Two Girls

Kurt Vonnegut once told me (and everyone else in the auditorium) never to apologize. He then went on to give one of the most heartfelt apologies I’ve ever heard.

I’m sorry for the title I gave this post. I’m sick over it. I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive myself. Mainly I’m sorry for not having the courage to stick with the joke I’d originally conceived, which was to have been “Two Girls, One Post.” I will leave this portion of our discussion now and move on to greater things. Braver things.

Sherry

The first girl is 93 and was our guest on the most recent E2Books Presents Craig and Scott Live. Her name is Sherry Pratt, although her book Times Remembered, is written as S.J. Pratt. If you’re offended or even caught off guard by me referring to this woman as a “girl,” then I encourage you to watch the episode to learn why I did, and have always. Come meet my friend, the nonagenarian girl, skipping rope with her words.

I have only one regret about that show, and that was that every person on Facebook didn’t watch it. Because I knew from the day Sherry agreed to appear that everyone who did watch would be blessed by doing so.

I was not wrong.

Sherry shared stories with us of her life, of her love for her husband, and of her writing.

I am fortunate enough to know Sherry personally and was even more fortunate to have attended a local writers’ group with her for a few years, so I thought I’d be well-prepared for the episode, in which Craig had suggested I should take the lead.

But once she began telling us of how she took a job at Syracuse University, just for the 18 free credit hours the school afforded each semester to all of its workers, and then used to sometimes call in to work, feigning illness, so that she could stay home and write, I realized I was completely unprepared for her. I was essentially reduced to a stammering fanboy for the bulk of our time together. Thankfully, I have a partner who managed to keep me from looking completely inept.

There was so much warmth in the telling of her stories during the show, and the same is true of the stories in her book. In fact for the first time in my life, I wish I was a genuine internet “influencer,” so that I convince a ton of people to buy her book. Not to show off my clout, or even, really, to help Sherry sell copies. No, I’d like everyone to read Times Remembered for the enrichment it will provide them. There are only a handful of writers, sprinkled across all of history, who tell a story as well as Sherry Pratt. That is not hyperbole, but you’ll never know if I’m lying unless you read the book.

Read the book.

As is my wont, I won’t make you suffer without watching the show, but you have to get to the bottom of the post first. So you can either scroll there now, or work your way through this discussion of…

The Other Girl

The other girl is a bitch. She’s a liar and she is a cheat. She is also my life-long lover, and no matter how I try I cannot crawl away from her, only closer. Always closer.

She is writing itself.

I need her. I can taste my need. I can hear it, hear her. She laughs, she mocks and cajoles. She calls herself my true mother and she promises me everything, every day.

Some days she delivers. She delivers it all. All the promises are kept and there is magic. True magic, the sort not even the magician can explain, not that he ever would. To all appearances, a writer sits alone in a room – his office perhaps or a bookstore café or a crowded barroom. There may be other people, but he is always alone. Alone among the physical maddening crowd, but in that vacuum he is crowded out by the people living in his head and, with any luck, on his paper. The place may smell like stale beer and chicken wings, but he smells the sea – hears gulls calling that are a million miles removed, even though they exist only here. In his head and, with any luck, on his paper.

But other days she hides, or worse still, comes stumbling in at 4 am, drunk and smelling of another man. Her words are slurred, they make no sense, but he understands every syllable, every breath. Yet he cannot. He cannot be with her like that. He loves her no less for it, but his heart is so exposed and she can be so vicious.

And so the promises are revealed to be lies, and there is nothing in his head and not so much as a stray pen stroke on his goddamned paper.

He dies a little either way, but she does not care. She is wrapped around him, clutching him, constricting him. But she does not even know he is there. She never has. She thinks that she is above him, and indeed when she notices him at all it is briefly, from far above. She thinks she doesn’t need him. “There are others,” she says. “There are always others.”

But, of course, she is wrong. She is, as I sadly admitted to you, a liar. Do not judge her for this. The lie is all she has, on her own. I cannot judge. I lie twice as often, four times as masterfully.

