Hi there Mystery Fans,
“Fenway Burke,” the hero of “Frame Up,” the first novel in the “Fenway Burke Mystery Series” and I have a good deal of common ground.
He can’t name more than two players on the home team but grew up rooting for the Sox through thick and thin.
It’s a running joke throughout the entire series, because “Fenway” is not just a nick- name, it’s the actual name that appears on his birth certificate. He calls it his “Christian” name. One character’s comment was:
“I didn’t know there was a Saint Fenway.”
“You’re not from Boston, are you,” Fenway said.
My ole man was a Red Sox nut. I couldn’t swear to this, because I showed up late and missed it, but when he passed, back in FEB of 2000, four years before the Sox finally broke the curse, his very last words on Space Ship Earth were:
“Maybe next year.”
He was born in 1920, just two scant years after the Sox traded the Babe, and went to his grave never seeing them win in the series...Still he never lost hope.
As I got older, I thought I was immune, that they couldn’t hurt me any more. I was wrong.
Like Fenway, I would never spit on the flag, so I’m for the Sox but not a lunatic about it, still, I’m hardwired to root for the underdog.
For a while there, by being winners, they lost their panache.
They were true to form though and got it back in a hurry.
But then this past opening day they played a near flawless game against the Yankees.
It was a ray of hope, the very same ray they flashed back circa 1952 when my ole man took me to my first game.
It hit me, they still have the power to break my heart...God help us.
Well it looks like they got both of the Boston Marathon Terrorists, but it’s a very long way from being over.
During the big war my ole man was in France. He got to know this guy Marcel, whose family was somehow involved in the Resistance.
Or at least the Germans thought they were, because they raided their house. His father and one of his brothers resisted and were killed outright. They took another brother away who was never heard from again. His mother and sister were beaten.
Marcel wasn’t much more than a boy at the time. He got hit in the head with a rifle butt, but somehow managed to get away...Later joining the Resistance for real.
He wasn’t Captain America, he was just a guy like you or me, but at that point he was in.
My father’s comment was:
“That guy was going to be a German hater for the rest of his life.”
I don’t know what was going on in the heads of those two young men here in Boston, or what events real or imaginary brought them to the point where they thought that somehow the tragedy they inflicted was somehow justified.
I don’t even know what their cause was...but the really sad part is, as long as there’s trauma, they’ll be tragedy...And they’ll always be trauma.
If you’re a parent, a grandparent or a good aunt or uncle, what you end up doing is placing a higher value on the lives of your children, grandchildren and nieces and nephews than you do your very own.
Nobody in my family was injured in the horrible events of yesterday at the Boston Marathon, but all I could think of was the innocent children who were either killed or maimed.
I don’t care who was involved or what their cause was, this is all terrorism, plain and simple and there can be no justification.
My gut reaction was to get those guys and burn them at the stake and here I am, the guy who’s normally opposed to the death penalty.
The really scary part is, I’m having a serious problem getting out of that frame of mind.
It’s a cruel world out there. We’ve had Pearl Harbor and 9/11, but as Americans we are very sheltered.
If we were living with our families in Afghanistan, we would be in constant fear of death raining down on our kids from the skies from the drones, whether we were in anyway involved directly in the conflict or not. That’s terrorism too, or am I wrong?
I’m not a political person. I’ve always tried to stay above the fray, but terrorism in any form is pure evil and impacts us all.
Guys like me never volunteered for this conflict and are not in uniform, but we’re all in nonetheless.
We’ve been drafted.
But there is no cause, no matter how worthy, that can ever justify the death of the innocent.
The problem is, until we fully accept that, all of us, no matter what side we take, will be forced to live in fear for the lives of our children.
If you read my last blog, you know there’s all kinds of events scheduled locally to get the word out on “Frame Up,” the very first novel in the “Fenway Burke Series.” “Frame Up” has opened to nothing but FOUR and FIVE STAR rave reviews, (go to jamesphoenixnovels.com and click on to “Praise for the Author”. You’ll get quite an eye full.)
