Oct 09

Reading in Public – “Winter’s Tale” by Mark Helprin

I’ve mentioned before that Mark Helprin’s “Winter’s Tale” is my favorite novel of all time (and also the best novel I’ve ever read).  Every year, once the weather starts getting cold and the days shorter, I reread it, and it’s about that time.

This year, I want to share my love/obsession with the world (or at least the regular visitors of this blog).  I’m going to read two chapters a week, and post my thoughts and feelings about them.  And I’m encouraging any and all of my visitors to join me, both in reading the book, and in discussing it.

I’ll kick things off right here, talking about the very brief prologue.  Even before that, Helprin starts us off with a quote that sets the tone for all that’s to follow:

“I have been to another world, and come back.  Listen to me.”

That sentiment could apply to many of the characters in the story about to unfold, and it prepares us to jump across both worlds and eras (and different times ARE other worlds; as the famous quote has it, “the past is another country.”).

The prologue showcases Helprin’s gift of prose; it’s gorgeous from the very first word.  As he opens things:

A great city is nothing more than a portrait of itself, and yet when all is said and done, its arsenals of scenes and images are part of a deeply moving plan.

He goes on to talk about New York City specifically, where our story is set, and, really, the book is one long love letter to the greatest city in the world.  We’re told about the mass of white clouds that surround the city, about which we’ll learn much more as the novel progresses.  We  also get our first reference to the the city as one great machine, about which, again, much more later.

And then we are told:

…our swift unobserved descent will bring us to life that is blooming in the quiet of another time.

This is important, as we’ll see very shortly in chapter one.  The prologue ends with an invitation:

As we float down in utter silence, into a frame again unfreezing we are confronted by a tableau of winter colors.  These are very strong, and they call us in.

Colors, both wintry and otherwise, play a large role not only symbolically, but very literally in the story, as we’ll discover early on.

So the stage is set.  We’re about to embark on a journey that will span worlds and centuries.  I hope you’ll come along with me; our first steps will be onto the snow-covered streets of pre-World War I Manhattan, which is where chapter one begins…


Chapter Index

I’ll keep an updated list of links to the individual chapter discussions here, so it’ll all be easy to find…

Part 1, Chapter 1 (“A White Horse Escapes”)

Part 1, Chapter 2 (“The Ferry Burns in Morning Cold”)

Part 1, Chapter 3 (“Pearly Soames”)


Mar 18

Buy the Books!

Here’s the one-page resource for everything you need to know about me and my books…especially how to buy them!

Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 19

Another Box Set!

I have the honor of having DREAM STUDENT included in a fantastic box set with thirteen other great authors, all of whom have included one of their novels in a huge, FREE box set.

You can find it on Amazon RIGHT HERE!

Oct 18

Author Spotlight – “The Final Checkpoint” by Will Zeilinger





I’ve got another fantastic indie author for you to meet today: Will Zeilinger:

Bill Web_2012

I’ve been writing for over twelve years. During that time, I took novel writing classes and joined writer’s groups, but what has helps me most are published authors who mentor, encourage, critique  and listen to me while I continue to learn my craft.  I live in Southern California with my wife and we are currently working on a crime novel together. Finding time to write while life happens is a challenge.

Buy all his books at:


And follow Will at:

Twitter:  @Will_Zeilinger

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/wzeilinger

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/william-zeilinger/15/48/9a7/

website: http://www.willzeilingerauthor.com

blog: http://www.booksbywilzeilinger.blogspot.com


and here’s the book…


Photographer Ben DeCastro drives in sports car rallies on weekends.  He discovers an abandoned rally car in the California desert with a headless corpse in the trunk.

As a volunteer firefighter, he joins in the search for the missing drivers.  His life veers off course when their fingerprints are found on his garage door.  The FBI looks at Ben as a suspect. This hurts his professional reputation, and cramps his dating efforts with the women in his building.  An assortment of friends and neighbors try to help him with his circumstances, but cause more problems in the process.  How does he get out of this mess?


Finally, Will’s given us a great excerpt:

“You are such a party pooper Ben DeCastro.” slurred out of her mouth as I sat her down in the passenger seat and buckled her belt. I was hoping the ride back with the top down would provide enough fresh cool air to clear her head. But as we headed down the hill toward the long stretch of road at Bolsa Chica State Beach she started singing the theme from “Green Acres” – an old TV show on the retro channel and waving her arms above her head in the slipstream.

Suddenly she leaned over and wrapped her arms around my neck, “I love you Ben.” followed by three more choruses of the theme song. Then she started to cry.

“Are you okay?” I asked as she wept on my shoulder.

“No.” she mumbled, “You didn’t say you love me too.” and started to cry on my shoulder again. I thought maybe I should drive a little further up PCH. Maybe she needed more air and because I couldn’t imagine myself getting her up to her apartment in this condition. I reached over to smooth her skirt back down because the wind had bunched it up on her thighs.

