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Anatomy of a Bad Review

I haven’t read this book, and I don’t know this author, but his analysis of a bad review is spot on. Every author expects an occasional tanking, but it seems this guy likes to torpedo books for fun.

Author Don Massenzio

online-reviewers Thumb up and down buttons

I’ve been blessed. I’ve written a number of books. I’ve been very fortunate. Readers that I don’t know have given my work reviews that have, in the vast majority, earned four or five stars.

That’s why, when I receive a bad review, I like to study it and figure out if there is something I can learn to improve my work.

Let Me Be Frank - CoverWhen I signed onto the Amazon author’s site, I saw this review for my second book, Let Me Be Frank:

bad review

I’ve redacted the name in this review. I didn’t want to make this post about the person who submitted the review, I wanted to make it a teaching moment.

First, I looked at the review. It’s titled ‘Boring’ and starts out with the words ‘too slow’. This is valid criticism for a book and sometimes, in a detective novel, the pacing can be…

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Shut the Front Door…There’s a Draft in Here! lists thirteen definitions for the word draft.

Before I looked, I would have been hard pressed to come up with five or six. I mean who knew that “the force required to pull a plow or other implement” is called the draft?

Not me.

Plow pulling aside…In today’s post we will be focusing on definition 5-C – “a preliminary sketch, outline or version”.

Yes…the first draft, which, according to Ernest Hemingway, is always shit. (He really said it, look it up!).

Many first-time authors have trouble accepting this particular truth, but the smart ones come to terms with it quickly. It’s a matter of survival, really. Either you accept that your first draft is nothing more than a glorified outline or you’ll sit around wondering why nobody is reading it.

The trick for authors, at every level, is getting the draft from trash to smash.

Some of you have heard my process before – if you haven’t you can read about it here.

If you don’t know my process – and you didn’t click the link to read about it –  it involves a group of trusted beta readers who tell me, in their opinion, whether my latest work is any good or not – and why.

Naturally, without the first draft there is no novel, so the initial writing of the story is fairly important, but I am of the opinion that the beta-reading phase is the make-it or break-it part of the operation.

In case you haven’t guessed yet, this post is my annual announcement of the completion of another first draft.

My latest work is entitled 24 Minutes, and it is a vast departure from anything I have written before.

Without giving too much away, there is no Ike, no beach-side caper, no picturesque scenes along the ocean and no (or at least very little) humor.

I didn’t plan it that way, it just sort of happened.

For the sake of clarity…I didn’t drift over to writing sci-fi, fantasy, or chic-lit (not that there’s anything wrong with any of them). 24 Minutes is still a crime-fiction story, but it has nothing in common with my previous nine novels (except for the “crime” part). The story revolves around a group of people trying to survive a situation most of us couldn’t even comprehend – and that’s as much of a spoiler I’m going to give you.

To be honest – writing something so different was, for me, a bit intimidating.

We can all identify with the secure feeling from always doing the thing we’re most comfortable with, but as a good friend once told me – life begins outside your comfort zone.

Several times during the course of creating this story I told myself “if you stop now, you can still write an Ike story and have it released before Christmas.”  For better or worse, I didn’t give in to that temptation. I kept going because, at the risk of sounding pretentious, I felt that this story was overdue. It has needed to be written for several years, by anybody. I just happened to be the one to do it.

Now it’s in the hands of my beta readers, and the nervousness is coming back.

I feel a little like Marty McFly… “What if they say I’m no good?”…but I’m a bit thick headed, so I’ll move forward, release it anyway and let the chips fall where they may.

I mean, even The Beatles had a couple of songs they probably wished they hadn’t released.

Naturally, I hope it is well-received, but what’s the worst that can happen? People don’t like it and I go back to writing Ike stories. I don’t have a problem with that.

In the meantime, the dice have been rolled on 24 Minutes…let’s hope it isn’t crap!


As always – thank you for reading


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Ten Types of Authors Who Can Go Fuck Themselves

It’s tough to add anything to this!