The hapless writer knows this at some level. With his mouth, he gives her the credit. “She must be,” he says. “Without her, I am not.”

But he also calls her a bitch. He calls her a disease. He finds others with the same affliction, and they call her these names too.

And perhaps they do not know (they do) that she sounds different, looks different, smells, and tastes different to every one of them, even though she herself is ever the same. And perhaps they do not know (they do) that she cannot be without them. It is their lot to have to wrangle her. To have to scrape their initials thinly into her rocky façade. It is their fate to make her sing or soar or clutch or kill. It is their duty to make her breathe.

How odd a girl she is! How I hate her.

How I worship her.


A Farewell to Legs

E2Books Presents Craig and Scott Live – Oh yeah. It’s a thing now.

The moment when Scott revealed the title of his and Craig’s next book, right after Erik talked about stealing ideas from other writers.

So, I didn’t write a post after our first Facebook Live back on March 24th. My rationale was plausible deniability. If the thing was a train wreck I could try saying I had nothing to do with it, even though my face was prominently displayed throughout. Looking back at it in retrospect, it’s not a solid hypothesis.

What is solid, aside from the skull of yours truly, was the fun we had in our second attempt at hosting our Live show on the E2Books Readers’ Group. Out guest Erik Therme is the author of some of the finest thrillers published in recent years and he’s also a personal friend of both of the alleged hosts. <— (More plausible deniability.)

[Ed. Note – The legal department is relatively sure that Mr. Varengo’s concept of plausible deniability is “fuzzy” at best. For the record saying “It wasn’t me,” over and over again only works in R&B songs and politics.]

Anyway. Erik is a friend, allowing us to talk in our secret triplet language from time to time. Sorry viewers. We’re too hip, that’s all. Too hip. But it also allowed use to compliment Erik’s pajama pants and to give a shout out to his cat Jasper. Oh. And to talk writing. We managed to work that angle as well. (Here’s a link to the book, before I forget.)

We discussed the differences between traditional publishing versus independent. Both Erik and Craig are able to speak to both of these means of dissemination. I have always published independently, sort of making me the “weak sister” of the trio. Or perhaps I’m just a rugged individualist who wants to chart his own course. But probably the other thing.

Alright, look, that enough of me going on about the show. Why not just check it out? “But you said it was Live!” someone no doubt just threw open a window and shouted. Well, strange person, it was live. But as they say, nothing on the internet ever truly goes away, and it is available on the E2Books group page’s archives. (You know you’ve made the bigtime when you get an archive!)

[Ed. Note: Every group gets an archive. He’s really reaching today.]

Just enjoy the show.

Oh dear, oh dear!

There are certain things you know are risky ideas when you hear them. “I think these bald tires have one more cross-country trip in them. Take the spare out of the trunk to make room for more beer,” for example. Or, “Let’s interview S.J. Varengo on our podcast.”

And yet that is just what has happened! Scott was recently given an opportunity to read from The Beauty of Bucharest, and talk about writing in general, as well as his latest novel, Jelly Jars, by Alexandra Amour, an excellent mystery writer herself, on her podcast, It’s a Mystery.

Although the theme of the podcast is generally geared toward mystery/thrillers, Alexandra, being a skilled interviewer, picked up on Scott’s energy and excitement when discussing Jelly Jars, and allowed the interview to move in that direction before steering back to the Cleanup Crew series and the upcoming release of The Demon of Denver.

Be sure to check out Alexandra’s website and grab some free books while you’re there! And It’s A Mystery can be heard just about anywhere, (I’m pretty sure I heard a bird listening to if from a leaf a little while ago), so go where you enjoy listening to podcasts and give her a listen (lots of great interviews on her site).

But of course I am a champion of the lazy, so you can also listen right here:

Facelift

Did you have a celebrity crush when you were in high school? Have you been out of school for a while now? If you answered yes to both of those questions, I have a third for you. Have you seen them lately?

Just for the record, no one’s teen celeb crush was
Joan Rivers.