The reader reaction has been even stronger.
Just as “Robert B. Parker” used his great hero, “Raymond Chandler” as his role model, so I’m using the late “Robert B. Parker” as mine.
As “Chandler was to “Parker,” so “Parker” is to “Phoenix.”
They’re billing me as “The Next Robert B. Parker” and the readers agree whole- heartedly. Before we got a single review in we heard back from 310 ribald “Parker” fans. After having read my work, they were asked just two questions:
I wimped out and cut the official survey off after the 310 on the grounds that somebody had to come around and spoil my perfect record, had to happen. But we went 310 to 0 in favor. We did not have a single “Parker” fan answer NO to either question...NOT ONE.
- Is the work of “James Phoenix” on a par with his great hero, “Robert B. Parker?”
- Would you buy it?
Based on that response, I got my publisher to go along with one hell of a special offer, never before seen anywhere.
“If you don’t love, love, love the work of James Phoenix, DON”T PAY FOR IT.” Here’s the link below for that offer.
So the big question is, why in the name of God, with a response like this, isn’t “James Phoenix” on the NY Times Best Seller List?
The answer’s very simple, because I came from completely out of the blue.
I had zero in the way of connections, no literary background at all, and to make matters worse, though I had offers from four of the biggest publishers in the world, I signed with a small publisher who offered a much higher royalty.
There’s only one reviewer that matters to a new author, and that’s “Publishers Weekly.” That’s because every book seller in the Western Hemisphere and beyond uses them as a guide to which books to buy.
Had I signed with “Random House” for example, I would have received a much lower royalty, BUT PUBISHERS WEEKLY WOULD HAVE BEEN FAR MORE LIKELY TO ACTUALLY READ & REVIEW MY WORK.
Live & Learn.
I don’t have that to do over again, but it doesn’t matter, because within the next 30 days, “Publishers Weekly” will have the ARC, “Advanced Reading Copy,” of “Loose Ends,” the second ‘Fenway Burke Novel in the Series,” in their hands.
We could not have hoped for a stronger reviews or reader reaction than we received for “Frame Up".
But I see “Loose Ends” as even stronger and so do my editors and the readers surveyed.
And now of course, I’m no longer coming from out of the blue. “Frame Up” made quite a splash with the other reviewers and on top of that, I have people now with me who’ve either themselves been reviewed by “Publishers Weekly” or are connected to writers who have, every single one of them making noise on the behalf of my favorite author, “James Phoenix.”
“Publishers Weekly” receives a thousand plus submissions a week...But even so, “James Phoenix” and “Loose Ends” are going to be very difficult to ignore.
And so my Grand Adventure continues...
We continue to receive nothing but rave FIVE STAR reviews for Frame Up, the first of the Fenway Burke Mystery Series. Go to my site, www.jamesphoenixnovels.com for our video and click on to Praise for the Author. You’ll see one rave review after the next.
Lot of things in the works for the Phoenix Project, all of which are about just one thing: getting the word out. Our Facebook ads are getting a response you could only call scary, http://www.jamesphoenixnovels.com/facebook-landing-page.html
and April marks the start of a second round of benefit signings.
On the 11th, I’ll be at the ARC Arts Center at the site of the old Post Office on Foster Street, Peabody, MA. That event starts at 5:30 PM with all proceeds from Frame Up, the first novel in the Fenway Burke Mystery Series signing, going to the North East ARC.
They do wonderful work, giving a hand up to people with developmental disabilities and I hope to see a lot of you there.
Then on the 25th there will be another reading of Frame Up. I’ll be at the Lynn Campus Library of North Shore Community College, NSCC, at 300 Broad Street. That ones at 2:00PM and once again all proceeds got to the College.
That appearance marks the start of a State Wide tour with the Community College System with an eye toward going National.
