Greetings all! I hope this finds you and yours doing well and staying healthy!
Wanted to share, in one space, a few of the social media teasers that I've been posting with teaser quotes from the fourth and final book in the Avery & Angela series, LOVE WILL COME TO YOU!
The book arrives on 12/8/20 and will wrap up the series! The series books will be free or discounted during that week, so stay tuned or JOIN THE EMAIL LIST to find out first about those deals!
In the meantime, enjoy the teasers and please check out "The Day Before," which is a free prequel chapter to the entire series!
I can't wait to share the end of this journey with you!
I am super excited to share the cover art of the fourth and final book in the Avery & Angela series with you! I know the book was supposed to be ready in June, but I'm blaming Covid and 2020 in general.
So, while it's been delayed, the book is coming on December 8! There will be loads of promotions and giveaways and all sorts of fun between now and then, but the series is concluding.
Anytime there's a end to something, there are some bittersweet feelings and this ending is no exception. That said, they are wildly tempered by the level of excitement I'm feeling about sharing this final part of the story with you all.
So, you'll have the book in just a few weeks, and should you need to catch up on the series, HERE's A GOOD PLACE TO START, but without further ado....THE COVER!
So, it's been 230 days and we are still going strong with our daily reality board! I think this collection has some of our best work to date. It's been a lot of fun. We of course, have to thank our recent marker benefactor, our good friend Beth, for her donation to the cause!
What would you like to see in the coming weeks? Please comment below with your requests!
Also-my latest novel LOVE WILL COME TO YOU is coming out on December 8. Stay tuned!
Thirty years ago, today my father died. I was seventeen years old.
I’ve written about this before in this space. It’s been a topic that in many ways haunted me for years, dominated my thoughts and development for years but now lays claim to less of my head space than it used to. I’ll include links to the previous columns about my dad in the comments, if those are of interest to you.
But thirty years is a long time and I’d planned to write about that milestone. But then, something else happened.
My friend Bruce died suddenly this week, leaving behind a wife and two sons and countless friends and family who are reeling in the devastating wake of his loss. Bruce was an amazing man who’s impact on the lives of those around him will be difficult to measure, unless one were able to count the tears shed, the toasts raised, the chuckles shared in his memory over the coming weeks.
I think if you added up that number, you’d still have to multiply it pretty significantly to have some way to comprehend the impact that this man had on the people in his life. Maybe then, one could grasp it.
But I doubt it.
In thinking about Bruce and my father and the other people that I’ve lost along the way to here, I’m reminded of the fact that, at least to me, every time I encounter the loss of someone in my life, it brings me back to every other loss I’ve experienced. It’s like every loss is that last loss, and all the others along with it. I’d like to think that that is part of why Bruce’s loss is so devastating. But I think there’s more to it than that.
This one’s just not fair.
As my father was dying, I remember telling my mother that it wasn’t fair that he was so sick. It wasn’t fair that this was happening to us all. Not for the last time she told me, not unkindly, that “life isn’t fair.”
That hurt at the time and it hurts now just as much. It’s not fair, especially with the year that we’ve all had, the year we’ve all joked about. “Oh, that 2020 again…”
We’ve all said it and we’ve all thought it and yeah, it’s been a tough year, but this one’s just not fair. It hurts because we didn’t see it coming and it hurts because thinking about a world without Bruce in it is simply not a world any of us were prepared to be a part of.
Bruce and his family were among the first friends we made when we arrived in Northern Virginia ten years ago. His oldest son and mine were in scouts together and a few other activities. They got along well and have remained friendly to this day. Bruce’s younger son was often a classmate of my youngest daughter, and so together Bruce and I became the unofficial “Dad Brigade” for school field trips and activities. We survived Smithsonians, nature centers, science museums, amusement parks, concerts, track meets, soccer matches, scout meetings, field days, class parties, you name it.
I remember a few particularly challenging, all-day field trips where I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about my day, only to have that whole plan get upended and turn into something that might be fun after all when I heard Bruce’s voice behind me say, “OK, I’m not the only dad here. We’ve got this!”
On one occasion, I remember him gripping my shoulder and leaning in to say, quietly, just to me: “Rob, thank God you’re here.”
I’m not too proud to say that that made my day at the time. I keep thinking about that moment this week as I try to process what’s just happened. That moment was really Bruce in a nutshell. An unexpected warm and friendly comment, given by a true friend when least expected, with a smile and a shared sense of, “we’ll get through this together.” Always smiling, always giving of himself.
I can feel every head nodding in agreement across Springfield and beyond as you read this. I know you all understand. That shared understanding is unique and special and while I’m so glad we have it together, I’m also very sad because that aspect of our lives is gone, suddenly and yes, unfairly.
I never saw Bruce angry. I’m sure he had moments of anger, or disappointment, pain, like we all do and are having now, the Bruce I knew was gregarious, hard-working, ceaselessly dedicated to his family, supportive of everyone, and just really, really kind.