So yesterday I was thinking about an upcoming piece I’ll be writing for LitReactor and chuckled at the amount of reactions I’ll surely get. You see, I’ve been doing the columnist thing for almost a decade. It all started back home with a monthly political column. By the time I stopped writing it in early 2016, I’d received four death threats. In any case, I tweeted this: “Everyone who’s gotten angry at one of my columns should hear the stuff I don’t even bother to pitch.” The result was almost immediate; a bunch of authors said they wanted to read it. I’m all about making my friends happy, so here we are. Thank the writing deities that we have crazy, brave venues like CLASH. Let’s get started, shall we? Here are ten types of authors who can go fuck themselves (God I’m good at making friends!):

1. Authors who hate…

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All Screwed Up With No Place To Go


For those of you who read my last post regarding my motorcycle mishap – I’d like to give you an update.

On Friday April 7th I checked into the hospital for outpatient surgery to repair my broken clavicle.

I’ve never been one to sing the praises of the medical industry, primarily because (as I mentioned in my original post) I have rarely had the opportunity to experience its workings first-hand.

My son is a nurse, as are several very close friends of mine. Knowing them as I do there has never been any doubt in my mind that people who devote their lives to the care and well-being of others are a special breed – so it should have been no surprise at the way I was treated in my six hour stay at the hospital.

Yet it was.

It’s one thing to know how that these people are special…it’s another thing altogether to be the person in the bed relying on total strangers to make you whole again.

I’m not the kind of person who gets nervous or anxious in unknown situations. I have a tendency to just roll with things. This may be due, at least in part, to the fact that my guardian angel has seen me through some pretty hairy scenarios, so I think I’ve come to rely on the knowledge that, in the words of Bob Marley, “every little thing…gonna be all right.”

That being said, I will confess to a small amount of concern when it came time to enter “pre-op”.

I don’t know if the staff could tell or not, but every single person I encountered – from the volunteers, to the nursing staff, to the nurse anesthetists, to the surgeon, seemed to go above and beyond to ease my mind.

When it was time to leave the hospital, and remember, I was only there for about six hours, three of which were spent under heavy sedation, saying goodbye to the staff was like saying goodbye to a group of friends when it’s time to leave a party.

Anyway, back to the point of the story…the surgeon repaired my clavicle by realigning the two ends of the bone, then installing a metal plate along the top which he attached with ten screws.

Kind of makes me feel like the bionic man

Given the amount of pain I had been in prior to surgery, I sort of expected it to continue unabated. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

I’m not saying I left the hospital pain-free…but the discomfort I felt on the way home was a walk in the park compared to what I felt on the way in – and with each day it gets better and better!

I still have to take it easy and wear a sling part of the time, and I can only type with one hand for the time being, but I’m not complaining!

Next week I’ll go back to have the staples removed from the incision, (I’m going to have an awesome scar!!) then I’ll start physical therapy. I don’t know the timeline for my full return to normal yet, but it shouldn’t be too long.

In the meantime, I’ve got lots of spare time on my hands so I’ll get as much writing done as a one-armed man can do.

One more thing…if you know a nurse or a doctor, or even a guy who sweeps floors in a hospital…thank them for me.


As always – thank you for reading




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I Fought the Laws of Physics…and Didn’t Lose

Shortly after the Super Bowl I wrote a post to answer all the questions I was asked about the results. It saved me lots of time so I’m going to do it again regarding my recent lack of attendance on social media…

It all began on Saturday April 1, 2017 – and this not an April Fools’ Day prank…

It was a perfect morning for a ride.

Layla (my 2002 Harley Davidson Fat Boy) and I met a group of friends at the Oceanside ( for breakfast before riding through “The Loop” (  to Destination Daytona ( for a “Biker Block Party”.

It was one of those days where the joy of riding and the company of good friends made the actual event irrelevant. We could have been at an insurance seminar and we would have had a good time.

It was a fun time, more so because of the people in attendance than the event itself. When the time came to hit the road, my brother and I began the twenty minute ride home. We live within five minutes of each other so we took the same route – US-1 north to Belle Terre Blvd.

