I’ll be back!

Did I sound like Arnold? I meant to sound like Arnold.

Where am I going?

South.

Five back surgeries have left me with a loathing for cold weather. The colder it gets, the stiffer and more painful my aching back. And, the older I get, the more I despise snow. Noah Greene, star of my three mystery novels, shares my animus for white stuff that falls from the sky. My thought? If God had meant us to love winter, He/She wouldn’t have created Florida.

Anyway, I’ve been absent from my blog and social media for several days and will be for many more going forward.

The Internet provider where we are moving says they can’t get around to us until sometime in April. I’m assuming 2019, but …

I guess it’s okay because, frankly, we’ve got no money left. I know, I know. You’re thinking “How can you, a New York Times best-selling author not have any money?” A legitimate question, I’m sure. But if you do a quick check of the Times’ weekly list, you’ll note that my name and newest novel, “My Grave Is Deep,” is, well, missing. (I only need about 40,000 more readers to reach the pinnacle of publishing.)

Moving is always a costly exercise. Still, we haven’t helped ourselves. We thought that we’d save a bunch of money packing ourselves. Obviously, we miscalculated. Thus far, we’ve spent about $100,000 on boxes and packing tape. If we survive the tension in the air that right now is so thick you’d need a chainsaw to cut it, it’s true love.

Anyway, I know you’ll all miss the words that drip like pearls from my golden (clammy? oyster-like?) fingers, but you’ll just have to muster on.

Rest assured, I’ll be back!

More like Arnold?

The neverending paragraph

I was getting my hair coiffed the other day, when my stylist – only a stylist can coif – when he asked if writing was hard.

Ten minutes into my answer I discovered that writing is hard. For me anyway.

Perhaps it took me decades to write that first Noah Greene novel – “Tears in the Rain” – because of my approach to writing.

That approach can be summed up in one word: alloverthestinkingmap.

My problem is this. I write a paragraph, then another and another. As I start paragraph four something suddenly comes to mind on how to make paragraph one better. I go back, rework it. Which requires reworking paragraphs two and three. OK, start on paragraph four again. Wait a minute, I just thought of something that will make paragraph one even better. Go back, rework paragraph one, then two, then three. Start paragraph four for the third time. Stop. If I just do this, paragraph two will be sing like Sinatra. But then, I need to redo paragraphs one and three. Meanwhile, whatever I was planning for paragraph four has fled the loony bin of my mind, shouting “Gggaaaahhh, I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!”

When I started writing TITR I was composing on a typewriter – yes, I’m that old – I had to remove the paper (yes, we wrote on paper) to retype those paragraphs. Over and over again. I think I spent about $3 million on paper over the years just trying to get through the manuscript.

Of course, that includes the times I lost the manuscript, but still …

It’s a bit easier these days now that I can write on a computer and can make changes on the fly, which probably explains how I’ve managed to shorten my writing time between books.

But the approach is the same. Write paragraph one, and then another and then … oh wait a sec. I just thought of something that would make the first paragraph of my blog even better!

A hole in my heart

I was watching a show on Amazon Prime the other day called “The Widow” starring Kate Beckinsale. It’s about a woman whose husband is killed in a plane crash. Or was he? Years after the disaster, she catches a snipit of video on the news showing a man wearing the same hat her husband always wore. She becomes convinced that man is her husband and goes on a dangerous quest to find him.

It wasn’t bad, but that’s not what this is about.

In the course of the unfolding plot, we discover that Kate’s character has fallen into a deep well of depression following the death of her infant daughter.

And when that is revealed, I felt a familiar pang of pain.

Forty-five years ago, my late wife and I had a baby girl. We named her Molly Lynn. She was born on September 26. She died September 27.

In all the years since then, not a day has gone by, not one, that I haven’t thought of her.

For those of you familiar with my Noah Greene mysteries, you know the story. The old adage about novel writing is write what you know. I know about losing a child. It leaves a hole in your heart, a space that time can never heal.

Our daughter died because my wife’s doctor decided that instead of doing a C-section for a what turned out to be a breech birth, he’d use forceps to remove the baby. In doing so, he crushed Molly’s skull.

Afterwards, my wife Jane became severely depressed. She was a diabetic. Diabetics often have a difficult time carrying pregnancies to term. Molly came 4 months early. The irony was that despite the prematurity of her birth, Molly weighed enough to survive. If not for the crushed skull.

Still, Jane blamed herself. If she hadn’t been a diabetic, she said, Molly would have lived. No matter what I said, no matter what her family and friends said, we couldn’t disabuse her of that belief. In her mind, blame was absolute and it belonged to her.