“Ben, Ben,” she shook her finger at me while at the same time parting her legs slightly. “Just what do you thing we are doing?” slid out of her now smiling mouth.

“I’m just trying to put your clothes back in place. What are you doing?”

“Who me?” she pointed at her chest, “I was just helping you.”

“Just sit still, Jessica.” I got her skirt back where it should have been so anyone in a vehicle taller than mine wouldn’t get a free show. “I think you have too many Mojitos in you.”

“You think so? I’ll fix that.” With that statement, she turned away from me and threw up over her side of the car. “Sorry Ben… but I don’t feel very well,” and did it again.

I know it sounds selfish but that put the lid on anything further with Jessica tonight and I could just imagine what the outside of my car looked like. I turned around when I got near the roundabout in Santa Serena and headed back to Seagull Beach. Jessica put her head back on the seat and closed her eyes for the rest of the ride back home.

She was fast asleep as I pulled up to the garage. Her side of my car looked and smelled like I’d imagined so I took her keys out of her purse. Luckily she was light for someone around five-foot six. I picked her up and carried her to the elevator. Her shoes were missing and probably still in my car. This woman sleeps like a log but while waiting for the elevator I looked at her face. It was very pretty – even with the little bit of drool on her cheek. The elevator chimed and the doors slid open. There was Molly. Her eyes grew wide as her mouth dropped open.

“Hi Molly.” I tried to act like everything was normal.

“Hello Ben?” She backed around us and stood by the open door staring while I turned sideways and slipped into the elevator with Jessica, who’d stopped singing, in my arms.

“She’s asleep – not feeling very well.”

Molly fanned her hand in front of her scrunched-up face, “Yeah, I can tell. Whew!”

As the doors closed, I said, “Well, I’ll see you around… G’night.” Jessica stirred in my arms a little and snuggled her face into my shoulder. I managed not to hit her head on the wall when I carried her down the hall to her door. Juggling her keys I opened her apartment door and took her inside.

I hadn’t been inside her apartment before since she talked to me at the door when we met. It was very neat and clean. Her bedroom door was open so I took her in and laid her on the bed. Her eyes were still closed when her arms came up around my neck and she moaned, “Oh Ben, don’t go.” I didn’t say a word as I carefully peeled her arms from my neck and quietly slipped out of her apartment, locking the door behind me. As I turned around Molly was standing right behind me in the hallway.

“Did you follow me up here?”

Oct 17

Reading in Public – “Winter’s Tale” (part 1, chapter 3 – “Pearly Soames”)

Onwards we go, and in this chapter we get an extended look at one of the villains of the book, Pearly Soames.  This is (to me, at least) a fun chapter with some very entertaining moments, and also quite a bit of what some less charitable reviewers might call “padding”.  Personally, I love it, but it is something to be noted.

We open with the author describing the one and only photograph in existence of Pearly Soames and how it came to be – in a police station, with five officers holding him in place for the picture.

Pearly Soames had not desired to be photographed.

He’s quite striking in appearance:

His eyes were like razors and white diamonds.  They were impossibly pale, lucid and silver.  People said, “When Pearl Soames opens his eyes, it’s electric lights.”

He’s also got a remarkable scar, running from his ear to the corner of his mouth:

It had been with him since the age of four, a gift from his father, who had tried and failed to cut his son’s throat.

This is all we hear on the topic, except for a reference to his illegitimacy later in the book, but it says a lot about Pearly.  Pearly is human, more or less, but this passage suggests something a little bit on the “more” side of the question.  What would make a father want to cut a four-year-old’s throat?  And, considering that he cut Pearly deeply enough to leave a lifetime scar, how and why did he fail in the task?  Was Pearly aided?  Was he, even at the age of four, strong enough to fight off a grown man?

However he escaped death, Pearly grew up to be a criminal, the leader of the most feared gang in pre-War New York.  Helprin briefly digresses into a discussion about criminals, and why they may actually be necessary to preserve the equilibrium of society.  Pearly cares nothing for that, although he’s well aware of what he is:

So was Pearly all of these things, knowing at every instant exactly what he was and that everything he did was wrong, possessed with an agonizing account of himself, his mind quick to grasp the meaning of his merciless acts.

This biographical sketch ends with a description I just have to quote:

He was a bomb-thrower, a lunatic, a master criminal, a devil, the golden dog of the streets.

And then we find out what really motivates him, and it’s something we’ve discussed already: color.  And, more specifically, gold.  Not to hoard it as a dragon might, but for an entirely other purpose:

Strange, afflicted and deformed, he sought a cure in the abstract relation of colors.