As the troop leader for my sons’ scout troop, he was for years inundated with an often wild and motley crew of boys, many with their own strong opinions on how to do (or not do) things as a group. I often left the meetings with a headache and I wasn’t leading anything. I never saw him lose his patience with the boys. He never snapped. It was always, “OK, let’s get back to…” whatever the task at hand was: a birdhouse or a tool box or a skit for the pack meeting. He was always patient, always kind, like that verse from Corinthians, which everyone uses for weddings.
That verse is very much in my head this week. While most people think of it as a statement on romantic love, it’s really not. (Being married to a clergy person has subjected me to this conversation after every wedding we’ve attended.)
Paul was writing to the church at Corinth because they were fighting amongst themselves. They were not treating one another well and he was trying to remind them that love was the most powerful force for connection and community available to them, and that they really ought to try being a little kinder to one another.
Part of that passage reads:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
I’ll admit, I’m emotional about this, but I feel that while Paul may have been talking to the church in Corinth, he might as well have been talking about Bruce.
His amazing wife and phenomenal sons face a much harder road ahead than do any of us. It’s road I know well and one I would never wish on anyone. But I find myself thinking, if this had happened to another from our group of friends; to another parent we all know and care about, what would Bruce do?
I think he’d show up, as he so often did. Not only to events and field trips, but to my mother’s funeral, which he and his family did when she passed a few years ago, helping my kids immeasurably by not being the only kids there at church.
I think he’d find a way to quietly lead the rest of us. I could see him organizing a “Council of Dads” to try and step in and help, not only in the first weeks of this change for the family, but long-term, with a “going forward” approach. I think he’d have given of his time, his seemingly limitless energy, and his immeasurable kindness.
He might have thought, perhaps it’s not enough, but it would be what he could do for his friends, and he’d do it without hope for reward or acknowledgment, and more importantly, without hesitation.
I would like to be more like Bruce.
The last text message I got from Bruce was just over a week ago, regarding my attempts to get our kids together on a Monday for a socially distanced lunch hour. They weren’t able to make it, but he went out of his way to, well, to answer it like Bruce. “Thanks for thinking of him and inviting him and please keep him in mind if you guys do it again.”
A simple, “We’re swamped, maybe next time,” would have been fine. That would have been the response that most people would send.
Bruce was a dedicated, selfless man. He was fun to be around and while he had a big personality, it always seemed like he was just to the left of the center of the conversation, passing the ball with an alacrity and quick wit that made him fun to be around. He was a fierce and loyal friend. He loved his family.
We will all miss him, none of us as much as his wife and children. I’m glad that our paths crossed and that for a short time, our lives intersected and we had the chance to know one another and become friends.
I know I’m a better person for that friendship.
WOW! We've been doing this Reality Board in our home for 185 days so far! I think it's been a lot of fun and truly apprecaite all the great feedback. (Especially on the one's I've drawn :)
Please let me know which ones are your faves and if you have any requests, as we still have yet to repeat ourselves. I think my kids were already pretty talented, but I've improved too, right?
Be well, stay safe, wear a mask, go vote, all that good stuff!
So, we're up to 152 days of sharing our daily Reality Board with you. It's been fun and to date we haven't repeated ourselves. (Yes, there were two Jokers, but they are from different cinematic worlds and very different characters, so there. :)
We even got a tweet back from the Official Kool Aid Man on his appearance. (He said, "OH YEAH!")
And I've finally figured out how to post these to the blog so they appear in order. It's only been months.
Hope you continue to enjoy. We'll keep doing them until I need the whiteboard back for, you know, actually scheduling things. So, no time soon, I imagine.
Stay safe! Let me know which ones you love!
One hundred and twenty eight. That's how many of these daily "Reality Board" art projects we've posted since lockdown started. That seems like a lot.
It has been fun for us and honestly, I'm super impressed with the fact that we haven't repeated ourselves yet.
I hope you have enjoyed them. Which ones have been your favorites?
Stay safe and stay healthy. Washing hands is good too. So is wearing a mask at times. :)
Greetings all-I hope that this finds you well and staying safe and healthy! I recently visited my beloved Wildwood, NJ, which as you may know is a setting of major importance in the Avery & Angela series. I took some time to scout out a few choice locations that I had in mind for a rough shot of what I hope will be the cover photo for book #4, the final book in the series.
The book, who's working title is LOVE WILL COME TO YOU, is a bit behind schedule as a result of the pandemic. I'd initially hoped to launch it this month, but we're not there yet. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, take a look at what I think is the best of the photo series I generated last week. I think this will be the cover but would love your input: what does it make you think of? Where do you see the story going with this as the cover? And yes, I know I need to crop out the crane....
Be well and please let me know what you think!
Tomorrow, June 7 will be the 80th day that my family has posted a daily doodle/reality check on our family whiteboard. It started as something of a goof, but it's now something that's a big part of our day. Each day, one of the five members of our household are responsible for creating a new drawing, and posting the day and date, since that's something hard to keep track of lately.
We've gotten the dates wrong a few times, but the drawings have always been interesting. The earlier versions are posted on the blog here too and are easy to find, scrolling back in time. I hope you're enjoying them.
Stay safe and I hope this finds you well. Cheers!