Chances are they’ve had some work done. The thing about facelifts is that if they’re really good, you don’t realize they’ve happened. And while I would never call anyone out on this you can cast your eyes to the left and … what? What’s that? Okay, I would never call anyone out on this that I think could beat me up. Or that was alive. So if that actor or swimsuit model from your youth now looks like blinking is probably something they only manage once a week or so, it wasn’t necessarily a good face lift.

There are, on the other hand, facelifts that, while dramatically noticeable are clearly an improvement.

To wit, E2Books recently commissioned acclaimed author and all-around great guy, David Berens, to create new covers for the Cleanup Crew series.

Guess what? You get to see them first!

Book 1

We might as well start at the beginning.

The idea for The Beauty of Bucharest, the series debut, as the author has explained many times, came when he and his wife were going to Home Depot, and heard a thump in the trunk as he was parking. Being a twisted individual a creative writer, he immediately thought, “My wife has killed someone and the body is in the trunk.”

[Ed. Note: We were kind of expecting him to tell you the wife was innocent. We also thought the writer of this post would not refer to himself in the third person. We thought by now he would start acting normal. Sigh. We are guessing you feel as disappointed as we. He put a rubber snake in our lunch box. A RUBBER SNAKE!]

Also for the record, neither of these are pictures of Craig. One is Mickey Rourke and one is a gelatinous alien who has almost finished congealing into a simulacrum of
Mickey Rourke.

[OFFICIAL STATEMENT BY E2BOOKS CO-FOUNDER, CRAIG A. HART: Look, S.J. Varengo is a hell of a writer, and a really good friend. But in order to get him to write these E2Books blog posts, he had to bring the editorial staff from his award-winning [citation needed] website, sjvarengo.com. And before you think I knuckled under to his pressure, he was just as upset as I was. “They” pretty much run things around here. Okay, I suppose we should get back to the post. That part of this madness was actually starting to get interesting.]

Are you guys done? Because I’m fine waiting if you’re not. All good? Let’s continue, then. Okay? Good. Where were we? Starting at the beginning.

Pretty sweet right? Also, this one is free in digital if you’d like to give it a read for nuttin. But just look at what Dave did! In this first adventure we travel to Romania and his cover captures the mystery and intrigue of the old city of Bucharest. Adding the birds lends some ominous foreboding, yet the sun peering through the triumphal arch leaves a hint of hope in the distance. Is it hope realized? Get it here to find out!

Book 2

In The Count of Carolina, we learn how it is that a young, beautiful housewife and mom from the Mile-High City came to be an international assassin.

There’s a lot of subtle magic going on in this one as well. This volume demands a little more from the reader and deals with some difficult subjects, as well as introducing Dan and Nicole’s daughter J.J. for the first time. Close inspection of the female figure suggests a young subject, but it could be Nicole as well, and the beauty is that the reader gets to decide for herself. Fire is also a significant theme in the story, and David made sure to work that into the design, not only in the title which appears to be blazing, but in mirrored burning buildings on each side of the walkway.

If you’re ready for the tough stuff, get it here!

Book 3

After the life altering events of The Count of Carolina, Nicole was enjoying a little downtime. J.J., after returning to school and finishing the semester is home for the summer with her parents and her brother Tony, also home from school.

When Nicole is drawn into a cleaning she wanted no part of, she is forced to face the fact that she isn’t as young as she’d once been, and the job, even if it wasn’t easier back then, it sure seemed that way now. Meanwhile J.J. must once again step up into shoes Nicole and Dan never saw her filling.

The Terror of Tijuana takes place in the titular city as well as the outlying badlands as Nicole finds herself in a situation so bad that only a one-in-a-millions alignment of the stars, and her family will save her now.

Again David has stripped the action to the bare essentials, give a clear impression of danger in the dessert-like hills and mountains to the east of Tijuana, where much of the climactic action takes place.

Read to see if Nicole can save a cleaner, finish the cleaning, and get herself and her family out of danger and to lead to a major confrontation with a man whose name appears in each of the three volumes so far published – Conrad Barker.

The action concludes with all parties racing back to Denver. Hmmm. To read for yourself, click here.

