processes.

Mike Lupica: I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing, apart from books, for a long time. I started writing a column for the New York Daily News when I was 23. I made a couple of other stops along the way, and currently also write a couple of baseball columns every week for mlb.com But I am still in the Daily News. I have written more than 40 novels, including autobiographies for Reggie Jackson and Bill Parcells. Two of my novels for young readers, Travel Team and Heat, debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller list for children’s chapter books. Now I am honored to be writing books about Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall, created by my friend, and one of my writing heroes, Robert B. Parker. I also have my first book with James Patterson, “The Horsewoman,” coming out in December of 2021.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

ML. All I need for my dream work space is unlined yellow tablets – my pal Elmore Leonard told me to get rid of yellow legal pads so I could stop worrying about staying between the lines – and rollerball pens and my MacBook. We go back and forth between eastern Long Island and Florida now. My wife, Taylor, has given me wonderful rooms in which to work in both of them. On Long Island, I have the same writing table I’ve had since the 1980s. It’s still got good words left in it.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

ML. Again: The ritual is sitting down to write. That’s the whole ballgame. The great Joe Ide, who writes the IQ books, once told me that writer’s block just means you got up from the desk.

Q. How do you ‘get inside’ Robert B. Parker’s head and write for him?

ML. Bob Parker, as I knew him, has been inside MY head since I bought “The Godwulf Manuscript” at a (now gone) Brentano’s on Boylston Street when I was at Boston College. I have read and re-read him ever since. Anybody who has read my newspaper columns knows that my voice has always echoed his. So did my early mysteries about a New York City investigative TV journalist named Peter Finley, who later ended up in a CBS Sunday Night movie I was lucky enough to write. When I sat down to write a sample chapter for Sunny Randall, about ten pages that got me into Robert B. Parker’s wonderful world, I just felt as if I were exactly where I was supposed to be. Sunny tells Spike that the UPS kid “m’am”-ed her. Spike asks if she shot him. And I was off.

Q. Do you find your ‘voice’ creeping in when writing for another author?

ML. Again, the voice to which you refer has been inside my head for such a long, wonderful time. It was across the table from me at dinners we had, it was on the bottom floor of his great home in Cambridge when I did a television piece about him one time. And in radio interviews where we sat next to each other. In my mind, I’m just continuing that conversation with Sunny and Jesse.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

ML. My friends know this. My family knows this. I have four children. I would give a bazillion dollars to get to go back and coach just one of them, one more time, in baseball or basketball or soccer.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

ML. Plain yellow pads that I buy from my friend Ann Nealon at PDQ, forty at a time. Old-fashioned Cross rollerball pens. I write longhand for 30 or 40 pages, then type. When I do, it’s like an instant second draft. But I still think best with a pen in my hand.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

ML. I do my best writing in the morning. Then revisit my morning pages in the late afternoon. When Elmore Leonard was alive, I’d call HIM in the late afternoon, even into his 80s, and always begin this way, “Are you writing or thinking about women?” He’d giggle and say, “What, you can’t do both?” But I knew he was at his desk. And would usually go back to mine.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

 

Join us for Part II of our Interview with Mike Lupica ~~ February 19th

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

One Candle Can Light Another

Gary Swindell
1961-2020

One day a good friend called me; Gary was  a very accomplished pianist, guitarist and musical director. He was reading my book of poetry, Butterflies and Bullets. He went on to say that while reading my work he kept hearing music in his head. And could I give him permission to use my poetry for lyrics. What a compliment! He said he was especially taken with, “Hair-cut…Two Bits”, about a down-and-out cellist, gambler and barber in New Orleans.

Gary  had previously written a song based on my play, Scent of Magnolia (Billie Holiday).  The world lost a beautiful musician and friend this past December. 

We artists, regardless of what we do or what we write, should lift each other up whenever or wherever we can.  When I review a book I make certain that my review (if bad) lists helpful and constructive criticism and is never cruel. 

It is my hope that my posts relating to writing helps a new writer begin their journey in writing….and helps experienced writers learn something new. My hope is to light someone else’s candle of creativity.

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

Sacred Oath of Office

I try to keep any political commentary from my blog, as DIFFICULT as that may be at this time. I am bursting!  So instead, I shall keep my commentary to WORDS. WORDS MATTER! 

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

Parents! Teachers! Need to teach their children that the words in the oath MEAN SOMETHING. It is an oath swearing on each person’s honorable pledge.
A man’s (or woman) oath, followed by a handshake with the person/s receiving the oath was a pledge of honor that would be defended by (extreme measures) death of the oath giver if said oath was violated or not kept.  Are parents teaching their children that if they say they will do something (implicit oath) and don’t, there are consequences?  Are civil studies teachers teaching that OATHS mean something quite serious and if broken, there are consequences? 

If it were up to me, each person taking the oath would be asked, “Do you understand your rights and obligations as described  within this oath?”

History:  The Constitution contains an oath of office only for the president. For other officials, including members of Congress, that document specifies only that they “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation to support this constitution.” In 1789, the First Congress reworked this requirement into a simple fourteen-word oath: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.”

For nearly three-quarters of a century, that oath served nicely, although to the modern ear it sounds woefully incomplete. Missing are the soaring references to bearing “true faith and allegiance;” to taking “this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion;” and to “well and faithfully” discharging the duties of the office.

The outbreak of the Civil War quickly transformed the routine act of oath-taking into one of enormous significance. In April of 1861, a time of uncertain and shifting loyalties, President Abraham Lincoln ordered all federal civilian employees within the executive branch to take an expanded oath.

It appears that several congresspersons, senators, and law enforcement people didn’t 1) not understand the WORDS that they were swearing to, or 2) didn’t care, or 3) just heard “Blah, blah, blah” I got the job!”

WORDS MATTER!!  PROMISES MATTER!
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

Book Review: Someone To Watch over Me by Ace Atkins

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing  4 out of 5 quills           Book Review reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

The good news: Everyone is back!  Hawk, Susan, Henry at the Harbor Health Club, Quirk, Belson, Mattie, the new side kick of Spenser’s and Pearl, the pup. (spoiler alert!)  

The bad news: The ‘ick’ factor is off the charts with  Robert B. Parker’s  new Spenser novel.  Loosely based upon the case against Jeffrey Epstein and his notorious band of child molesters, I felt I needed a shower after each chapter. The book refers to the old, white men who followed Epstein around the globe. Politicians who ‘might be President one day’, senators, and pervert millionaires.  Even though the archival video tracks clearly shows Donald Trump whispering in Epstein’s ear, giggling like some awkward teenage boy, as he purveys a group of young girls dancing at one of Epstein’s parties, the book doesn’t go far enough on this one important point.  

It’s surprising how phrases like:’ human traffiking’, ‘lost and exploited children’, and ‘child abuse’ all sort of whitewash the reality. Atkins’ new Spenser story uses no whitewash and is in the reader’s face about the details of the sickening truth.

I can’t say I liked this book. But I can say, as is true of all Ace Atkins’ writings, it is very well written. I did enjoy having the old gang back around Spenser!

Release Date: January 12, 2021
Did you miss my Interview with Ace Atkins?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!