In my day the Community College System was all about second chances and geared toward late bloomers like myself. I’m a product of that system.
Today it’s all that, but so much more. Now with the economy and people thrown out of work, the MA Community College System has once again stepped up by offering a wide variety of courses for re-training which opens up all kinds of work opportunities people never would have had without them.
It’s a beautiful thing and if you were looking for a prime example of your tax dollars really do some good for us...Look no further.
I had a learning disability that was only diagnosed five years ago. No one had ever heard of it during any of my school days. At the age of 60 they found out I was high end ADD/ADHD. My main symptom was Hyper Focus, or in my case, off the wall, bonkers, out of his mind completely, beyond the pale, nutso, crazy Hyper Focus.
If I were interested in any given topic I did extremely well...But if the topic didn’t really grab me, I didn’t know it was there.
Though I was recognized as being extremely creative, my Hyper Focus did not make for a well-rounded student.
My English & Public Speaking Prof saw something special in me. His name was Roger Richards. As I was transferring to a four-year school he called me into his office. I’ll never forget what he had to say to me.
“Jim...Most students here do not have the academic wherewithal to make it in the Ivy league...You clearly have the wherewithal...But not the desire...I just thought someone should tell you that before you left this place.”
Professor Rogers got me to thinking. Maybe I wasn’t such a dumb bell after all.
He’d be in his 80’s now. They’re trying to track him down to introduce me for my signing at NSCC in Lynn.
Here’s hoping he’s still kicking around. I want to tell him how much that little talk meant to me.
I happen to be in the world of letters, but it doesn’t really matter what field you pursue, the same basic rule is always in place:
“The higher you reach, the rougher it gets.”
And if you do put yourself out there, you can expect to run into any number of do nothing knuckleheads who are falling all over themselves just dying to point out what a jerk you are to even try. These are guys who are actually rooting for you to fail. Why? Because by putting you down they think they’re building themselves up.
Not that I’m bitter, perish the thought.
This on top of getting smacked right between the eyes with every set back and disappointment you could ever imagine and a thousand and one you never saw coming at all.
The good news is most people see the odds and never get up to bat in the first place and the vast majority of people who do, get kicked in the pants and quickly give up.
That’s good news, because if that were not the case, they’d be your competition.
To get to the point where I am with this grand adventure of mine, I’ve formally dubbed The Phoenix Project, above and beyond the grins that said “You’ll never win,” I have a collection of five hundred eight rejection letters and have written over eight thousand pages, that’s effectively War & Peace times eight.
The reviews are in. Here’s a smattering below, but even now we’re still not completely out of the woods. Why? Because it takes time, despite all our rave FIVE STAR reviews, the general public is still not aware who this new rising star of the Mystery Genre, James Phoenix, actually is.
Suddenly that state of affairs is changing very rapidly. I’ve hooked up with a Social Media guru who actually knows what he’s doing, my new pal, Chris Castro. Among other things, he’s started placing ads on Facebook.
When you click on to the link below you’ll see the Facebook landing page that people see when they click on to our ad. There’s a special offer and a very silly two-minute video, but it turns out, there’s a lot worse things a fellow can do than going into business with Mark Zuckerberg.
The rewards for successful writers of Commercial Fiction, people like my great hero, Robert B. Parker, chick lit queen, Danielle Steele and Steven King, to name but a few are in the billions...James Phoenix is not there yet.
But it’s getting clearer and clearer, the die is cast.
“Top rate investigation, fans of Parker’s Spenser will enjoy Phoenix’s take on the mean streets of Boston. FIVE STARS”
Harriet Klausner, Amazon #1, Hall of Fame Amazon Reviewer.
Bodies pile up and Fenway discovers he’s up against a violent and talented international hit man. Just staying alive makes this quite an adventure. Highest Rating.