We get a couple of wonderful pages about Pearly’s “color gravity” (as he refers to it), ending with a brilliant  passage concerning an art theft.  Having sent his Short Tails out to steal several very valuable paintings from an important gallery, Pearly is shocked when he actually sees the art in person.  His men frantically show him, cross-referencing with auction catalogs, that they took the correct paintings (Pearly has quite the temper), and his response is:

“I don’t understand,’ he said, peering at his collection of great and famous names.  “They’re mud, black and brown.  No light in them, and hardly any color.  Who would paint a picture in black and brown?”

Disappointed, Pearly has his men return the stolen art the next night, and he sends along a note which makes the front page of the newspapers, and which ends thusly:

I may be a thief, but I know color when I see it in the flash of heaven or in the Devil’s opposing tricks, and I know mud.  Mr. Knoedler, you needen’t worry about your paintings anymore.  I’m not going to steal them.  I don’t like them.  Sincerely yours, P. Soames”

Pearly isn’t satisfied with pictures anyway.  What he really wants is to be surrounded by color, to breathe it in:

He wanted actually to live inside the dream that captured his eye, to spend his days and nights in a fume of burnished gold.

Just as the white horse wanted to cross over to that land of gold he saw past the iron gates in chapter one, Pearly wants to live in gold himself.  Neither of them understand why, they just know that they need it.  The difference, of course, is that while the horse merely wants to cross over to the golden world, Pearly wants to trap it in a room where – although he doesn’t say it explicitly – only he and his chosen associates can experience it.

But how do to it?  To obtain so much gold would be impossible.  Or would it?  Here we get another digression, on the topic of gold carriers, the fastest and most secure ships in the world, dedicated solely to ferrying gold, and impossible to rob (or even to catch a glimpse of).  It’s a great passage, and it’s the privilege of a novel to include digressions such as this, even though it slows down the flow of the story (and, remember, we’re still doling out backstory here, as we will in the next chapter, too).

Pearly orders the full 100 members of the Short Tails to convene, and while their meetings are usually conducted in unlikely and dangerous spots (the Statue of Liberty’s crown, the rafters of police headquarters, the piers of the Brooklyn Bridge, etc), this meeting will be in the most hazardous spot available: the Cemetery of the Honored Dead:

Pearly had decided that a dead Short Tail deserved to be interred as close to hell as possible, and that the burial should entail as much risk to life and limb as could be imagined (the ultimate honor to the fallen).  Thus, all Short Tails killed in service were transported to crypts at the bottom of the Harlem River siphon.

The crypts are in a small chamber, several hundred feet below ground, past a quarter mile of narrow tunnel, and constantly in danger of being flooded with water from the reservoirs that supply Manhattan’s water.  As one might imagine, the trip into the crypts is both slow and terrifying; it takes three hours for all the Short Tails to assemble for the meeting.  Once there, though, Pearly quickly manages to dispel the gloom by describing his goal of a golden room in which the light will be trapped eternally; and the way in which they will steal the gold to build it.

The Short Tails, including Peter Lake – this is the first time we learn that he was once a member of the gang – are on board with the plan, until Pearly gets to the last step: which involves using the Bayonne Marsh as a drydock to bring the stolen gold carrier so that the gold can be extracted.  It will be necessary, Pearly explains, to wipe out the Baymen who currently live there.

“We’ll go over there in canoes when the men are at work, kill the women and children, and wait in the huts.  When the men come back, we’ll catch them unprepared, and shoot them from behind cover.  There’s no sense in an open battle.”

As strategies go, Pearly’s plan, ruthless as it is, makes a lot of sense.  It probably would have worked, except for one thing that Pearly didn’t know: Peter Lake had been raised by the Baymen, and could not allow them to be slaughtered:

Peter Lake had become forever alienated from the Short Tails, and would have to betray them.  He, and only he, knew that Pearly would never have his golden chamber.

And that’s where we end things.  In the next chapter, we’ll finally learn more about Peter Lake and his life.


Oct 17

Book Blast – “Night Crawler” by Candy O’Donnell

Title: Night Crawler 


Author: Candy O’Donnell
Release Day: September 28th, 2014
Book Blast: October 17th, 2014
The past never stays where it belongs!
In Westwood, California, was where John Francis, the town’s priest
re-encountered the beast. To his astonishment, horrifying events began
unraveling before him. These unprovoked occurrences soon turned to fright when
Sister Teresa’s body was found murdered. When Kathy Riego stepped into the
Sister’s shoes she showed him a renewed identification for the word love. John
began this new relationship with a masked reality as the horrid beast began
showing him a long forgotten past that was supposed to be buried long ago.