“But that seems like a kinda garbage way to leave things, Mr. Writer-man.”

Every Reader in the World

[Ed. Note: A lot of authors would take a burn at that sort of thing. We hope these two are that sort. Wah-ah-ah!]

This really is Craig. Don’t he look concerned?

[A SECOND OFFICIAL STATEMENT BY E2BOOKS CO-FOUNDER, CRAIG A. HART: I’m really starting to regret all of this. These people are literally horrifying.]

Well, as the only person actually authorized to speak in this post, I’d like to once again attempt to wrest control of it’s direction, as we have an official genuine announcement.

Because as it turns out, in this case Craig and I both agree with every reader in the world. After leaving everyone driving home from Tijuana for almost a year, I’m happy to announce:

Book 4

Coming soon, with an obnoxious amount and hoopla and whatever is the next most obnoxious thing to hoopla, will be the fourth volume in the series, with the ominous sounding title The Demon of Denver.

I am further excited to reveal that Cleanup Crew, in addition to it’s new cover designs, will further get the E2Books treatment, as this will be co-authored by Craig and myself.

[Ed. Note: At least he forgot that he had been talking about himself in the third person earlier in the post. That was really annoying. Does he think he’s Bob Dole?]

As a matter of fact, he did not forget.

So be sure to check back often.

One Last Thing

[Ed. Note: And now he thinks he’s Steve Jobs.]

Just ignore them.

Wanted to let you know that there is now an E2Books Readers group on Facebook. I could not in good conscience recommend that you join this group unless I thought that I might gain personally from it, so why not give it a click?

There’s more news coming too. It’s like our news bush bloomed.

Post-Project Drift

There is a period after a project is finished that I find myself having lost my anchor. I feel like a very small boat just drifting in a very large ocean. Not an angry, choppy sea. Just an endless, glassy mirror. No wind, no shark fins circling in ever-tightening rings. Just me in a friggin’ boat with nothing in sight.

It can be very disorienting. When I get to the end of a book – talking first draft now – I start to get angry. I get angry at the book itself for not being finished. And I can be mean about it, too. I start name-calling. Just about every manuscript gets called a “turd,” during that stage.

But eventually the draft is finished and that’s when things get nasty.

At least that’s what I always convince myself. The process of revising the draft is almost always, to some degree, pleasant. There are typos to fix for sure, especially in my parts. On this project Craig and I each wrote about half of the book in question. I did fiddle with the stuff he wrote, and he’s in the process of going through and making my part better.

This is different than our usual process, and came about due to unusual circumstances that I’m sure we’ll all sit around a fire and talk about at some point. I’m expecting you to bring the beer.

But different doesn’t mean wrong. It doesn’t mean bad. (Repeat that after me. Say it every time you turn on the TV or walk out the door.) It just means different. Hell, sometimes different is fun. We both felt that editing this time was less like cleaning our ears with a red hot screwdriver. Even downgrading to one of those little screwdrivers they sell you at the dollar store to fix your glasses would be an improvement, because usually it’s one of those old two-foot long ones with the wooden handle that you dad always made you use while he used the electric one.

Perhaps I digress. Yes. That’s a digression. Okay. We’ll swing back around.

We’ll swing to the part about drifting. That’s how I feel every time. Even though to write this book we paused another one, which is still waiting. It hasn’t gone anywhere. Until I get back into it, I’m going to be floating.

Did I mention something about a book that is waiting? We’ll be back to it soon, with plenty more information to come regarding that! But these details can be released: it will be book #4 of the Cleanup Crew series.

Oh, we already told you that? Well did we tell you…

Listen I’ve told so many lies that I’ve lost track of the truth I’m trying to hide. But don’t mind me.

I’m drifting…

My Life as a Meme

Writers! Argh they drive me crazy! Always with the words, these people! Can’t they ever just stop with all the brilliance and insight? Can’t they just be, without being a writer? Can’t they ever turn it off?

The quick answer to all of those questions is the same. No.