Book Views, by Alan Caruba
“Frame Up pays homage to all the best parts of the genre—I applaud Phoenix’s boldness, and fans of the crime drama, including Parker’s should enjoy this latest addition.”
Literary Aficionado FIVE STARS
“Phoenix gives readers a larger than life hero to root for, plenty of shoot outs and fisticuffs.”
Crime Fiction Lover
“Frame Up keeps the pace going. Fenway’s relentless, even when he would probably be better off not being so.”
Shooting Star Mag FIVE STARS
“Frame Up blew me away, buy it!” FIVE STARS, selected Best Debut Novel of the Year.
Sons of Spade
“Frame Up, James Phoenix’s debut novel, has laid the groundwork to establish himself as the heir apparent to legendary Robert Parker” FIVE STARS. Nashua Telegram -
“This is an action thriller that will grab your attention about halfway through the novel and keep you chuckling throughout...A segue to Robert Parker.
Swampscott Marblehead Reporter - FIVE STARS
“FRAME UP is almost certain to satisfy the most jaded of thrill seekers.”
I Love a Mystery-FIVE STARS
“Hands down the best debut novel of the year.” FIVE STARS, The Black Mask Magazine
“Brilliant dialogue and a story that grabs you by page two and never lets go. Bravo!”
FIVE STARS, Good Reads
Rated must read by Listopia, FOUR & ONE HALF STARS...(Guess you can’t please everybody.)
High Praise from The Robert B. Parker Fan Club for James Phoenix
“Couldn't put the damn thing down!”
“I started Frame Up yesterday and finished it this morning. Phoenix really grabbed me!”
“Thanks for Frame Up, an awesome story. I can't wait for the next one!”
“It’s true, James Phoenix is The Next Robert B. Parker.”
“Phoenix is dynamite!”
The process of writing a memoir is a real stroll down memory lane. I grew up in the 50’s and my well meaning parents, trying to give me opportunities they never had, paid extra to send me to Parochial School, so anti-everything that wasn’t Catholic nuns could hit me with sticks...God bless those saintly women.
I had eight years of that and then right out of the 8th grade, one full year in what they called a junior seminary, where I lived away from home, wore nothing but black, went to mass in the morning and novena at night, except for Sundays when we went to mass twice. There was silence at all meals while one of us was selected to read scripture and of course confession seven days a week...It was rough coming up with anything to confess, but we all did the best we could.
Finally though a fluke, I escaped to Public High School in my second year. You didn’t have to be Catholic to go there, but it wasn’t a whole lot less rigid. Both the principal and assistant principal were bona fide fascists.
I once sat through a lecture by our assistant principal, a Mr. Mahan, where he said: “Joe McCarthy was a great hero for all true Conservatives.”
I fit in perfectly because I was tall and blond, with a close crop haircut, just long enough to put a sharp part in and a genuine goodie, goodie. I ended up as class president my senior year and was selected for the prestigious “Marshall Staff” which amounted to the school police force.
We had our own special homeroom and wore green blazers with the school logo on the breast pocket for special assemblies and events. For every day, we wore “arm bands” when we directed traffic in the corridors.
I did go through my adolescent rebellion, as we all do...But I was thirty-three at the time.
So I got along just fine...But God help you if you didn’t fit in, if you were in anyway different. When I was in high school, it was a very good plan to keep your head down.
It’s a changing world and it’s changing for the better. We were at the mall last night and there was the usual selection of bops going through the puberty rites, a rough time in anybody’s life.
One kid in particular stood out, little skinny guy, black wife beater T, tattoos everywhere and a beyond the pale eight-inch loud pink lacquered Mohawk, chatting away with a bunch of his pals, no problem.
When I was in high school, if they let him walk through the door in the first place, (they wouldn’t,) they could never leave him unsupervised for a minute...He’d be bounced off a wall in a millisecond.
Now there’s real tolerance...I’d call that progress.