Author Bio:
 Candy O’Donnell was born in
Carmichael, California. At the age of twelve, she wrote her first mini book.
Filled mostly with what took place with her mother and her long tedious bout
with leukemia. It was a short story told as extra credit when she suffered a
sprained ankle and had to be out of school for over two months. School
officials refused to believe a word of what she had written until her
grandmother, her guardian back then, entered the school with the truth.
Everything she had written down was exactly what took place. Unfortunately her
mother succumbed to the disease. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in History and
Culture. After living with her aunt and uncle for over five years she wished to
explore her uncle’s Native heritage and did so with vigor. She also has 6 Grad
units in Criminal Justice.
Twitter: @Candyodonnell


Oct 16

Book Tour – “The Shucker’s Booktique” by J.C. McKenzie

I’m happy to be participating in the book tour for J.c. McKenzie and her new novel, “The Shucker’s Booktique”. Here’s J.C.:

View More: http://photos.pass.us/headshot2

Born and raised on the Haida Gwaii, off the West Coast of Canada, J.C. McKenzie grew up in a pristine wilderness that inspired her to dream. She writes Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance.

You can follow her all over the Interwebs:

J.C. McKenzie’s Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | The Wild Rose Press | Amazon

And here’s her book…


After her fiancé dumps her and her beloved Aunt Jenny goes missing, Willa Eklund travels to Lobster Cove with a broken heart to search for Jenny while running her bookstore. When a mysterious man visits the Shucker’s Booktique on a stormy night drenched in rain and covered in mud, Willa’s heart melts under his stormy gaze. She wants Lon and the answers he may have, but he also has a secret. Can Willa trust him?

Lon Devlin is a Tempest, a water sprite who can only take a human form during stormy nights. He rides the waves, lives by the tides, and nothing can hold him down, not even a beautiful woman. When he visits his mortal friend, he discovers she’s missing and her intriguing niece has taken her place. He wants Willa, but he also wants answers. What happened to Jenny?


J.C. has an excerpt for us…

Thump! Thump! Thump!

No! She gasped. It couldn’t be. The banging on the front door of the booktique had to be a figment of her imagination. She couldn’t will Lon into existence. Why would he come back? Especially if he was involved. Unless…cold ice prickled up her spine…unless he needed to eliminate her to take care of loose ends.

No. Crazy thoughts, Willa. He could’ve taken care of her the night before. No, her heart hammered against her chest for a different reason. But it didn’t matter. The knocking on the door wouldn’t, couldn’t be him.

Thump! Thump! Thump!

Could it? She clutched her hot mug in both hands and turned toward the doorway leading to the bookstore. From the kitchen in the back room, she had a clear view through the store to the front door, but not who stood on the other side.

“Willa!” Lon growled. “Wake up and let me in!”

Willa gasped and almost dropped her cup. The tea sloshed around and some spilled over her hands. It burned, but she didn’t move. She couldn’t breathe. Somehow the air got trapped inside her throat. Why was he here? What did he want?

Oh God, let it be me!

And here’s a great interview with her…

Who is your favorite author?

That’s a tricky one! Of all time?!? I’d have to say Roger Zelazny because he opened my eyes to the possibility of the supernatural living amongst the mundane.

How do you describe your writing style? 

Snarky with a side of humour

Use no more than two sentences. Why should we read your book?

When Saturn next aligns with Mercury, the universe will create a vortex of evil, and all those ignorant of my work will be sucked into a giant black hole of untold horror.

Have any of your characters been modeled after yourself?

Absolutely none of them!

If you could exchange lives with any of your characters for a day which character would you choose and why? 

I would choose Lon, from The Shucker’s Booktique. He’s a Tempest, a water sprite that rides the tides. I love the ocean, and I love the idea of dissolving into an incorporeal form to be one with the currents.

What books have most influenced your life? 

Oh my. You’re really not pulling any punches. The most?!? There’s so many that I love. I almost cried when I had to do a top ten book list. Okay, maybe a tear escaped. I’m going to list the books that have influenced my writing and what I consider my favorite books. I haven’t let any piece of literature, aside from university textbooks, influence my life in a grand capacity.

  • The Amber Series, by Roger Zelazny
  • The Chronicles of Faerie, by O.R. Melling
  • The Chronicles of the Cheysuli, by Jennifer Roberson
  • Mermaid’s Song, by Alida van Gores
  • The Hollows Series, by Kim Harrison
  • The Mercy Thompson Series, by Patricia Briggs
  • The Wheel of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
  • The Witches, by Roald Dahl
  • Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
  • Child of Awe, by Kathryn Lynn Davis

If you could select one book that you could rewrite and add your own unique twist on, which book would that be and why? 

I don’t think I would. I love books as they are.

Beatles or Monkees? Why? 

Beatles. No deep philosophical reason. I just like their music more.

Who should play you in a film of your life?

Jennifer Gardner. She’s down to earth and seems like someone who likes to laugh.

And, last but not least, there’s a giveaway, too!

a Rafflecopter giveaway






Oct 15

Dream Sequence

This is a newsworthy month for my books.  Not only is the new book, DREAM VACATION, launching at the end of the month, but I’ve got a brand new launch today!

