Off to the publisher…

I have a little tradition. Whenever I finish a full draft of a book, I celebrate by having a glass of Templeton Rye on the rocks. I’m not a whiskey drinker, (anejo tequila, neat, is my drug of choice, for those of you seeking gift ideas) but it is tradition, and must therefore be correct.

The traditional Templeton on the rocks means I have sent Acre's Bastard to my publisher.
The traditional Templeton on the rocks means I have sent Acre’s Bastard to my publisher.

Acre’s Bastard is an adventure story set during the Second Crusade. It’s a little more straight-forward than The Count of the Sahara, and a little grittier but I hope TheBookFolks like it enough to send it out into the world, and I hope all of you enjoy it as well.

Tonight I’m toasting Lucca, Brother Marco, Sister Marie-Terese and even Brother Idoneus, may he rot in hell. I hope you’ll join me on the adventure.


Tom Petty Makes a Pretty Good Point

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

If it seems like I’ve gone radio silent for a few weeks, well I have. I am in a kind of literary limbo, and as my boy Tom says, the waiting is the hardest part.

See, I’ve finished the first draft of Acre’s Bastard. And I can’t do a darned thing about it for a while. Four generous, masochistic souls (all members of Naperville Writers Group– and if you aren’t part of a circle of fellow writers, you’re missing out)  have agreed to read it and offer their feedback so I can make any major changes before sending it on to my editor at The Book Folks.

The waiting is the hardest part of writing.... nobody tells you that until your head is ready to explode right off your shoulders.
The waiting is the hardest part of writing…. nobody tells you that until your head is ready to explode right off your shoulders.

So here I sit. I don’t want to start any new projects until this one is done, I can’t do any more on this one until I get their notes, and since they are volunteers with actual lives it would be damned rude of me to stand over their shoulder and yell, “Hurry up dammit, my  head is about to explode.”  Hell, even The Duchess has only gotten to page 60, and she has to live with me.

I know some of what they’ll say:  the finale needs to be clearer. I need more description of the final battle scene and the main villain (there are two but he’s the most critical) has too many names (which makes no sense and yet is wholly accurate). Still, I can’t do the rewrite, hand it in, and move on until I hear. There may be more unexpected criticism. They may say my baby is ugly and I should smother it with a pillow before offending the reading public. They might tell me it’s wonderful, only to have my editor throw it back like an undersized Dolly Varden.

The point is, I can’t control any of this, and I can’t really do anything until the reports come in. So, as Tom says, the waiting is indeed the hardest part.

Finished the first draft of Acre’s Bastard- the world yawns

Last night I hoisted my traditional glass of Templeton on the rocks; my ritual when I finish the draft of a book. I don’t drink whiskey as a rule, I’m a tequila guy when I need to indulge my inner Hemingway, but custom demands it. I have–officially –for real–finished the first draft of the novel that for now, I’m calling “Acre’s Bastard.”

I say “for now” because what I love about the editing process is that novels can always be better, and minds much clearer than mine see problems I don’t. The Count of the Sahara, for example, was originally saddled with the pretentious title, “Pith Helmets in the Snow.”  See what I mean?

Doesn't look like much, does it?
Doesn’t look like much, does it?

As you can see by the picture, first drafts are ugly little brats and while you don’t like to hear your offspring aren’t beautiful, at least at this stage you can still do something about them before dragging them out in public and frightening the neighbors.

I have 5 people serving as Beta readers. They’re all members of my writer’s group, The Napervile Writers Group. Some are grammar Nazis, some are just readers who know story and structure, one shares my geeky fascination with the Crusades (when the story’s set) and has a keen eye for anachronisms and inaccuracy. That’s essential in historical fiction, even if you occasionally want to throttle them and hide their bodies before they rat you out rather than actually fix the gaping plot hole they’ve spotted.

Speaking of writer’s groups…… if you’re a writer, hie thee to one. I have learned so much, not only by getting feedback on my writing, but on reading other people’s work.  Reading good writing helps, and there’s something about reading bad writing that’s critical to exposing your own flaws and will make you swear a blood oath never to inflict those things on an innocent reader. In any organization like this you’ll see plenty of both.

So I’m awaiting the verdict before sending this on to Erik at The Book Folks and hopefully he – and you – will love Lucca, and Brother Marco (and hate Brother Idoneus and al Sameen) as much as I do…

Lou Holly Sr- Southside Chicago in the 80s

If the death of Prince (blessings upon him) doesn’t have you nostalgic for the 1980s, I’ve got something that will. My friend Lou Holly Sr. has written a tight, fast-moving crime thriller set on the Southside of Chicago.

You can nearly smell the char dogs and stale Old Style… not to mention those horrible fake leather Bulls jackets…. and if a story set in the 80s doesn’t seem very historical… try telling your kids about them some time. Besides, it’s my blog……

Lou Holly Sr, on what must be his wedding day to Liz, otherwise it's his prom
Lou Holly Sr, on what must be his wedding day to Liz, otherwise it’s his prom

Okay for those of you who don’t know, what’s the Lou Holly story?