About a mile from the intersection of US-1, Belle Terre curves sharply to the left – it’s a curve I’ve navigated more times than I can count. It’s actually one of those nice stretches of road where you lean your bike into it and really appreciate the fact that you’re on a motorcycle…

Ordinarily, when I approach this curve, I keep Layla closer to the double yellow line so when centrifugal force pushes us out to the right I’ve still got plenty of lane available.

Not this time…

This time, for some reason, I was closer to the right edge of the pavement when I entered the curve at about 50 mph.

The laws of physics being what they are (non-negotiable) Layla moved further to the right…

I watched my front tire cross the white line at the outer edge of the pavement, and it was immediately obvious that getting back on the pavement was not an option due to the aforementioned centrifugal force. I was about to find out exactly how well an eight-hundred pound Harley handled on grass and sand.

Not surprisingly, it didn’t do well at all.

For about ten seconds (which seemed like an hour) I tried to slow the bike down to a more manageable speed while I bounced along on the worst amusement park ride ever. At some point in the process the front tire hit a rut filled with soft sand and the ride came to an abrupt end. Layla went one way and I went the other. When I stopped rolling and tumbling I was about thirty feet away from her.

I picked myself up, not even entertaining the thought that I might be injured, and saw my brother running toward me yelling “Are you all right, are you all right?”

Then I noticed the pain.

It seemed to radiate out from my right shoulder…and it announced its presence with authority!

I shouted a few obscenities and waved to my brother to let him know I was, at the very least, not dead.

I walked/staggered around in aimless circles, still shouting obscenities, until another guy (whom I didn’t know) stepped up and started talking to me. He asked me if I was okay…to which I replied something to the effect of “Yeah…no…I don’t friggin’ know.”

He explained that he was an EMT (off duty) with military training and he wanted to assess my situation. After making sure I was intact he, along with his buddy and my brother, stood my bike up and got it back up to the road.

After taking a few minutes to collect myself, I assured my brother and the EMT that I was okay and ready to go home.

Layla was already running and waiting for me.

My brother and the EMT gathered up things that had gotten thrown around in the chaos (my sunglasses, Layla’s mirrors and a few odds and ends that had flown out of my saddle bags) before he and I rode home.

By the feel of the handlebars I deduced that they were bent when Layla hit the dirt. The clutch handle was broken but useable and both front blinkers were hanging by the wires (but still functional!).

We took it nice and slow for the three or four miles to my house and I told my brother I’d call him in a couple of hours to discuss our plans to go to a friend’s house for dinner later that afternoon.

I went inside and tried to relax a bit, but that wasn’t happening.

All of a sudden the pain I had originally thought was just a nuisance had become nearly incapacitating. My entire upper body was engulfed in a throbbing soreness the likes of which I had never experienced. I didn’t even want to take a deep breath. When I moved I heard/felt an odd clicking coming from my right shoulder and when I tried to take my shirt off I was treated to a fantastic new adventure in knee-buckling pain.

My initial thought that I just needed a hot shower and a nap was fading fast.

When I broke the news of my mishap to my girlfriend she told me I should go to the emergency room for X-rays – even if it was only precautionary.

I agreed.

So – to make a long story short – the X-rays showed a broken right clavicle (collar bone).

The two bones above my ribs are supposed to be one…

A subsequent visit to an orthopedic specialist resulted in the decision to surgically repair the break due to the way the two halves of the bone were misaligned.

So…after fifty-six and a half years without a single broken bone or major medical mishaps, I now find myself facing surgery to repair a broken collar bone.

It would be easy for me to complain about such bad luck…but I don’t see it that way.

From my perspective…I’m lucky to be alive.

I’ve always felt that I had something, or somebody, watching over me. There have been many incidents in my life where I should have been killed, or at least seriously injured, but I came away virtually unscathed.

This is another example.

I’m not saying a broken collar bone is a picnic…but it could have – should have – been much worse.