I’ve created a mini-box-set of the first three books.  It’s called DREAM SEQUENCE, and it’s available on Amazon RIGHT NOW!


Oct 15

Indie Author Spotlight – Daelynn Quinn and “Fall of Venus”

I’ve got another great indie author for you to meet this morning.  Say hello to Daelynn Quinn:


Daelynn Quinn was born and raised in southern Maryland where she spent her youth exploring and falling in love with nature in the woods behind her house. She graduated the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in dietetics, which she promptly abandoned to pursue writing. Daelynn’s writing is fast-paced and laced with current issues that concern her. Her first dystopian trilogy, Fall of Venus, focused on climate change and the biochemical industries. Her recently-released YA novel, Neverland Academy, delves into child abuse and negligence. Daelynn is excited to be commencing a new series, which will tear into the animal exploitation industries. While she is not reading or writing, Daelynn enjoys brainstorming while mowing her lawn, cooking healthy meals her kids refuse to eat, and watching old episodes of Mr. Bean with her three boys.
You can follow Daelynn at:
And here’s her book…
Fall of Venus - Daelynn Quinn

In the aftermath of a virus that has obliterated ninety-three percent of the population, Pollen McRae, a young woman plagued with a tragic past, finds herself scarred and abandoned in the wilderness, unable to remember the previous weeks. There she meets Marcus, a mysterious man with a similar plight. Together they are determined to escape a trio of bounty hunters and rescue Pollen’s niece, Evie from her imprisonment at the Crimson Survivor Refuge, a refugee camp which serves as a cover for a much more sinister plot.

Meanwhile, a renegade environmental organization is recruiting survivors for a mission that will change the course of human existence forever.

You can buy it at:

My overconfidence and distraction caused me to miss the stone completely and I’m quickly sinking into the river. But Marcus’s quick reflexes react and he grabs my right hand before the river washes me away. He clenches his jaw. His face reddens and strains, forming deep wrinkles on his forehead.  The veins in his arms protrude like the mountain ranges on a textured map. He’s playing tug of war with the river, and right now we’re losing. From the lack of food, we are both weak and tired. It seems we used our last bit of energy sprinting for the river.

The velocity of the cool water smacks my face like a thousand sharp fingernails scratching my skin. Water penetrates every orifice of my body—my eyes, my nose, my ears. I’m even swallowing more water than I can handle and I cough violently as I inhale it into my lungs.

Despite his tight grip on me, I can feel myself slipping through Marcus’s rough hands. Jolts of panic are erupting throughout my body. Fear and hysteria slither through my veins. I’m not ready to die. Not like this! The thoughts racing through my mind are incomprehensible. Visions of Glenn, Evie, and Drake pop in and out, like a game of whack-a-mole. Even images of Marcus and other faces I don’t recognize appear in my mind. But there’s no time to analyze my thoughts.  I just need to survive.

Somehow, underneath the rushing rapids, my foot catches a hard object, a rock perhaps, and I am able to anchor myself and push up high enough for Marcus to grasp my slippery left hand. He mouths something to me, but I cannot hear over the whooshing deluge of water encasing me.

Again, he yells out. This time I can make out the muffled words, “Hold on!” With my foot pressing against the rock I give one final push before the rock dislodges and once again my feet are suspended among the galloping white currents.

And last but not least, I’ve got an interview with Daelynn…

Who is your favorite author?

Wow, this is a hard one. I have to say this changes with almost every book I read! I grew up on Stephen King, so he holds a special place on my favorite authors list, but I won’t say he is among my current favorites.

To answer this question, I imagine a scenario where I am in a huge library book sale or used book store. Then I see myself finding a book that I’ve never heard of by an author that I’ve read. Do I pick it up or not? Here is my top five based on this imaginary book sale: Ellen Hopkins, James Dashner, Scott Westerfeld, Margaret Atwood, Cassandra Clare.

How do you describe your writing style?

When I can, I like to write fast-paced stories, with a plot twist near the ending. Action and social tensions play key roles in my books.

Use no more than two sentences. Why should we read your book?

Though I write primarily for pure entertainment purposes, my books tend to address some very “real world” issues, such as climate change and child abuse. The outcomes in my books could possibly happen, given the right circumstances.

Have any of your characters been modeled after yourself?

I think most characters I write have a little bit of me in them. But none of them is me completely. Apart from my stories, I lead a pretty boring life, so I don’t think I would make a very interesting book character. ;)

If you could exchange lives with any of your characters for a day which character would you choose and why?

I would definitely be Pollen. She has the kind of strength of heart and tenacity that I wish I had. Yes, she gets into trouble a lot and she makes some really stupid choices, but somehow she manages to crawl her way out of it and kick some butt while doing it!

What books have most influenced your life?

The Hobbit, Skinny Bitch, Lord of the Flies, Beowulf, The Hunger Games

If you could select one book that you could rewrite and add your own unique twist on, which book would that be and why?