I’m 65 years old, married, retired and live in Naperville, IL. I was brought up on the southside of Chicago in a blue-collar neighborhood. I’ve been a self-employed entrepreneur most of my adult life. Past businesses I’ve owned include a band booking agency and limousine business. In the 1990s, I worked as a private driver and bodyguard for a Chicago actress. My wife and I published a 1950s & 60s nostalgia/rock & roll magazine from 2009 to 2013 titled Keep Rockin’. I started writing novels five years ago. Basically, I’m a self-taught writer with no formal training.

I was lucky enough to help workshop your book with the Naperville Writers Group, but for those who didn’t watch your baby grow up, what’s the plot?

SOUTHSIDE HUSTLE is about a 31-year-old man called Trick (short for Patrick), who gets out of prison after serving close to three years for a drug bust. He owes a ruthless drug dealer $60,000 from a previous debt. He is having a hard time adjusting to life on the outside and is under pressure to come up with the money he owes. Trick’s life turns around when he sees a black bag thrown from a speeding car being chased by the police. The bag contains three kilos of cocaine and $285,000. He pays off his debt to the drug dealer by giving him the kilos. He thinks he is on easy street with all that cash, until the guys that the bag belongs to somehow catch up to him. That’s when Trick finds himself in a trick bag.

What was it about that time period that’s so interesting? 

The 1980s was a fascinating period in America. There was a lot of drug money

Southside Hustle, published by The Book Folks
Southside Hustle, published by The Book Folks

being thrown around and a lot of debts incurred. Some people got rich, some went broke, some went to prison and others ended up dead, all as a result of the cocaine trade. I remember the 1980s as a time of beautiful women, fancy cars, expensive clothes, jewelry, and discos.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

One of my favorite scenes occurs when Trick is being processed into Cook County Jail. Trick is in a line with a large group of men, all stripped naked. They are instructed not to move. When the man to Trick’s left absentmindedly folds his arms, a guard hits him on the head with a billy-club and knocks him out. What results next puts Trick in a serious predicament. It’s a true story that I personally lived through.

Yeah, the reality really burns through in that scene. Southside Hustle is published by The Book Folks, same people who did my novel, The Count of the Sahara. Where can people learn more about you and your work? 

They can find me on Facebook 




Lou, his wife Liz and yours truly celebrating the launch of Southside Hustle. He seems to have greyed since his promo picture….. but then haven’t we all.

Radio Interview with InPrintWriters

A lot of writers don’t like doing publicity for their books. Not my problem–I’m a shameless media ho. I particularly enjoy radio shows and podcasts.

Louise Brass listens to be babble about writing The Count of the Sahara
Louise Brass listens to me babble about writing The Count of the Sahara

Louise Brass , author of “Presenting Pauline: I Was  a Dancer” (blessings upon her) invited me to speak to the InPrintWriters group and then sit for an interview on WBOM Radio. You can take a listen below. We talk about

  • Why Byron de Prorok would make a good Kardashian
  • How research at the Logan Museum was both a gift and a joy
  • Why working with TheBookFolks is a sign how publishing is changing
  • Why The Three Musketeers ruined me forever (and swords are still way cooler than guns)

Take a listen. Hope you enjoy it.

Byron de Prorok and Why I Dig History

Byron de Prorok, brilliant speaker, social climber and pathological liar, and the main character in my new novel, coming out in August, 2015.
Byron de Prorok, brilliant speaker, social climber and pathological liar, and the main character in my new novel, coming out in August, 2015.

Friends often wonder why I’m a history freak, and why my favorite stories are based in real times and places (albeit long ago and far away). The fact is, that real people are at least as interesting, maybe moreso, than anyone you could invent. Case in point is the main character in my  novel, “The Count of the Sahara.”  (Note, the title has changed just a week prior to publication!)

Here’s part of what Wikipedia had to say about Byron de Prorok:

During the later 1920s and early 1930s, Prorok undertook a series of expeditions in Africa of dubious scientific value, pursuing ancient legends and eventually came to believe he had found evidence that proved Atlantis lay in North Africa, the true location of the fabled Biblical land of Ophir and what he supposed were the ruins of an ancient temple where Alexander the Great “became a god”. In addition to these tremendous ‘discoveries’ he also claimed to be a member of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre,  the Royal Archaeological Institute and The Royal Geographical Society.

His numerous critics say that this “count” Byron de Prorok was neither a real count nor an archaeologist, was expelled from The Royal Geographical Society (allegedly in 1932), who had “a vivid imagination” and “was given to gross exaggeration”. He was, however, an active member of the Adventurers Club of New York.

How do you not find this guy fascinating? I mean, how many archaeologists have their own IMDB page? In fact, two of them, one under his birth name.

The story tells of his most famous expedition in 1925, which was splashed all over the front pages of the New York Times, as well as his fall from grace the following winter in the snows of the Midwest. There’s bootleg hooch, stolen gems and Pinkertons, as well as warlike Tuaregs, desert heat and camels.

From time to time I’ll post other tidbits about Byron and other folks I find fascinating. Meanwhile, let me know if you’d like a review copy of “The Count of the Sahara”, coming soon from