Thursday, January 25, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, January 26, 2018

While I enjoy a visit from my brother and sister-in-law, Todd Mason will post the links.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Keeping a Series Fresh by Dana King

Patti suggested I write about how to keep a series fresh, which is flattering because it implies she thinks my series have remained fresh. (Of course that last comment is pretentious in its assumption she’s read either of the series and has an opinion one way or the other. Such is a writer’s life.) Anyway, with the fifth Nick Forte novel (Bad Samaritan) dropping on January 22 and the fourth Penns River book due out in July, this seemed as good a topic as any.

The short answer is: it’s a balancing act. I wrote the first four Forte books in a row. None sold (though two would earn Shamus nominations) and I have to admit I was about out of story ideas that didn’t seem to cover things about the character I’d done before. I wrote a standalone as a palate-cleanser (Wild Bill) then turned my attention to the semi-fictional town of Penns River, Pennsylvania. Therein lies what is, for me, the secret.

To say a setting is a character in a novel has become hackneyed, and, frankly, it’s bullshit. Locations don’t have crises. Locations don’t have epiphanies. Locations don’t make life and death decisions. They don’t crack jokes. Locations are what they are, and that’s enough. They provide their own obstacles and challenges to the people in the story—the real characters—and much of the story may revolved around what the locations allows or does not. No one writes stories about sugar cane fields in North Dakota.

By choosing three actual small cities as the inspiration for Penns River I opened the door for the ever-changing events in those chosen towns and the surrounding areas to plant seeds in my story garden. I subscribe to the local paper online and copy articles of interest to my hard drive for future consideration. Characters can come and go, as it’s the town that remains constant and gives the readers a touchstone. No one is indispensable—except maybe Ben Dougherty—so the level of tension can remain high. Will Sean Sisler or Rick Neuschwander get out of this tight scrape? Probably, but don’t be too quick to assume.

Having the second series to go to takes much of the pressure off of Forte. Bad Samaritan was written more than five years after its predecessor in the series. The idea for the story came to me and I wrote it when it was ready. It’s the first time I truly understood what Dennis Lehane said for years about bringing back Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro: when they come to him with a story, he’ll write it. I heard C.J. Ellison speak at a conference about why some woman writers have to use pen names. Forte was in the room with me before she finished speaking. “We’re not putting up with that,” he said, and we didn’t.

I confess this is easier for me than for a lot of writers because I don’t have a contract for the next book or three. I get to write what I want when I want and Down & Out is more cooperative than I could ever have asked. It will likely be a while before I write another Forte book, as I already have a three-book arc scoped out for Penns River, and the Western I’ve been threatening to write for a few years now has a definite shape in my head and half a journal of notes ready for use.

I’m also stealing a trick from the movies for Penns River. The book to be written after I finish what I’m working on now will serve as a re-boot of the series. After five books there’s a risk of stasis setting in, so I decided to actively work against it and shake things up a little. Some characters will go, some new ones will comes in, the dynamics of the police force will change.

To be fair, my lack of specific contracts is liberating. I have an idea for changing up, I can run with it, something I couldn’t do if I planned to pay the bills as a writer. This means you’re not going to hear me kvetching about my lot as a writer. A disadvantage in one area may well be a virtue in its own way. It all depends on why you write.

But that’s another post.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Happy Anniversary to us. 51 years.

THE POST was much better than I expected. It's the evolution of a woman from hostess to newspaperwoman. That story is what makes it work. Kudos to Meryl Streep for making it so real and believable.

Sun, warmth, new places to see.

The Sarasota Fruitville Branch of the library has more books for sale than my library in Michigan has to check out. I guess the snowbirds leave them behind.

Saw a great play HEISENBERG at the Florida Studio Theater. A lovely venue to boot.

Saw the whitest softest sand I have ever seen at Siesta Key Beach. I see now why middle westerners come to this side of the state. The ocean here is like a Great Lake. Very gentle.

What about you?

Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, January 19, 2018

Les Blatt, THE SUNKEN SAILOR, Patricia Moyes
Brian Busby, The Work of Richard Rohmer
Martin Edwards, CLOSE QUARTERS, Michael Gilbert
Richard Horton, THE WINDS OF GATH, E.C. Tubb, CRISIS ON CHEVRON, Juanita Coulson
Jerry House, THE BEETLE HORDE, Victor Rousseau
George Kelley, THE AMERICAN FANTASY TRADITION, ed. Brian M. Thomsen
B.V. Lawson, A GENTLEMAN CALLED, Dorothy Salisbury Davis
Evan Lewis, NEVER SAY NO TO A KILLER, Clifton Adams
Steve Lewis, OF ALL SAD WORDS, Bill Crider
Todd Mason, HEAVEN AND HELL edited by Joan D. Berbrich, SUPERFICTION, OR THE AMERICAN STORY TRANSFORMED edited by Joe David Bellamy 
J.F. Norris, HEART TO HEART, Boileau and Narcejac
Matt Paust, WITHOUT A WORD, Carol Lea Benjamin
Reactions to Reading, WHEN TIME RUNS OUT, Elina Hiroven
James Reasoner, THE DEAD STAND-IN, Frank Kane
TomCat, The Roger Scarlett Mysteries, THE MAN IN THE MOONLIGHT, Helen McCloy
TracyK, GREY MASK, Patricia Wentworth

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Things are going to be wonky on here because we forgot the stuff to hook up my computer and this is Phil's.