I’ve been working so hard on the business end of my grand adventure in the world of letters, that I really haven’t been taking any time to write. Had lunch with an old classmate of mine from the Newburyport High School Class of 1966, Helen Wilbur, who lives down in NYC. It had been more than forty-seven years since I had last seen her.
I took her out a couple of times in the way back then, but it never really went anywhere as there was nothing wrong with her eye sight...But that’s another story.
Helen’s a senor VP with a major publishing house who’s written a number of highly successful children’s books as kind of a side project, really good stuff. My favorite is Lilly’s Victory Garden, though she’s better known for her Alphabet learning books, Z is for Zeus, being her latest.
Anyway, she encouraged me to get back at it and polish off my ADD/ADHD memoir, Relentless, which deals with the impact ADD/ADHD had on my life from very early childhood on...ADD/ADHD is prime meat for the talk show circuit, so my PR guys have been pushing for me to put a wrap on Relentless for quite some time. But for some reason, when Helen spoke, I listened.
Just got back into it this AM...In addition to the ADD/ADHD thing, there’s quite a section on my rigid parochial education...Not all of the nuns I had were psychopaths...just most of them. So I’m going to paint as balanced a picture as I can. Here’s a little excerpt from Chapter 11, just to give you a little advanced look at what lies ahead.
The Mark of Zorro, Militarism, Higher Education & Other Adventures
It would be unfair of me to say that all the nuns I had were scary, frustrated, mean-spirited women prone to corporal punishment. Sister Agnes Teresa was the only notable exception, well, her and Sister Mary Miles, the closed fist puncher, but I never had her for a teacher. They were rigid, orthodox and parochial disciplinarians of course, but that was no big surprise. That’s why they call it Parochial School. There was a play that ran forever on Broadway, popular because it spoofed the way that a whole generation of Catholic school children had been educated. It was called Nun Such, and as far as my own personal experience was concerned, pretty much spot on.
We were taught that our religion was the one true religion, that all others were Johnny come latelys. Why? Because the Catholic Church was the one and only church founded by God. That’s why, all of the others were founded by men. We were taught respect for authority...Tolerance, not so much.
They watched us and kept us in line at all times, but beyond a sharp rebuke and maybe a whack at the back of your head, that would be the end of it.
There’s an old black and white photo I have of me in my white First Communion suit, which would have to have been circa 1954. I was seven, my little sister Ann Louise, would have been four. It’s obviously poised. We’re facing each other, me in my suit of lights, Ann Louise, a cute little chubby girl with long blonde hair, dressed for my big day in her Sunday best with straw hat and a ribbon trailing off the back. I’m bending over, kissing her on the forehead. It’s taken on our back porch.
I have no recollection of the picture being taken, but I do have a very distinct recollection of our procession from the school to the church. They had all the boys and girls lined up separately, each boy holding a wooden cross painted gold about a foot long, all the girls with their hands folded reverently and down cast eyes.
We marched along behind a six-foot statue of the Virgin being pulled on a draped cart by some of the older boys, followed by a an eight grade girl who was all decked out in a long gown. She was beautiful and the lucky girl selected to crown the virgin with a wreath made of flowers.
The procession stopped to let some of the other kids in line to catch up, pious singing in the background. I turned and looked to my pal Jimmy Kale who was right next to me. His old man was the school janitor. We smiled both getting the same idea at the same time. An impromptu sword fight broke out, I quickly got the better of him, laughing and trying to carve a Z into his lapel with my gold cross, the theme from the TV show I was addicted to, ringing in my ears.
“Out of the night, when the full moon is bright, comes a horseman known as Zorro.”
Suddenly I was grabbed by my collar and thrust back into line. It was Sister Mary Emalina, my second grade nun.
“Wilbur James Brown!” she snapped. “Stop that this instant!”
My pal Jimmy Kale got off with a stern look. I got a little whack on the back of my head. But that was the end of it. It wasn’t as if I didn’t have it coming. That was the kind of thing I experienced.