Readers of the Avery & Angela series know that the series is rich in music. In many ways Avery sees the world through the lens of music, his entire life feeling as though it’s scored or sound tracked in some way. As such, there are a LOT of musical references in the series and I thought it would be fun to give readers a little primer/listening guide, should they want to “listen along” to the book. Each link will lead you to a music clip or further reading if it’s not a song itself that’s referenced.
Page #3: This is the first mention of the Indigo Girls “Closer to Fine,” which appears later in the book as well.
Page #11: “Madam Marie” is not a song, but a reference to a character in the Bruce Springsteen song “4th of July, Asbury Park.” He mentions how “The cops finally busted Madame Marie for tellin’ fortunes better than they do.” The character is widely considered to be based on the real Marie Costello, who’s story is fascinating in its own right.
Page #20: The Grape Street Pub in Manayunk, PA is a real music club that I had the privilege to perform during my brief stint living and working outside of Philadelphia in 1995-96. I played there at least once a week for that year, which was a really hard year for me. I got to know some amazing artists, like JUNE RICH, who are mentioned in the book a couple of times, especially their bassist who I was friendly with during that year.
It’s not overstating it to say that that club may be the only reason that I got through that year.
Page #22: Don McLean’s “American Pie” is mentioned here, along with a story about Avery forgetting the words to the song. This happened to me during a show at The College of Wooster in either 1992 or 1993. It’s the only performance of mine from the 1990’s of which there appears to be no audio recording. There are still too many words in that stupid song.
Page #47-John Mayer plays Albert King at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is referenced
Page #68: Astronaut playing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in outer space is referenced.
Page #73: Closer to Fine performed, without using any of the words in the manuscript, because they wanted $300 for the rights.
Page #78: The Smiths song “There is a light” is referenced.
Page #79: Avery’s original song “There is a light that never goes out” is performed.
Page #92: Bobby Rydell “Wildwood Days” plays on the boardwalk a lot.
Page #93: John P. Kee’s “Jesus is Real” performed at the chapel. It's not performed this well in the book.
Pages #96-7: “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” performed at the chapel. I was able to get rights to this for the manuscript. The clip is the one I watched repeatedly as I wrote this scene.
Page #102: “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” plays at Winterwood. I've ruined this song for my eldest child. Ask me how sometime. It's funny. (to me)
Page #122: A Reggae version of the Beatles “Twist and Shout” is played by young upstarts “Skipping Detention.” Fun fact: the band I played with during the summer of 1991, “The Simpletons” used to goof around with the song in this way. The name “Skipping Detention” was created by a friend in response to a contest I ran on Facebook to find a unique name. The winner got nothing but bragging rights.
Pages #127-128: The songs “Into the Mystic,” “Good Riddance,” “Sweet Caroline,” and both Sam Cooke and Bruce Springsteen’s versions of “Mary’s Place” are referenced as being part of the evening set list for THE Cozy Morely’s at the Anchor Inn.
Fun Fact: Cozy Morley was a real entertainer in Wildwood, NJ for decades. There’s a statue of him to this day on North Wildwood. Also, the Anchor Inn was a real place. It’s gone now but I loved it, so I put it into my book because it’s my world.
Pages #132-133: AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long,” Beach Boy’s “I Get Around,” Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally,” Beiber’s “Love Yourself,” Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl,” and Flogging Molly’s “What’s Left of the Flag” are referenced as past of THE Cozy Morley’s set.
Page #135: “We’re Having a Party” is performed in the Southside Johnny style as opposed to the original Sam Cooke arrangement.
Page #139: "Everlong" by Foo Fighters is performed. I really wanted to get the rights to this but couldn’t afford them. I think the scene works well regardless and the clip I linked here is the one I watched over and over again writing this scene. Sorry about the spitting.
Page #144: Avery performs his original song, “The Garden” for the first time.
Page #193: “Jungleland” by Bruce Springsteen plays as Avery and Angie sit in the Tracer in Pin Oak Manor . Bruce was kind enough to allow me to use a few lines of his epic song. He and his people were simply amazing to work with.
Page #211: Flash Mob dance party on route 130 North to Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance.” The video (which is super fun) linked here is the one I watched as I wrote the scene, driving my son nuts. Fun fact: Pam and Kelly, who Avery dances with, are real friends who won the right to appear in that scene in one of my Facebook contests.
Page #221: Benny Goodman’s “Stompin’ at the Savoy” is referenced in backstory.
Page #252: “Penguin Dream Warriors” are not a real band, but they should be. I got the name as a combination of a Facebook contest response and a “Bloom County” book.
“Thunderegg” on the other hand a real band that you should be listening to right now. Their lead singer is a pal from childhood.
Page #258: Bruce’s “The Ties that Bind,” and “The Price you Pay” from the iconic “The River” album are referenced as is Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World.” Fun Fact: The title of book #3 in the Avery & Angela series was almost “The Price you Pay.”
So, now you have a way to listen to every song in the book! There are original songs in books #2 and #3 as well that you can check out HERE!
Like and comment below and let me know what your favorites are! Thanks for your support and stay safe!
This page contains affiliate links & cookies