Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Debut Novel Review: I Am Pilgrim, on the Saturday Morning #MINI post


Another first for the #MINI: The Debut Novel Review. I mean, who needs reviews more than a debut novelist? (And I hope to be a debut novelist soon, so hopefully what comes around will go around.) First up:  I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes.

A quick aside before I get into it: I have a theory (which is mine): The best book John Grisham wrote was A Time To Kill. It was also the very first book he wrote--by flashlight at his desk so no one else in his law firm would know he was already at his desk. You have to be passionate to get up at 4:30 in the morning, trundle off to work, and write your manuscript by flashlight, and that kind of passion translates into a very good book. A Time To Kill is a very good book--Grisham's best--but it wasn't good enough to get published. Many people don't know that it was only after The Firm was published to critical acclaim--and excellent sales--that Grisham's publisher took a chance on A Time To Kill.



An author's debut novel has to be very, very good. Why? Because otherwise it wouldn't get published. Name recognition is huge is world of books. As evidence to support this statement, please consider that the names of Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy are still being stamped on the cover of newly written books--despite the fact that both are passed away. (Ludlum has been dead for over a decade, yet he still draws readers.) This is why I am starting the Debut Novel Review--to even the playing field a little for my fellow debut novelists.

Ok, enough digression--a fearful habit of my blogging self. On to I Am Pilgrim. (Warning: No Spoilers in this review.)

 Debut Novelist Terry Hayes

Everybody looks for something different in a book. I like good writing. My wife enjoys a good premise. Daughter #1 likes fast-paced action. Son #1 is drawn to a twisting plot. Son #2 loves great dialogue (and he can be heard--often--reciting lines from his favorite books again and again.) Daughter #2 is a fan of memorable characters. (And yes, I have a lot of children.)

Great books--and debut novels--have all of these. I Am Pilgrim is no exception. I was drawn in to the writing from the first sentence:

'There are places I'll remember all my life--Red Square with a hot wind howling across it, my mother's bedroom on the wrong side of Eight Mile, the endless gardens of a fancy foster home, a man waiting to kill me in a group of ruins known as the Theater of Death.'

That's good writing. But I Am Pilgrim doesn't stop there: there are memorable characters (the main character, Pilgrim, and the well-conceived bad guy, Saracen) for daughter #2; an excellent premise--only one man can stop a pyschopathic jihadist on a mission to destroy America--for my wife; great pacing and lots of action for daughter #1; crisp dialogue for son #2; and a superb, serpentine plot for son #1.

Yes, I Am Pilgrim is the ideal book for my family--it's also the ideal book for you. Click on the link to I Am Pilgrim and give it a try--and support a debut novelist!

That's a wrap, folks. Thanks again for your time and attention, and stay tuned to PeterHogenkampWrites for news about my own debut novel, Absolution

What are your favorite debut novels? Please let me know by responding in the comments. I'll end by posting several selected reviews of I Am Pilgrim:

The Guardian review of I Am Pilgrim
NYTimes Book Review of I Am Pilgrim
Kirkus Reviews; I Am Pilgrim

cheers, :)


Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


 
   


Thursday, March 12, 2015

3 Authors You Should Be Reading, on the Thursday Afternoon #MINI post


You're at the airport, staring at the bookshelf prior to catching a twelve-hour plane ride to Bali, desperately seeking a fresh voice in #thrillers. Let's not take anything away from Lee Child or James Patterson or Steve Berry or James Rollins or Gillian Flynn or Michael Connelly or David Baldacci (great authors all) but you have read their excellent books already and Daniel Silva writes only one--phenomenal--book a year, so what does one do? One consults the infinite wisdom of the #MINI, that's what. This is what the #MINI says: There are many other great thriller authors out there--too many to name on the #MINI--but here are three that you should not ignore:

1) Joseph Kanon:  Everyone has a bias, and I believe in stating your bias from the get-go. I have a soft spot for superbly written thrillers with a literary feel, in which the setting becomes another character in the book. That summary screams Joseph Kanon, the author of seven novels including Istanbul Passage, The Good German and Leaving Berlin. There are so many things I like about Kanon's writing--the rules of the #MINI are clear, short and sweet--but I will mention just two. If you like to escape when you read a book, try Kanon: when I read Istanbul Passage I was in Istanbul (no, not literally), post-war Istanbul, that is. His writing can take you not only to places but periods of history, not an easy trick. But it's Kanon's prose I like best, straightforward and at the same time convoluted, deep and yet superficial, simple but sometimes as complex as the plots Kanon weaves with deft touch. My fellow Daniel Silva fans, give Kanon a try. Here are some selected reviews:

LA Times Review of Istanbul Passage
The Telegraph review of Leaving Berlin 
The New York Times Review Of The Good German
Joseph Kanon's Website



2) Olen Steinhauer: Espionage is a complex, multifaceted world, and nobody paints this world better than Steinhauer. So subtle are his brushstrokes that the reader is often confused about who the good guy is. (Who is the good guy, anyway?) And yet Milo Weaver, the protagonist from Steinhauer's Department of Tourism trilogy, is sympathetic despite the ambiguity, the shifting loyalties, and the violence. If you are wondering what the life of a modern day spy is like, pick up a Steinhauer novel (start with The Tourist.) My fellow Le Carre fans, give Steinhauer a try. Here are some selected reviews:

 The Washington Post review of The American Spy
Cleaveland Plain Dealer review of The American Spy
Olen Steinhauer's Website



3) Robert Wilson:  Robert Wilson could write a book about watching grass grow, and I would enjoy reading it. That isn't to say that his plots aren't interesting, because they are--layered, serpentine and unpredictable--but it is to say he puts words together in such a way that makes for good reading. And he stitches characters together as well as the best writers of literary fiction, characters that live and breath and think like we do. I love Wilson's cerebral style, his elegant prose. Wilson's A Small Death in Lisbon is on the short list of my all time favorite books, but all of his books are good, and I would recommend any of them.  My fellow Ken Follet fans, give Wilson a try. Here are some selected reviews:

The Guardian review of The Ignorance of Blood
Publisher's Weekly review of A Small Death in Lisbon
Robert Wilson's Website

Ok, that's a wrap. Thanks again for tuning in, and do NOT forget to check out The Intern, the serialized novella I am writing on #wattpad. (The Intern is approaching its conclusion, and continues to close in on the top 10 of the General Fiction genre on #wattapd.)  For those of you wondering about first book of The Jesuit thriller series (my mother and her Canasta group,) my agent is in the process of submitting to publishers as we speak, so I hope to have some news within a few weeks (or months.) I appreciate your support.



Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.






Saturday, March 7, 2015

Movie Review: The Theory of Everything, on The Saturday Evening Blog Post



There is a reason Eddie Redmayne won the Oscar for best actor in a leading role: If you are a fan of outstanding acting, pick up the clicker now (yes, before you read the rest of the review) and watch The Theory of Everything: Eddie Redmayne's Stephen Hawking is just that good. Again and again I found myself thinking I was watching actual footage of Hawking, as opposed to an actor's portrayal. Felicity Jones shines as well, as Jane Wilde Hawking, the renowned astrophysicist's first wife.


The cinematography is excellent, a collage of lenses, angles, and colors that brings the viewer back to Cambridge in the sixties, when Hawking was still a young man. The camera tells us that there is something wrong with him--but there is enough ambiguity in the telling so that we don't know what. And I loved the score, which perfectly compliments the moving pictures without becoming the focus of the viewer's attention.

Ok, so 5 stars for both the dramatic and cinematic aspects of the film. Now on to the literary aspects...