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I’m not sure exactly what I would do, but I absolutely hated the ending.

Beatles or Monkees? Why?

Grr! I like them both. Okay, Beatles, because I grew up listening to them (via my dad).

Who should play you in a film of your life?

An unknown actor. I really can’t see anyone famous playing me. Plus, the only way a movie would be made about me is if I became famous and I hate when well-known actors try to portray famous people. It usually results in a poor performance.



Oct 13

Reading in Public – “Winter’s Tale” (part 1, chapter 2 – “The Ferry Burns in Morning Cold”

Onwards to chapter 2!  This is another fairly short chapter (there are some beastly long ones later in the book; be warned!), in which we learn a little bit more about Peter Lake.  Primarily, we get a good view of his current situation, and a decent look at his personality.  We don’t get much of his backstory, but that will come soon enough.

We open where we left off, with Peter atop the white horse, opening up some distance between him and the Short Tails:

Leaving the Short tails behind would be easy, because not one of them (including Pearly, raised in the Five Points just like the rest) knew how to ride.  They were masters of the waterfront and could do anything with a small boat, but on land they walked, took the trolley, and jumped the gates of the subway or the El.

This is a big deal for Peter, because he’s been Public Enemy #1 to Pearly and the Short Tails for three years.  This is partly Peter’s own fault, because he’s incapable of leaving their domain of Manhattan for any length of time:

It was necessary for him to be in Manhattan because he was a burglar, and for a burglar to work anyplace else was a shattering admission of mediocrity.

Peter also can’t help but flirt with danger, even when it’s not necessary, as we’ll see shortly.  But for the moment, at least, he feels not merely safe but invulnerable on the horse.

But now, with a horse, it would be different.  Why hadn’t he thought of a horse before?  He could stretch his margin of safety almost immeasurably, and put not yards but miles between himself and Pearly Soames.

Exhilarated by this seemingly magical horse, Peter can’t help but show off and gallops down the thoroughfares of Manhattan, attracting police attention.  He eventually ends up stuck behind a traffic jam, and the horse leads him into a theater, where Peter (and the horse) end up sharing the stage with Caradelba, the Spanish Gypsy.  Ever gallant, Peter apologizes for disturbing her act by presenting her with a hat he grabbed off a policeman’s head.

Upon leaving the theater (which, although it’s not named, is called the Coheeries Theater, which comes up again in part 2 of the book), Peter comes up with a plan.  He would temporarily leave Manhattan, allowing the police and the Short Tails to fight it out:

Were both organizations to come up face to face in search of their vanished prey, the shock of collision might provide Peter Lake with three or four months of freedom.

Peter decides to remove himself to the Bayonne March, home of the Baymen, aboriginal clamdiggers, and the people who

had found Peter Lake and raised him (for a time) much int he style of benevolent wolves.

Therein hangs a tale, and we will get it in another chapter or two.  For now, it’s enough to note what Helprin tells us about the Marsh and the Baymen.

not only were they extraordinary fighters and impossible to find, but their realm was only hafl-real, and anyone entering it without their approval was likely to vanish forever into the roaring clouds which swept over the mirrorlike waters.

The Bayonne Marsh isn’t the only half-real place in this book; we’ll visit another such community later in part 1 when we travel to the Lake of the Coheeries.  For now, just take note that Peter was raised in such a place.  But before he can get there, his attention is captured by a burning ferry , which, apparently, is quite the tourist attraction in turn of the century Manhattan.

There were also vendors, anticipating the thousands who would arrive only after the ferry was a sulking trap of drifting charcoal, and then feed their curiosity on chestnuts, roasted corn, hot pretzels, and meat-on-the-spit.

Peter stays to watch, going so far as to ignore the presence of a Short Tail informant.  Instead, he watches, transfixed by the efforts of the firemen trying to board the ferry.  Why are they trying, when all the passengers are either dead, or already rescued?  Peter knows – and it’s something that drives him , too:

They took power from the fire.  The closer they fought it, the stronger they became.  The firemen knew that though it sometimes killed them, the fire gave them priceless gifts.

Just as the Short Tails do for Peter, even as they try their best to capture and kill him.  And, sure enough, they make their appearance in a pair of automobiles.  Again, however, the horse is far too swift for them, and he carries Peter away with

strides so powerful that he almost flew.

What have we learned so far?  Peter was raised by the Baymen, but can’t bear to leave Manhattan for any length of time.  He draws strength from the efforts of the Short Tails to kill him, even as he looks (but not too hard) for a way to get them off his trail permanently.

But why do they hate him so?  And how did Peter come to be raised by a group of clamdiggers in a half-real world across the river from Manhattan?  We’re about to find out…


Oct 13

Author Spotlight – Janet Lynn and “South of the Pier”

Here’s another great author for you – meet Janet Lynn!

janet head 1

Here’s what she’s got to say about herself:

I was born in Queens, and raised in Long Island, New York until I was 12 years old. Then my family left the freezing winters and hurricanes to the warmth and casual life style of Los Angeles.