Of course I heard horror stories from other kids and had seen Sister Mary Miles, punch a kid in the stomach with a closed fist, knocking him to the ground writhing in agony. I had heard at one point she gave some kid a bloody nose, sending him home early. But that incident I hadn’t actually seen happen, though of course I took it as gospel...
Well, it was quite a week. Thursday we had a benefit signing for the Beverly Public Library with a very good turn out. I did a reading from “Frame Up,” spoke about the “Fenway Burke Series” and the next two novels already under contract, our rave FOUR and FIVE star reviews, and then had a lively Q&A.
Close to half the people in the audience had already read “Frame Up,” and I’m gratified to say, that every single one of them shared my own personal point of view, that James Phoenix is not only THE NEXT ROBERT B. PARKER, but he’s also God’s gift to the world of letters....Okay, I still may be the only guy with that perspective on the back end of that thing, but this is America, surely I’m entitled to my opinion.
Christopher Castro, the “Phoenix Project’s” answer to Mark Zuckerberg and our new Social Media guru, put in an appearance with his lovely bride, Kirsten. It was the first time I go to meet her. Chris’s done very well for himself.
After the signing, Chris had me do a video for our Facebook advertising campaign, but that one’s going to have to be a do over...The Man of Steel, wasn’t. After speaking for over an hour, I didn’t have a whole lot left...No problem, we’ll get that one done by mid to late next week and put it in front of close to one hundred million Facebook subscribers.
Chris posted some scary numbers with the Facebook test run. Starting next week, we get serious about it.
Friday I was on Peabody Access TV being interviewed by the North Shore ARC’s Merritt Kilpatrick around my benefit signing for the Arc at their fabulous Arts Center, March 7th at 6:00 PM. That’s right in downtown Peabody.
We’re expecting quite a turn out for that one as Merritt, who heads up the Art Center, along with her entire staff and volunteers have really been getting the word out.
On Saturday, March 2nd, I had my signing at the Barnes & Nobles at the North Shore Mall and I have to say we were delighted with the response. Caroline our host was just terrific and the turnout was even better than I had hoped for...Ahhh, the power of the press, the Beverly Citizen gave “Frame Up” a fabulous review just prior to the signing and we got some very nice ink in the Salem News and of course, the Boston Globe as well.
Now if I can just catch my breath, we’ll wade right back in next week and continue with our more than a dozen events coming up in the next 60 to 90 days.
I’ll keep you posted troopers,
My Good Deed for the Decade
Was on the computer and the phone all morning going back and forth with my agent, publisher, PR guys, print media people, event planner, my Social Media Guru and other assorted lunatics, when finally I decided to go out for a run before my head exploded.
By mile four I finally started to settle down.
The Social Media guy especially had me going. He’s blowing Facebook ads that do exactly what all the reviewers have been doing from day one, pairing my name with my great hero and role model, “Robert B. Parker.”
FANS OF PARKER’S SPENCER WILL ENJOY JAMES PHOENIX TAKE ON THE MEAN STREETS OF BOSTON, 5 OUT OF 5 STARS, JAMES PHOENIX THE NEXT ROBERT PARKER!
“By this time next week, over 100 million pairs of eyeballs will be checking out ‘James Phoenix, THE NEXT ROBERT B. PARKER,’ 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
Got me to thinkin.
Anyway, I finally finished up my run, got my head at least halfway straight and was doing my cool down walk, when a woman even more past it than I am, walking her dog, went down in the snow.
Had to be in her 80’s at least.
She wasn’t hurt, but there was no way she was going to get up on her own.
I handed her her cane and her dog’s leash, then gently lifted her and carried her to dry pavement...She was giggling all the way.
There’s a lesson there. If my lovely bride ever recovers her eyesight and gives me the old heave-ho, I’ll head right for the home where the chicks still appreciate a guy me.
Take note, young fellas...”Always have a back up plan.”
All in a days work,