Anyway we watched this on TCM and I have to say it was not as good as I remembered. Harrison leaves me cold. Why waste your whole life waiting to be reunited with him?.

A very depressing movie about a widow( who didn't even much love her husband) who takes up residence in the house of a dead sea captain and becomes infatuated with him (or his ghost) to the point, she has no life. This must have been a cheap movie to film because she rarely leaves the room with his telescope poised toward the sea.

Their reunion after death did not make things right.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Things That Are Making Me Happy

A book I will talk about later called THE CIRCUMSTANTIAL MAN by Gary Reilly
That our condo is better than expected
That Phil survived an escalator mishap I have been dreading all my life.
And what about you?

Friday, January 12, 2018


So many of the bloggers/friends who helped me publicize my first two books are gone now for one reason or another. So very sad that its only been 2 1/2 years. So if anyone who comes along and reads this has a blog where I can talk about the book I would really appreciate it. A review, an interview, whatever makes sense and you are comfortable with. The book comes out in early March. 


"Patricia Abbott's collection of stories are just electric and utterly amazing. The short story form is perhaps the most difficult to achieve artistry in, and in I BRING SORROW, Patricia Abbott joins the very select few like, Frank O Connor, Raymond Carver, De Maupassant, and Dahl who have not only mastered this art but brought something entirely new to the genre. A dark, captivating collection.”
―Ken Bruen, author of the Jack Taylor series

"Patricia Abbott shows a rare and quiet mastery of the form. Any one of the stories in I BRING SORROW is worth the price of admission.”
―Reed Farrel Coleman, New York Times bestselling author of WHAT YOU BREAK

Friday's Forgotten Books, January 12, 2018

Please check with Todd Mason for today's links.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What Book Cried Out for a Movie and Nothing Has Happened so far?

When I read DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY I expected to see the screen version within a year or two. And yet, so far, none. I know Scorcese and DiCaprio are supposedly working on a script, but I am not holding my breath. What book did you expect to turn up at your local cinema and it hasn't? Some books get turned into movies multiple times and others, just as good, not at all.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018


David Lean used his wife, Ann Todd,
to great affect in this romance. The passion of Mary's life is Stephen (Trevor Howard) but she marries Howard (Claude Rains), a wealthy businessman who meets some of her needs. Their marriage is more of a contract than a union but both are satisfied until Stephen comes on the scene again. And then again.
It is hard to say why this movie works so well because little happens. It's success is shared by the acting of the three principals. The original novel was by H.G. Wells, hard to imagine that. I thought it was very good if you are in the mood for repressed and expressed longing and not much action.The ending works particularly well.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Really happy this cold snap, record-breaking for the number of days when it didn't exceed 20 degrees) is coming to an end. I am not the kind of person that likes to hunker down. Phil even less so.

We got to spend a day with Kevin this week because of the cold. So funny to watch he and and a friend plays games through Facetime online. They each has a computer and a phone to make this happen. They were 15 miles apart but it didn't matter. What a world.

PRAIRIE FIRES about Laura Ingalls Wilder is so interesting. Aside from the stuff you can find in the Little House books, it is interesting to see how both she and her daughter, Rose, forged careers somewhat based on Fake News. Highly recommend it although it is a pretty sad story for most of the book.

I, TONYA was better than I expected chiefly due to a knockout performance by Margot Robbie. I found the mix of humor and serious wife battering a little disconcerting though.

Phil enjoyed LINCOLN IN THE BARDO, about the death of Lincoln's son.

Great to see a huge turnout at the Detroit Institute of Arts to see BOMBHSELL, the story of Hedy Lamarr .

What about you?

Friday, January 05, 2018

Friday Forgotten Books, January 5, 2018

                                   Todd Mason will host FFB next Friday. 

From the archives of Ron Scheer

Kent Meyers, The Work of Wolves 

A slender plot-line for its 400+ pages, this novel set in the reservation and ranchland of central South Dakota glows with intensity at each turn. While your desire to know what happens next presses you onward, you pause along with the author to reflect on the thoughts and feelings of the characters who are pulled into the flow of events that begins with the purchase of a horse and leads inevitably to the burning of a house.