It has always been my dream to write novels. Finally, in 2001 I decided that if I don’t try I’ll never know. After many classes and seminars, much blood and sweat my first novel was published. South of the Pier in 2011. That was it, I can’t seem to stop writing and researching.

And here’s where to find her:

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/janet.lynn.5477

Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/home?trk=nav_responsive_tab_home

Twitter https://twitter.com/JanetLynn4

Blog: http://janetelizabethlynnauthor.blogspot.com/

Website:  www.janetlynnauthor.com

e-mail: janet_lynn51@yahoo.com

Book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DznY4XBw-dY


And now for the book…


Palmer Railton, a well known lobbyist, is brutally murdered on his doorstep resulting in a media frenzy. Meantime, his excited fiancée, Camille Brewster calls Connie Cane, her twin sister, to tell her of Palmer’s wedding proposal, the huge ruby engagement ring, and a dozen red roses. Connie, former CSI, must keep her devastated, cute-ass sister from getting killed after involving herself in the murder investigation.

Kidnapped, Camille tries to seduce her way to freedom but ends up stranded in a Guatemalan jail with an Interpol agent who holds the key to her freedom. Wounded during a gun battle, Connie tries to free her sister. The murderer is caught and arrested leaving Camille free to plan Palmer’s funeral with hi’s estranged grandmother. The final clue is in Connie’s hands when she realizes they have the wrong person in jail.

You can find it on Amazon

Janet’s provided us an excerpt, too…

The moon was rising in the east. Detective Marcello Prado got out of his unmarked Mercury Marauder. The sweet ocean air filled his head. A crowd of onlookers had already gathered around the stark crime scene tape that encircled the Spanish style apartment building. He ducked under the tape and walked up the steps through the tropical plants and trees that crowded the courtyard. The Police floodlights and a trickling fountain made the front door of apartment THREE look like a Hollywood premiere.

“Whatcha got, Jim?”

“Well, he’s still warm.”

The body of a man dressed in a yellow polo shirt and dark brown slacks laid face up on the parquet floor. Vacant black eyes stared at him through the glass top coffee table. Marcello scanned the room. He noticed a potted fichus tree on the floor across the man’s legs. Blood had pooled under the table and flowed along the floor.

“Someone was in a hurry to get out of here.” Marcello spun around as a petite brunette popped up from behind a chair. “Hello, Detective.”

“Don’t just pop up like that, you startled me. Who are you?”

“Sorry. I’m CS Investigator Kyra Dennis. I found a footprint in the blood by the fireplace.”

“From the looks of things,” Jim continued, “the shooting must’ve happened about two to three hours ago. Two shots to the chest, front entry. One probably in the center of his heart. No blood trail, so it happened here.”

“Looks like Mr. Railton was a silent movie buff.”

Jim stood, “Are you kidding?”

“So you’re an old movie buff too?” Kyra added.

“They just don’t make them like they use to”. Jim crossed the room to examine a double poster display. “If these two posters are original, they are worth a small fortune at best. Metropolis, 1927, the movie all science fictions are based on. Look, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Blade Runner too.”

Marcello was listening carefully, “Can’t be a motive for robbery, they’re still here.”

“If, in fact, they are originals,” Jim added. “It could be.”

“I’ll check on it.” Kyra held out the dead man’s wallet. Detective Prado pulled an evidence bag out of his pocket.

She nodded toward the body, “The victim is a Palmer Railton – looks like he was ready to leave on a trip. Luggage and airline tickets to D.C. are on the sofa.”

Marcello figured her for a newbie with the crime lab. She was too precise and enthusiastic for a seasoned investigator.

“Someone didn’t want him to leave.” Marcello looked at the body. “Can you do something with his eyes, Jim? I’m getting creeped out.”

“Looks like a nine millimeter,” Jim held up an empty shell casing. “I would have thought you’d be used to stuff like this, Prado.”

“Sorry to disappoint you, but I never get used to people hurting each other.”

Kyra went back to take photos of items scattered across the floor. There was a crumpled twenty dollar bill, an empty velvet ring box and one gaudy cloisonné earring.

“A woman was definitely here.” She shook her head as she examined the earring and placed it into its own evidence envelope. “Whoever it was, they have awful taste. I hope I can get some DNA. Clip-ons aren’t as easy to get DNA as pierced earrings. But maybe I can lift a print.”

“Why do you women hang stuff from their ears in the first place?” Marcello asked. “I mean, whose idea was that?”

Kyra looked up from the viewfinder in her camera, “Probably some man. The same guy who came up with stilettos.” She smiled, “Actually earrings are intended to frame a woman’s face – y’know, to take a guy’s attention away from our chest.”