She became desperate to have another baby to prove … well, I’m not entirely sure what she was trying to prove. All I know is that there was a hole in her heart that she believed could only be healed by having another child. That desperation was the beginning of the end of our marriage. Whatever love we had for one another in our intimate moments was replaced by a gnawing, clawing need that was never going to be satisfied. After our son was born (he nearly died as well), Jane and I drifted apart. Our life together was just never the same. As the years wore on, Jane devoted herself entirely to our son before her condition claimed her life at an all too early age.

By then, however, we were divorced. We never entirely recovered from those holes in our hearts.

I write about this a lot in my novels. It’s cathartic in way, but nothing is ever going to erase that awful phone call in the middle of the night from a nurse telling you that your daughter has died.

Noah Greene will never fully get over the death of his child.

Neither will I.

Breaking my silence

I’m finally breaking my silence.

About what, you may well ask.

And why was I being silent in the first place?

I’m not sure I have the answers to your questions. All I know is that at least once a day, every day, I see a headline that says “(Insert famous celebrity name here) breaks silence on (insert tragedy/allegation/stupid remark-Facebook post-Tweet/racist rant/untimely death here).”

Today’s? “Luke Perry’s Daughter Breaks Silence After His Death.” Saying that someone breaks their silence is suggesting they were deliberately withholding their opinion/statement/comment, instead of, you know, taking four or five minutes to actually GRIEVE FOR THEIR FATHER!!!!!

And another from today. “R. Kelly breaks silence on sexual assault” Here’s an example of someone who really was deliberately withholding his comments and then, inexplicably, decided to have a little chat with a reporter, if a morning show host can actually be described as a “reporter,” and blame parents for “selling” their children to him and, you know, PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE KEPT HIS MOUTH SHUT!!!!!

As an old newspaper person (for you young’uns, there used to be real news, written by real reporters, and printed on paper that was delivered to your house, and you could hold it in your hands while sitting on the toilet, and could use it in an emergency, about which we will NOT break our silence), I keep wondering why headline writers can’t come up with something other than “Breaks Silence,” which is kind of lazy and for the most part misses the nugget of gold. For instance, the R. Kelly “BREAKS HIS SILENCE” headline is sorta burying the lead. HE’S BLAMING PARENTS FOR SELLING THEIR CHILDREN TO HIM, FOR GOODNESS SAKES! Shouldn’t that maybe be the hook to the story?

So, anyway, I’m breaking my silence today about … uh, my new book, “My Grave Is Deep.” I can’t believe it’s not at the top of the New York Times bestsellers list by now. I mean, come on people!

Sorry, but I just can’t be silent anymore.

Do I know … me?

I keep getting a message from Linked In asking me if I know Gene Williams.

The answer perplexes me.

If I say I know Gene intimately, it sounds, well, creepy.

If I say I know Gene metaphysical level, it sounds weird.

If I say I don’t know Gene and I wouldn’t connect with him on any level at any time, anywhere, it sounds, you know, a bit unfriendly.

The fact is, Linked In, I don’t know Gene. But, if I did, I would tell him that he is a wonderful man, handsome, kind, loving and a terrific writer. His new novel “My Grave Is Deep” is exciting, thrilling, astonishing, breathtaking, intriguing, moving and downright tremendous. Stupendous even.

I say these things not only because they’re true, but because I’m sure Gene isn’t the sort of person to toot his own horn. I’m sure he’s humble, courteous, modest, self-effacing, and did I mention handsome?

The next time Linked In ask me if I know Gene Williams I’m just going to be honest and say, “No, but I’d like to.”

A signature day

I had lunch the other day with a someone who has been a friend since college.

Like me, Scott was a journalism major, and we worked together at the Daily Kent Stater newspaper.

My favorite memory of that time was when he introduced me to James Michener, the famous author of “Tales of the South Pacific,” “Sayonara,” “Hawaii,” and other notable works.

This was after the tragic shooting of 13 Kent State students by the Ohio National Guard. For those of you too young to remember, the Guard was on campus after some students rioted while protesting the bombing of Cambodia during the Viet Nam war. Four students were killed, and nine others wounded.

In the months after, Michener came to Kent to write a book about the tragedy. Scott had gotten a summer job helping Michener do research. When I arrived back on campus to start our senior year, Scott said I had to meet Michener. Given that I always wanted to be a novelist, I jumped at the chance.