Here's where the problems start. Let's begin with genre. The Theory of Everything doesn't have one. Watching it, I would say that it has elements of a romance, a drama, and a coming of age story, but it doesn't meet all the requirements of any of the three. Before I watched it, I was thinking it was going to be a biopic of Stephen Hawking's life, but there is little in the way of information about his life that the average viewer doesn't already know. The focus of the movie is the relationship between Hawking and his first wife, Jane, which should make it a romance, and it starts out well enough in this regard. But when problems between Stephen and Jane lead to a dissolution in their marriage, there is not enough development of the issues between them--almost as if the screenwriter wanted to gloss them over. One minute they are the ideal loving couple, the next they are Splittsville?

It took some research to figure out why this had occurred. The movie was based on a memoir written by Jane Hawking, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, which Jane wrote originally in 1999 after Hawking divorced her to marry his nurse. In 2008, she revised the book heavily after Stephen divorced his second wife and reformed a relationship with her. I felt as though the screenwriter was trying to let us know that they had divorced without dragging either party through the mud. But divorces don't occur in the absence of screams, fights and tears, no matter what the screenwriter would have us believe. In trying not to tarnish either the individuals or their relationship, the writer tarnished both, making the people seem unrealistic and the relationship surreal. Conflict drives stories, and who has ever heard of a divorce without conflict?



Now on to the abrupt ending. Ok, so I am a writer and I can make my books any length I want, right? So I shouldn't complain about a movie, where the length is controlled? Actually, almost all writers have the same issues about length (other than JK Rowling and Dan Brown obviously) that screenwriters do. And a movie about the relationship between Stephen and Jane should show us why they reunited, not just tell us that they did by putting in a lovely scene with the two of them at Buckingham Palace.

But, as Meatloaf said, Two out of Three Ain't bad....



So, four stars for The Theory of Everything, based on the outstanding acting, excellent cinematography and fantastic musical score. Enjoy.

Ok, thanks again for your viewership and support. Please let me know what you thought of the movie--I am always interested in other people's opinions. In other news, The Intern is nearing its conclusion on #wattpad to excellent reviews and a top 10 spot in General Fiction. Give it a look.

Cheers, :)


Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.








Sunday, March 1, 2015

#MINI Book Review: Lincoln's Bodyguard by TJ Turner




Lincoln’s Bodyguard (Oceanview, April 2015) is historical fiction at its best: authentic, thrilling and just plain good fun. Author TJ Turner starts out with the interesting premise that Lincoln's bodyguard Joseph Foster stops John Wilkes Booth before he can kill Lincoln in Ford’s theater, and moves on from there: to a post-Civil War America that remains as divided as it was prior to the war; to a presidential administration torn by competing influences and petty jealousies (sound familiar?); to a postbellum South ripped apart by an occupying Federal Army at war with a stubborn Confederate insurgency.




Historical fiction is either made or broken by the research that went into the writing, and Turner did not disappoint: Lincoln’s Bodyguard is steeped in history—but reads like a thriller, taut and fast-paced. It is obvious that Mr. Turner knows his history, but he also knows his writing; the prose is fluid (and not overdone), the dialogue is genuine and appropriate for the setting, the characters are well-developed, and the pacing is fast, but not rushed.



Stories drive books, however, and Lincoln’s Bodyguard features a good one, a tale about a man on a journey to save his country and himself, a journey filled with pitfalls, romantic interludes and lurking enemies. Turner displays a veteran’s skill in his debut novel, which bodes well for fans of the genre: I look forward to his next offering.





Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


 
   














Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The 5 Lessons I Learned from writing Serial Fiction: What You can pick up from #GameOfThrones #GOT


Like so many of my ideas with which I later struggled, writing a serialized novella on Wattpad seemed like a good idea at the time. What's the big deal? Write. Edit. Publish. Repeat. From the standpoint of a writer trying to remain patient as his first novel slowly makes its way to the bookshelves (getting there!) the immediacy of it was the most appealing aspect. Write. Edit. Publish. Repeat. Nothing to it, right? Not so fast. Writing serial fiction challenges you in ways you may never have expected, and, in doing so, teaches you to become a better writer. Here are the five (hard) lessons I learned:

Lesson 1) Let me ask you something: What keeps you waiting for the next episode of your favorite series? I am willing to bet it is the characters. #GOT comes out in April (and I can't wait to be reaquainted with Lord Tyrion and Daenerys Stormborn (I would have said Ned and Rob Stark but... well, you know) even though I, having read the books, know what happens. My motivation is to spend more time with the characters that have pulled me in. When you are watching/reading something over a prolonged period of time, it is your love of the characters that keeps you going. Hard-earned lesson 1? The most important aspect of any work of fiction is the characters. You can have great prose, a thrilling plot, fast pacing, and crisp dialogue, but if your characters aren't well-developed, complex, rich and interesting, you haven't accomplished anything.

Lesson 2) There are two types of writers, plotters and pantsers. The plotter plans out the entire book before it is written, outlining each chapter before striking down word one of prose. The panster begins with a general premise, and then just writes by the seat of her pants, often ending up in a place where she never expected. I am a pantser. I start with the basic plot and the main character, and go from there. When I began The Intern, all I had in mind was a faceless young woman struggling to retain her ideals amidst the chaos of her internship. The first chapter basically wrote itself (always a good sign), the second chapter went well, and then the problems began.

In my mind, a good book, as it reads out, picks up on the small details mentioned in the first few chapters and develops them. I love to mention something in passing in the first chapter and then expound upon it later, and when you are not writing serial fiction, you can go back and add these details as you edit, with the luxury of knowing what details need to be sewn in--but you can't do that when you publish each chapter as you write it. So, my second--hard--lesson learned from writing serial fiction: A small amount of structure and organization goes a long way. Create a basic outline of your next work of fiction, and leave lots of space where you can pencil in ideas as you think of them. You are going to find that every minute you spend so doing will eliminate 5 minutes of editing time later on.


Lesson 3)  Have you ever watched an episode of a series on TV (my favorites are Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Homeland) and been disappointed? One of the reasons the three series I listed are such hits is their consistency. Serialized programs live or die by consistency. When there is an entire week (or more) going by before the next episode airs, you had better fire up the viewer to suffer the wait by creating a good episode. That's why the season finale is always such a doozie--the writer knows it's another 6 to 9 months before the next episode. A mediocre episode loses viewers. Period. A good episode keeps viewers. Period.

Serial fiction presents the same dilemma. In a book, a reader can just keep reading past a mediocre chapter, and the mediocre part is soon forgotten. Not so with serial fiction, especially when there was often several weeks or more in between chapters being posted. And I could see it as I reviewed the numbers of reads (one of the informative aspects of writing on Wattpad). Good chapter, reads remain consistent: mediocre chapter, reads go down. My third--hard--lesson: Every chapter has to be well-written; every chapter has to stand alone. This applies to writing anything, really: if a word or sentence or paragraph or page or chapter can't stand on it's own two feet, get rid of it.



Lesson 4) One of the unique aspects of serialization is that many viewers or readers will jump in the middle of the series. I started watching #GOT in the middle of Season 3--and other than driving my teenage son crazy with questions--I managed just fine. People hear about something, they tell other people, and those other people check out an episode or chapter or two--often times in the middle of something. The writer has to account for this, has to make sure that the reader/viewer can follow along and get drawn in without getting confused and frustrated and tossing in the towel. It's a good skill for a writer to acquire (I haven't mastered it yet, but I'm getting better) and it will pay dividends later on.