Now before I venture too much further into this essay on lunatics, I should point out that as always when I talk about “writers” I’m talking about one in particular. The only one I know for sure what he’s thinking, what he’s experiencing. The only writer who, though he often surprises me can never really trick me. Of course, I’m talking about myself. However, in the course of doing just that (talking about myself – show me a writer, especially a blogger, who doesn’t and I’ll show you a dead writer), I’ve found that my experience often runs parallel to that of other writers.

It is fairly normal for a person who experiences something in isolation, an emotion, let’s say, to believe they are the only human on the planet, and in the history of the planet for that matter, to have ever felt this way. One of the great revelations in all of humanity is the following:

“Oh, it’s not just me then.”

Everybody, all the time

Sometimes that revelation is literally life-saving. It’s the theme of many a good tale of self-discovery. Finding out you’re not the only one who feels the way you do has happened just in the nick of time to more than one person pulling them back from a precipice which up until that moment looked like the end of the line.

Because my working relationship with Craig Hart is so well-established now I have come to find that he is a perfect foil for all of my delusions of uniqueness. I have lost track of the number of times I’ve confessed some grave fear or some character flaw that must surely disqualify me from humanity, only to have him reply with, “Same.”

This is the central premise of the internet meme. With a picture and a few words, some creative rascal brings to life a visual vignette that makes you smile or frown, but at least it makes you feel something, very often because it’s something to which you can relate. “Oh, so I’m not the only one.”

In addition to actual sit-down-at-the-keyboard-and-get-to-work writing, which is what we do best, Craig and I are also big believers in encouraging other writers. That’s one of the biggest reasons we started our podcast, Good Sentences. Certainly, it’s fun to just talk about the craft of writing and to interview best-selling authors. But it’s also great and, we think, important to let people at all stages of their writing careers that many of the feelings, almost always unpleasant ones, are not theirs alone.

Craig approaches the promised land…

Craig and I talk just about everyday, throughout the day. Our primary means of communication, pretty much since the day in 2011 when we became Facebook friends, has been FB Messenger. It works well for us because we have it on our computers and phones, so if something critical needs to be worked out, (such as what one of us should have for lunch,) we are able to stay connected no matter what.

If you know us at all, or even if you know either of us, since we live over 900 miles apart and don’t actually share many day-to-day contacts, you can imagine that this decade-long conversation has included some very deep, insightful discussions of important literary matters. There is also an inordinate number of boob jokes. We also often joke about some future scholar, writing their doctoral dissertation on the works of Hart and Varengo, coming across the complete transcript of our Messenger conversation with the same life-changing excitement as they would upon finding a box of letters from Hemingway to William Faulkner, (all of them exactly the same – “Dear Bill, you’re such a dick. Love, Papa.”)

Yesterday, for example something Craig said triggered this response:

This is an actual screenshot from our convo. Don’t be sad because it’s colorful.
You can set your Messenger theme to Rocket too.

Almost as once I realized that some form of that statement would make a good meme. It was then I suggested to Craig we should cull our conversation for more of these nuggets and make our own memes.

Several hours later (after I’d already fallen asleep), Craig found and sent the meme to the right.

Right away we see a fundamental truth: There exists, somewhere in the universe, a meme for everything. But not necessarily a good meme for everything. This comes close, but its obvious flaw is that it contains images of Drake, a known carcinogen. [Ed. Note: This is satire. It has not yet been clinically proven that Drake causes cancer. Neither has it been disproved.]

Oh, lovely. You guys are back. Well, I’ll have you know that I’m already rehearsing for when he sues me. First I tried out the sentence, “It says ‘satire’ right in the goddamn paragraph, your honor.” Then I realized there was a chance he’d sue me in Canada and Craig suggested I substitute, “Your Royal Hiney,” a term which he tells me is acceptable in all courts there and was adopted, in traditional Canadian form, to help foreigners from embarrassing themselves while being tried for a crime in their country. They’re just so nice up there!