We drove over to the Michener’s hotel and knocked on the hotel door. And waited. And waited. And waited. Michener was in the room, but not answering.

Finally, we saw the curtains move a bit. After a long moment, the door cracked open and an eye peered out. Finally, Michener, bandy-legged in his underwear, ushered us in.

“Sorry,” he said to me. “I thought you were the water guy from back home her to collect.”

At the time I was too starstruck to ask, “Water guy? Like, the guy who checks how much water you use? Uh, so, you haven’t paid your water bill and the guy tracked you down in Kent Ohio? Aaaannnddd what, James Michener can’t pay his water bill?”

Instead, I just stood there with my mouth open and said, “I really liked ‘Sayonara.'”

Anyway, Scott and I both wound up working for newspapers in Florida, him in Tampa, me in Miami. After a while, I left and bounced from one paper to another. As Scott put it the other day, “You disappeared for 17 years.”

However, we reconnected after I moved back to Ohio a few years back and have made it a point to have lunch every couple of months. The other day, we met for what’s going to be the final time for a long while. I’m moving to South Carolina soon and he to the Nashville area in the next year or so.

When he arrived at the restaurant he carried a bag with 5 copies of my new novel, “My Grave Is Deep.” He wanted me to sign all 5 so that he can gift them to various family and friends.

I did so willingly, but with a dash of unease. Whenever anyone asks me to autograph a book, a thought rushes through my head, “They really want me to sign?” As if I’m not important enough.

It’s that kind of thinking that keeps me from promoting my books the way I should. I keep wondering, “Me? Really?”

As I was signing Scott’s books, the waitress came by and wondered what I was doing. “Signing his book. He’s the author.”

“Wow,” said the waitress. “I’ve never met a real live author.”

To which I said, “There’s some question that I’m really alive.”

Again, “Me? Really?”

Still, it always warms my heart when someone likes the book enough to ask for it to be autographed.

So, if you have a copy of “My Grave Is Deep,” or either of the two previous Noah Greene mysteries “Tears in the Rain,” or “Tears of God,” and you’d like it signed, just ask and we’ll work it out.

I promise not to ask if you’re the water guy.

Oscar, Ben and me

So last night, after the Oscars ended, I was drifting off to sleep when my cell phone began to vibrate with a call. An unknown number. I never answer unknown numbers.

But a little voice inside my head said, “What if it’s Ben Affleck and he wants to buy the rights to your latest Noah Greene mystery novel?”

“Nah,” I told myself, “Ben ain’t calling me. It’s probably one of those robocalls offering me the first three months free on a home warranty, or a Medicare supplement insurance plan, or a discount on a certain little blue pill that has recently come off its patent.”

Not that I need a little blue pill, understand. My fingers slipped when a Blue Chew form somehow popped up … uh … appeared on my computer screen.

Anyway, it’s not Ben, I told myself.

I let the call go to voicemail. But then, 10 seconds later, the phone rang again, and I said to myself that I could maybe use a new home warranty, so I answered it.

“Yeah?” Whenever I answer the phone at 11:30 at night, I always say, ‘Yeah?”

“Mr. E.E. Williams?” asked the voice that sounded very familiar.

“Yeah?” Again, 11:30 at night.

“Mr. E.E., this is Ben Affleck, and I’m calling today to speak to you about something important to your future. I would like …”

It’s Ben! Ben Affleck! He’s calling me about purchasing the rights to “My Grave Is Deep!”

As Ben is talking, I am imagining myself rushing down the aisle of the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles and bounding up the steps to the stage and leaping into the arms of Samuel L. Jackson, accepting my award for best adapted screenplay and then later, joining Ben and George Clooney, who would be playing Noah, and Amy Adams, who would be playing Noah’s love interest, Kay Woodson, and Robert De Niro, who would be cast as Charlie Hall and maybe Joe Pesci as Mickey, and the entire cast of the film version of “My Grave Is Deep” as they accept the Academy Award for best picture.

“ … you to know that we take your health seriously, and that we offer a wide range of insurance policies to help you feel confident about our coverage.”

“Wait a minute,” I say. “Ben, did Hollywood think you did such a terrible job as Batman that you’re selling insurance now?”

“Batman?”

“Yeah … Superman V. Batman? Justice League? Suicide Squad? Batman?”

“Uh …”

“This is Ben Affleck, right?”

“Um, no. This is Ben, Ben from Aflac. You know. Supplemental health insurance? The duck? Aaaaflaaac! Mr. E.E. …”

I hung up. And dreamt of winning an Oscar shaped like a duck!