The trick is that you have to do it without using a lot of backstory or info dumping. And that's a great thing to practice because backstory and info dumping are manuscript killers. This is especially true in serialization because the people who have already read the previous chapters don't want to go over the same stuff again, they want the story to move forward. The fourth lesson: Always write forward. Too much backstory kills. This is sometimes difficult, I know, because we are taught to start in the middle of a story, and it so tempting--so easy--to plunk down the backstory. But don't do it--agents and editors sniff out this kind of thing like sharks sniff chum. Weave tiny threads of the backstory in--only when absolutely needed--and remember, readers are smart, they can figure a lot of stuff out as well.

Lesson 5) One of the best--and worst--aspects of #GOT is the risks that the author takes. What do I mean? I loved Ned Stark, couldn't wait for Sunday night to see him again, and then he loses his head. That's a risk--when you kill off a character that popular, it's risky. Same thing again with Rob Stark, and so on... BUT there is a lot gained as well. What could be worth that price you ask? Star Trek may have been a great show, but did you ever think that Captain Kirk was going to be vaporized? No, you didn't. Let me ask you: Do you feel the same way about any character in #GOT? (You haven't been paying enough attention if you said yes.) That's my point. George RR Martin got my attention, and he's keeping it. Lesson 5: Take risks. Be innovative. Surprise people. Otherwise you are going to lose them. The same applies to writing a book; a reader can shelf you at any time. Make it so they wouldn't dare.


Ok, thanks for your attention. If you would like to see how if I listened to my own advice, here is the link to The Intern on Wattpad. Wattpad is free and easy to join, and there are over 80 million stories to choose from. March should be an exciting month for me, as my literary agent, the wonderful and talented Liz Kracht of Kimberley Cameron & Associates, is shopping my debut novel, ABSOLUTION. I will certainly keep you all informed when I have a publisher and a publishing date. Thanks again for your support.



Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


 
   






Thursday, February 5, 2015

Sex, Lies and #Hashtags: The Return of the #MINI

The #MINI returns--in the nick of time. Those of you who read The 7 Unbreakable Rules of #SocialMedia will know what I am talking about. Rule 7, Don't Be Inconsistent, says that I can't go long periods of time without posting. I was just about to break that rule, but the #MINI comes to the rescue. Whheewwww!

Today's #MINI will be--short, of course, as the guidelines of the #MINI are clear--and devoted to the current State of the Internet; hence the Sex, Lies and #Hashtags subtitle. In preparation for today's blog, I spent a lot of time perusing my favorite #socialmedia--actually, I was just doing that anyway, but let's say I was doing research, sounds way better. What does my research tell me? I have come to the conclusion that the Internet was invented for the sole purpose of promulgating self-published erotica, the mass distribution of photoshopped Kim Kardashian butt photos, and the privilege of watching cat videos in the privacy of your own home--or in line at the grocery store as was the case today.

I know, I know, there's more to the web than this--most people would not be wearing a single stitch of clothing if it weren't for on-line shopping, and nobody wants a world of nudists--but I just can't help thinking about where we would be without the internet. People conversing more? Staring out the window on the bus instead of checking facebook posts to see what your friends had for dinner last night? Dusting behind the cabinets? (When is the last time you did that?) Taking a walk on a nice day rather than checking Twitter to see if Myley Cyrus has made an ass of herself again?

#hashtags however, will likely remain the one true advance brought to us by the internet. In troubled times, we can all still believe in #hashtags. It's true. Love Rush Limbaugh but your Cable provider has put the kybosh on Fox News? Search #loveRushLimbaugh and see what you get. (ok, hypothetical situation, but there must be at least one person--in Arkansas or Texas or some place like that--that loves Rush Limbaugh.) Yes, #hasgtags are great, unless of course, people start overusing them--but there would never happen, would it? 