It’s only been four days and I’ve already told this story dozens of times, and the reaction I get is almost always the same…

“Oh, man, that sucks!”

To which I say “No. It doesn’t suck. Not only did I walk away from a motorcycle accident…I actually rode away.”

Layla an me on a better day

It would be easy for me too piss and moan about my crappy luck, but my guardian angel works too hard keeping me out of trouble for me to insult her (or him) by complaining.

So there you have it…I’ve been sidelined for a while. Just writing this post took about three times as long as it should have.

Thank you to all who have called, texted, messaged, etc asking if I was okay.

I am.

I’ll be back in full swing before you know it!


As always – thank you for reading






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Blood in the Water #FREE This Weekend

The 89th Academy Awards Ceremony – that’s the Oscars to you and me – will take place this Sunday and in celebration of this momentous occasion I am making my latest novel Blood in the Water available for FREE download all weekend!


What is the connection between Blood in the Water and the Oscars you ask?

Well, in addition to being the basis for a future Best Picture Winner, it has loads of connections!!!

First, the main character in the story is named Bob Oscarson, but he goes by the nickname Oscar.


Not enough for you?

How about this…in the story there are sharks – and as we all know Jaws (a movie about a shark) won 3 Oscars…Best Sound, Best Film Editing and Best Music. It was also nominated for Best Picture, but lost to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. (Damn you Jack Nicholson).



The Oscars will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy has interviewed Oprah Winfrey on his show, and Oprah once hosted a famous book club – so there’s that. (We won’t get into how she never promoted one of my books…)


Blood in the Water is a novel, and many Oscar winning movies have been based on novels.

Blood in the Water is FREE this weekend (I may have already mentioned that) and you can watch the Oscars for free as well!



As you can see – the connections are numerous (if not tenuous) – so don’t hesitate…get your FREE copy of this future Oscar winning story today! (or tomorrow, or Sunday – but not Monday, that will be too late!)


As always – thank you for reading (and I’d like to thank the academy…)


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Post #SuperBowl Thoughts From a Baseball Fan #NotMyChampion

This won’t take long – I just need to clarify a few things.

Every year,  after the Super Bowl (especially when the New England Patriots are involved), I find myself answering the same questions…sometimes to the same people who asked them the previous year.

This year I have decided to write the answers down, that way when future interrogatories start I can simply direct the questioner to this post.

Warning: If you’re a Patriots fan this post may offend you (even though it shouldn’t). If you don’t like football it will probably not interest you…but then again – it just might.

  • Yes, I’m from Rhode Island…ipso facto New England
  • No, I do not like the New England Patriots
  • Not even a little
  • Ditto for Tom Brady
  • It has absolutely nothing to do with deflate-gate (or any other “gate”)
  • No, I do not believe I need to like, support or respect them just because they are my “home team”
  • Yes, I can acknowledge the fact that, for the time-being, they are a dynasty
  • I believe that, like all teams in all sports, the dynasty will inevitably crumble
  • I look forward to that day
  • I am a Raiders fan, but it isn’t really important to me
  • The reason I am a Raiders fan would probably seem silly to you
  • If I tease you about being a fan of any other team, it is meant in jest – don’t take it personally
  • I watch the Super Bowl, but if I should happen to miss one I wouldn’t lose a wink of sleep
  • I don’t give a crap about the commercials either – commercials are commercials
  • Yes, some of them are cute, funny, etc…but they’re still commercials
  • Regardless of the performer, I have never enjoyed the over-produced spectacle at half-time
  • Football, to me, is nothing more than an acceptable way to kill time during the baseball off-season
  • I understand that you may not agree with, or even care about, some, or all of these statements
  • That’s okay – I probably wouldn’t agree with (or care about) some things that you believe in
  • We can still be friends (or siblings, if applicable)

This post is not intended to offend anybody, or start a debate – I posted it strictly in the interest of clarification. I will gladly discuss it with you if you desire, but I won’t argue about it…football just isn’t important enough to me for that.

Is it baseball season yet?

the punch

As always – thank you for reading


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