There are humor, suspense, family drama, surprises, ironies of all kinds, a smoldering romance, conflicts, animosity, suspense, farce, triumphs and sorrows in Meyers' novel. And all is woven around a continuing meditation on moral complexity and finally the great difficulty of doing the right thing when there are deep emotions, conflicting points of view, and only degrees of violence and loss to choose from.

The four young men at the center of this story, two Indians, a cowboy, and a German exchange student, each bears a legacy of history that pulls them together in the single effort to rescue three horses. Meyers makes them come to life vividly through action, thought, and dialogue. Around them is another dozen or so characters, just as carefully drawn and revealed through illuminating flashes of incident. And as in the author's other work (Light in the Crossing, The River Warren), there is the continuing presence of the landscape and the seasons, as summer turns to autumn and snow-driven winter.

Especially interesting is the characterization of the young cowboy, whose ancestry in American literature dates back to Owen Wister's Virginian. Here is that same set of values, courage, pure-heartedness, and self-containment, 100 years later, set in conflict with a cunning villain. It is moving to learn what has become of him.

Yvette Banek, Year End Reading Roundup
Les Blatt, THE CASE OF THE LATE PIG, Margery Allingham
Elgin Bleecker, ACT OF FEAR, Michael Collins
David Cranmer, A IS FOR ALIBI, Sue Grafton
Martin Edwards, DEATH AT BREAKFAST, John Rhode
Richard Horton, THE SOCIAL SECRETARY, David Graham Philips
Jerry House, DALLAS, Will F. Jenkins
George Kelley, SLAYERS AND VAMPIRES,  Edward Gross and Mark A Altman
Margot Kinberg, THE RIGHT SIDE, Spencer Quinn
B.V. Lawson, UNCLE ABNER, MASTER OF MYSTERIES, Melville Davisson Post
Evan Lewis, Forgotten Books and Stories of 2017
Steve Lewis, THE BODY LOOKS FAMILIAR, Richard Wormser
Brian Lindenmuth, Remembering Jack Schaefer
James Reasoner, AVALANCHE, E.S.  Dellinger
Gerard Saylor, STAR WARS: THE PERFECT WEAPON, Delilah Dawson
Kerrie Smith, IN THE DARK, Chris Patchell
Kevin Tipple,  Strange World: A Biff Bam Pop Short Story Anthology
TomCat, THE IRON CHARIOT, Stein Riverton

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Normandy Gold

First Wednesday Book Review Club: SILENCE OF THE GRAVE, Arnaldur Indridason

Silence of the Grave

This is the kind of book I used to read all the time twenty years ago, and now I remember why. Indridason is a master at plot, creating memorable characters, and evoking Iceland both during World War II and today. His detective has a compelling personal life, is likeable, and gets the job done. Indridason balances POVs masterfully-there's never a moment when you wish the writer would get back to solving the mystery.
I can't think of anything that didn't work in this book and this is from someone who is often impatient. This novel dates from 2001 (following JAR CITY) and he has gone on to write several more. Time to catch up.

Check out other First Wednesday reviews at Barrie Summy's fabulous blog. 

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Forgotten Movies: ROOM AT THE TOP

I am a sucker for these old British movies from the fifties and sixties. This reminds me a bit of AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY except it's a British one.
A young man gets a good job in a mill town after completing his WW 2 service. Two women enter his life. One is the daughter of a town bigwig, who sees little to like in the young man. The other is an older woman, married, with a brute of a husband. Harvey is perfect in the role and Signoret won an Oscar for her part. She is sad and seductive. Quite a good movie if a hair long. And it is hard to see why Harvey, even initially, was so seduced by the younger woman. She is ordinariness personified but maybe that's what he needs. 

Monday, January 01, 2018


Things that are Making Me Happy This Week.

Today I turn 70. Am I freaked out? No. After the year we've been through still being here has its pluses. Today I am missing Randy Johnson, Ed Gorman, Ron Scheer, Joe Barone and a few others who have disappeared from view. Funny how online friends become just as important as ones down the street.

What is making me happy this week? I am happy to be going to Florida in 12 days. This cold is unbearable. I am happy to have found my way back into writing short stories in the last six weeks. I forgot how to do it. I am happy for THE CROWN, which I though had a second season more brilliant than its first. What a sad woman Queen Elizabeth is if the show is to be believed. But it ended on a good note. Happy to be reading the excellent PRAIRIE FIRES about Laura Ingalls Wilder. Happy for PEAKY BLINDERS although the violence is appalling. I will say this though six episode seasons are too little. Twenty is too much. I vote for 12, just enough to plant it in my head. By the time MRS. MAISEL comes back I will have forgotten her as I forgot MOZART IN THE JUNGLE and RECTIFY.

What about you? What is making you happy?