Craig also sent me this one, which I found unrealistic in many ways. First, the assertion that catching up on writing ideas is a thing is patently absurd. Why? I’ve got a ton of reasons but how about this one: I get writing ideas while writing. Secondly, the notion that if I ever did manage to somehow catch up on my writing ideas I would dress in such a dapper manner stretches reality beyond its inherent elasticity. I would not stand on a pink carpet in a mall, I’m guessing, either. I likely would not stand at all. I would lean back in my leather office chair, wearing my tartan-checked pajama pants a green GAP sweater, and realize I haven’t changed out of this ensemble all week, and I smell as evil as Jason Momoa looks in this picture. Thirdly they rarely come in packets as small as a million. In the words of Bradley Sinclair, telling his new wife Peggy in the presence of an Elvis impersonator that she’s now really, really rich, “Buh, sweetheart, as in buh-illions. You gotta think a little bigger now.” (This direct quote from Jelly Jars, by S.J. Varengo, is used by permission of the author, even though he’s a wiener).

I also hasten to point out it gets a couple things right. Every new writing idea comes creeping up on me, preparing to tackle me. They do all look vaguely demonic, much as young Jason does here, and they all hit as hard as I assume he’s about to. Oh! And they all wear those exact shoes.

But I digress. I’m here to announce a new division of E2 Books. The Meme Department, which will rely heavily upon Craig’s design skills and written idiocy from both of us. [Ed. Note: Interestingly this also describes all of their books.] Our first creation will appear on the E2Books homepage soon, and we’ll be updating them regularly. To what end?

WE WANT YOU TO STEAL THEM!

We want to see these suckers everywhere, so however, you need to get them, right-click, screenshot, recreate all the elements yourself (I’m sure Jason Momoa would be happy to come to tackle someone for you), just grab ’em and repost ’em.

Go ahead. We’ll wait.

Scott, waiting.
{Ed. Note: We’re a little worried about Scott’s self-care. I mean, look at him. Pretty sure that’s the green GAP sweater he was talking about, and does he still have his Christmas tree up? I’m calling 9-1-1.]

Assignment: Paris

Happy to share this review from rellimreads!

Rellim Reads

Did I just see a madman escape via a kiddie slide?

Craig A. Hart & S.J. Varengo
Assignment: Paris

Format:
Audiobook.ebook is also available

Update: ebooks 1-3 of the series have been combined into a single set, Assignment: Adventure.

Publisher’s Synopsis:
One man broken-hearted by his wife’s brutal slaying…one nuclear device primed to destroy the city of Paris…one chance to save over two million lives. Can Perry Hall set aside his grief long enough to prevent the unthinkable?

After his wife was slain by a sadistic assassin, SpyCo agent Perry Hall stopped caring whether he lived or died. Nothing mattered, save binge drinking and caring for his bulldog, Fleming. His disdain for life-threatening operations makes him an asset to Director J. Carlton Moore, who sends Perry into the most dangerous situations to ever face the covert organization. So, when the City of Lights faces extinction at the hands of…

View original post 605 more words

Battling Demons

I don’t really know what I expected. Did I think, back in 2017 when I first outlined the idea for The Beauty of Bucharest to my friend and writing partner, Craig Hart, that it would be a walk in the park, or perhaps several parks? I knew Craig had the literary savvy to tell me whether I had a good idea or not. (I have to say nice things about him because he is the co-administrator of this website and is could execute an act of swift and massive revenge – not that he would mind you. But he could. Okay, he totally would. He’s probably got an act of war already, even if he tucks it in his suit pocket until the right moment, which will no doubt be something very public, like when we accept our Nobels. And the fact that I’ve included him in the Nobel discussion is just another example of me being super-nice.)

I’ve told the story before. The description Dan parking the car at Home Depot in the first chapter of the book was something that actually happened to me. The difference was, although I heard something thump in our truck after dropping my wife off at the door, it was neither a can of paint or a dead human. But that didn’t stop my mind from immediately going there. “What if a guy thought he heard a paint can fall over in his wife’s trunk, and when he check it turned out to be a body.”

Craig liked it. Everybody I talked to about it thought it sounded fun. So I decided to go for it. I’d written a few SpyCo novellas with Craig by then, so I was relatively confident that I could tell an action/thriller story with a strong female hero that was gritty but at the same time featured characters with human flaws along side their strengths.