“Detective,” their exchange was disturbed by a uniformed officer, accompanied by a beautiful brunette with sad eyes.

“This lady has something to say you may want to hear.”

Oct 10

Reading in Public – “Winter’s Tale” (part 1, chapter 1 – “A White Horse Escapes”)

Onwards to the first chapter of “Winter’s Tale” – but, first, a brief comment about the movie adaptation that came out earlier this year.  If you’re coming to the book after having seen it, please forget about everything you saw.  There is very little in common between book and film.

There is a movie that’s a lot closer in spirit to the book, a 1948 film called “Portrait of Jennie”.  I’d highly recommend it for its own sake, but I think it’s a wonderful match to “Winter’s Tale.”  Honestly, I would be shocked if Mark Helprin had not seen it, because there are a lot of elements in the film – both larger thematic and philosophical points, and specific images and dialogue – that show up in the book.  Starting with a slow journey through the clouds, accompanied by a voiceover which informs us that:

Since time began man has looked into the awesome reaches of infinity and asked the eternal question: What is time? What is life? What is space? What is death? Through a hundred civilizations, philosophers and scientists have come together with answers, but the bewilderment remains… Science tells us that nothing ever dies but only changes, that time itself does not pass but curves around us, and that the past and the future are together at our side for ever. Out of the shadows of knowledge, and out of a painting that hung on a museum wall, comes our story, the truth of which lies not on our screen but in your hearts.

Keep those words in mind as you read the book, and see if you don’t agree that they apply here, too.  And with that, here we go…

We open with Part 1 of the novel, titled “The City” and chapter one, “A White Horse Escapes.”  And we open directly with the horse, who is nameless for now (that will change in a couple of chapters).  He has escaped from his master’s stable, and he’s roaming the streets of Manhattan, having crossed over the Williamsburg Bridge from Brooklyn.  Bridges are a matter of great importance, and in Helprin’s world, even the horse knows why:

And he was seldom out of sight of the new bridges, which had married womanly Brooklyn to her rich uncle, Manhattan; had put the city’s hand out to the country; and were the end of the past because they spanned not only distance and deep water but dreams and time.

This may sound like nothing more than flowery language, but it’s not.  Helprin means every word literally, especially the part about spanning dreams and time.  Remember this passage as the story progresses.

The horse continues on, and we get some very nice imagery, setting us firmly in 1910’s New York.  As he trots along the just-awakening streets, the horse catches sight of the incredible colors of New York Harbor:

At the end of this polar rainbow, on the horizon, was a mass of white – the foil into which the entire city had been set – that was beginning to turn gold with the rising sun.

Remember how Helprin talked about color in the prologue?  We see it again here, and particularly take note of gold.  The golden light enraptures the horse, and he determines to get to it.  But his way is blocked by a heavy iron gate.  And no matter which way he goes, he finds his way similarly blocked.  He cannot get to the golden light, to the other world that is so close at hand and yet impossibly far away.  Again, remember this for later; it will come up again.

The horse finds one final gate, also locked, and as his hope of reaching that other world fades, he becomes aware of something else, and we’re about to meet our first human character.  The horse spies a lone man running through the snow, pursued by a dozen armed men who are trying to kill him.  The man makes it to the gate shortly ahead of his would-be assassins, jams the lock and then proceeds to slip and fall, right in front of the horse.

Had it not been for the horse peering at him from behind the woodshed, the downed man might have stayed down.  His name was Peter Lake, and he said to himself out loud, “You’re in bad shape when a horse takes pity on you, you stupid bastard.”

The horse does take pity on him, and bends down to allow Peter to mount him.  Once atop the horse, Peter laughs and rides off, leaving his pursuers – now named as the Short Tail Gang, firing their pistols futilely at him and cursing as he leaves them behind; and that’s where the chapter ends.

Peter Lake is one of our main characters, and we don’t learn much about him here, other than that a gang called the Short Tails wants to kill him; and that he establishes a strong and instant bond with the horse.  But we do have two of the major themes of the book – or, really, two aspects of the same theme – laid out very clearly.

The desire – need – to return to another, better world (perhaps to gain readmittance to Heaven?), is on full display here.  We see it in the discussion of bridges and their ability to connect not only two geographic points, but two different worlds (dreams and reality, if those even are two different things, which is debatable in Helptin’s world), and different times as well.

And we see it in the way the horse cannot find his way past the iron gates to get to the golden light.  Every street is blocked; there is no route he can travel to get where he wants – needs – to go.  Or, at least, there is no physical, corporeal, tangible route.  No route that can be seen with mundane eyes.  But that isn’t cause for despair, because there may be other routes, which can be seen if only you look at things the right way.  Helprin will return to this again and again over the course of the novel, in a variety of ways, as we’ll see.

That’s my take on this short opening chapter; please feel free to share your thoughts!


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