What I didn’t realize at the time, and have come to fully understand only during the writing of the fourth book in the series, The Demon of Denver, was that my clever little book one theme was going to take me, as a writer and as a human being, down some extremely dark roads.

I started to realize it in the second book, when I decided to tell Nicole’s backstory. It wasn’t pretty!

This is another story I’ve told before. The chapter in which Nicole’s backstory is revealed took me ten days to write. What I don’t recall whether I’ve ever revealed (and I may very well may have – I am both adept at blathering and forgetting I have blathered) is that Nicole’s backstory has many parallels to my own, including the age she was when things got bad to the length of time the bad things continued. Her specific flavor of horror was different than mine, but consider this! (Consider this: the hint of the century [Ed. Note – Thank you REM]) – all horror, ultimately, tastes the same.

When it came time to write the third book in the series, The Terror of Tijuana, I dealt with a new theme that also rings familiar with me in the consideration of my own life. Namely, what do you do with your life once all your secrets have been revealed? Do you continue walking in the shadow world you have, by necessity, constructed for yourself, or do you grasp the straw of freedom you’ve given yourself and step into the light?

At one point in the story Nicole finds herself in the sort of situation that could easily lead to that sort of self reflection. Being buried alive provides the necessary time for reflection. Ready for another big reveal?

Nicole’s time underground in the dark is a metaphor for my entire life between the time I left my father’s house until the time I was beginning to find my voice and writing the books that now bear my name. And just like she did in that metal coffin, I’ve been forced to answer the same question she did, “Am I getting to old for this?”

Fortunately for me, being a writer is somewhat less taxing on your mind and body than being an international assassin, but only marginally so. There was much in the writing of Tijuana that I found difficult as well. There were chapters that took too long to finish. there were villains infused with as many of my own personality characteristics as there were heroes with bits of me stuck into them. There were relationship struggles that I didn’t have to invent. There was crushing self-doubt that I didn’t have to try to imagine the feel of. There was life or death struggle that didn’t seem nearly as far off and fantastical as I would have liked them to be.

So when the topic of a fourth book came up my response was always the same: “How do you think the Yankees will do this year?”

And then a wonderful thing happened. It was nothing I did, per se. It was more something I’d agreed to. Craig invited me to help him on the next Shelby Alexander thriller, and we wrote Serenity Reborn together.

And it was an amazing experience. We hadn’t worked on anything together since the SpyCo novella, Assignment London, and by the time we’d reached that point in the SpyCo series it had started to feel a little by like work. Now, sometimes it does. I think I alluded to that fact earlier. When it takes ten days to write one chapter, that’s workin’, son. As any serious writer will tell you, those are the days you earn your supper.

But writing Reborn felt like being a kid running non-stop for hours because you’re a kid and running is fun. Not the running you have to do when you’re trying to earn your black belt and you have to run a three-mile course in twenty-four minutes and you quickly learn to hate your legs. I’m talking about the kind where there’s no destination, so set course, and no reason. Oh, and it tends to be accompanied by a lot of yelling, also with no reason. Kid running. It’s a thing.

And so when the writing was done, Craig, who regardless of any shortcomings he may claim that he has, is an A-1 idea guy, said, and I’m paraphrasing, “Hey, let’s do that again!” He went on to outline his ambitious plan. We would co-write two books at once; a new Shelby and a new Nicole.

Because you probably don’t know Craig as well as I do, you can’t tell that the facial expression he’s adopted here actually means, “Scott, stop being a baby and let’s write a Cleanup Crew together.”

We dove in and soon had… two abandoned books. Did I mention we’d started them just pre-pandemic, and shelved them because by then the shit had hit the global fan and we were busy trying to stay the opposite of crap-covered.

But thanks to a timely BookBub deal on the first book in the series, Craig realized it would be the perfect time to finish the Shelby book we’d started. He was even kind enough to let me know at the outset that we’d need to finish it in less than 20 days, giving me the option to say something like, “Hold on while I make a quick phone call – Hello, Shady Rest Sanitorium? I need you to make a pick-up.”

I did not say that. Instead, we finished the book on time. And yet again we had the time of our lives. And we started asking ourselves what seems like a simple question: “If we enjoy the process of writing together so much, why don’t we do more of it?” So we started brainstorming ideas, but every way we configured our thoughts, the next Cleanup Crew kept bubbling up to the top of the cauldron. There it sat. Looking at us.

Now, we didn’t finish this book in 20 days, but that’s not a bad thing. Even with a partner as skilled as Craig, (the truth, not just me being nice – but damn I’m nice, don’t ya think?), it’s a tricky story to tell. It needs us to proceed with caution. And we are but at the same time, it’s going well and EVERY time I get a chapter back from him, the story’s gotten better. Then when I send a chapter back to him, he has to work twice as hard to undo all the damage I did. (And there we reveal the one person on Earth with whom I have no problem being unkind.)

But there you have it. It is not random chance that this book is named The Demon of Denver. Facing demons has been the theme of the series for me.

Now I know I don’t have to face them alone.

A New Season of Good Sentences

Writing Lessons from 2020 with
Angelique L’Amour

Well, the beast that went by the name of 2020 is dead. And while very few people will mourn the passing of what was certainly one of the worst years in the history of the United States, and, truly, of the planet. But we who remain have clearly learned much and have adapted to a world that looks nothing like the one in which we’ve spent most of our lives.

In the first episode of the second season of Good Sentences, Craig, Scott, and returning honored guest, Angelique L’Amour discussed some of the things they learned in 2020, about their writing and themselves.

Craig felt that 2020 helped him obtain a greater level of patience, and learn that he could work through challenging times. The pandemic altered his well-crafted plans (through the closing of school), and he managed to find a way to create in the face of it.

My favorite part of writing is having written.

Craig A. Hart

Angelique found that as the year started, and her entire family was recovering from COVID, she was able to write, often in snippets – 30 minutes here, an hour there. By September she was able to start working in earnest, and picked up the pace in October, then managed to write every day in November, then kept her pace up into December, right up until the holidays.

Scott, he learned that for him the act of writing is actually therapeutic, and he describes his scientific proof.

Plans for 2021

The trio went on talk about their writing plans for the year. Craig and Scott mentioned that they’ve got several projects planned. Angelique promised that she was getting down to business starting on the 21st.

A discussion of adventure stories, (and the decline of the genre), led to Craig and Scott revealing a peek at one of their upcoming projects, which in turn led to Angelique revealing something about an iconic adventure film and the connection to her dad (Louis L’Amour).

This episode also features Craig and Angelique making Scott blush. You’ll have to take their word for it, since it’s an audio podcast and all.

As is always the case when Angelique is on the show the conversation continued to touch on a variety of subjects, including bad reviews, Stephen King causing illness with his book Carrie and a near heart attack with Christine, and the additional pressure that the child of a world-famous author faces when preparing to share her work with the world.

A spirited discussion of the writer’s tool Plottr also occurred and there was a strong case made for Plottr to become a sponsor of the podcast. [Ed. Note: Dear Plottr, call us. Seriously.]

The best part!

And so we come to the best part of the post. You can listen to Episode 1 right here, or on most of your favorite podcast outlets (and least the ones that don’t suck). ENJOY!

Writing Lessons From a Long Life, With Sherry Pratt Good Sentences

This episode was originally recorded Live on the E2Books FB Group. Join us!If you think for a minute that you&apos;ll be immune to this woman&apos;s charm, we challenge you to listen in as Craig and Scott speak with writer and nonagenarian Sherry Pratt, as we talk about her writing and her life. Be ready for great storytelling.
  1. Writing Lessons From a Long Life, With Sherry Pratt
  2. Writing Lessons from 2020 w/ Angelique L'Amour
  3. Art and Humanity with Evelina De Lain
  4. Plot (And Character) with Angelique L'Amour, Part 2
  5. Plot (And Character) with Angelique L'Amour, Part I