Okay, I want to venture on, but This Is The #MINI, and I must stop. (Queue clever moment for #shamelesspromotion.) If you are looking for something to read, my first book should be out Summer 2016; if you had a more immediate hankering to read, check out The Intern, the serialized novella I am writing on #wattpad (my mother says it's good.)

cheers, peter




Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


 
   






Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Spinal Needle in the Heart: Chapter 7 of #TheIntern

 Cheers all. I haven't posted a chapter of #theintern in a while, but good things have been happening on that front and I wanted to catch you all up. First, check out the new cover, which an inspired reader created for me. The more I see it, the more I like it--hope you like it as well. Secondly, the editorial board at #Wattpad selected #theintern for the Featured titles list. Now, I realize that this honor and 5.95$ will get me a grande latte at Starbucks, but it was nice all the same. I posted the first few pages of Chapter 7 below, and here's the link to the whole thing. Thanks again for your support: A Spinal Needle in the Heart


April died a cold and dreary death, and May bloomed warm and sunny, filling the streets of Manhattan with life. Maggie dodged a gaggle of German tourists (Who else who would be wearing Birkenstocks with powder blue socks?) and mounted the steps to the library. Howard was on time--he was always on time--sitting on the top step reading his IPad. She hoped for his sake he was streaming a movie or flipping through a magazine, but she would have bet her modest paycheck he was reading the newly released edition of The New England Journal of Medicine.

She sat down next to him, confirming her suspicions, and kicked him with one of her sandals. He looked up and smiled, and stowed the tablet into the satchel which never strayed far from his side.
"Good morning Howard."

Howard nodded his greeting, and looked her over like a chest x-ray, examining every square inch for a clue to the diagnosis.

"Hello Maggie."

"How are you?"
Howard considered this like he considered everything, slowly and with ample deliberation. "Not so good."

"Not so good? You're one rotation and four weeks of vacation away from starting your plastics residency, something you have trained your whole life for. I would have thought you would be ecstatic."

"Ecstatic? Really? When you don't return my calls? When you act like a perfect stranger when we sit next to each other at a lecture? Ecstatic?"

Molly said nothing.

"Every time you ignore me it's like a spinal needle in the heart, Maggie."

"Don't be so dramatic, Howard. And don't forget you're moving in a month."

"To Boston, Maggie, not LA. It's a two-hour train ride."

"We barely see each other now, Howard. It wouldn't work."

"It would work if you want it to work."

"You do remember me telling you not to get too attached?"

Howard didn't say, but Maggie knew he had an eidetic memory and never forgot anything.
"Let's take a walk."

Howard nodded morosely and followed her around the steps and down to the green space on the other side. The pleasant weather had brought out a battalion of vendors, and Maggie strolled about, surveying the wares. She picked up a pair of earrings made from green sea glass.

"What do you think of these?"

"Since when do you ask me my opinion on jewelry?"

"I'll take that as a no."

She out them back and stopped in front of a kiosk selling hand-knit sweaters, and held a white one in front of Howard. "This would look nice on you."

"I don't need a sweater, Maggie."

She shrugged and continued her way down the row, examining sculptures made from refuse, ceramic dog bowls and vintage neck ties. Howard followed at a distance.

At the end of the line Maggie bought a pair of Carmel apples and sat down on a bench in the sunshine. Howard joined her but refused the snack, citing dental concerns.

"Maggie, we need to talk."

She didn't feel the least bit like talking but Howard didn't want to go quietly--it wasn't in his DNA.
"Ok, what do you want to talk about?"

"Us."

Maggie had always hated the us talk, and she avoided it whenever possible. Two people moving in sync never needed to talk about us, because they intuitively understood what was happening. But two people moving at loggerheads... This was a different thing altogether. She wanted to blurt out 'There is no us' and just be done with it, but she nodded instead.

"What's going on with us?"

"We're friends, Howard."

"No, we're not."


Hooked, aren't you? Fortunately, here's the link again so you don't have to scroll up. A Spinal Needle in the Heart

And some Good News to end: Absolution, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series, is just about to be shopped to editors and publishers. With luck, I should have a publication date for you before the snow melts (for those of you who don't live in Vermont, that's usually sometime in March.)


Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


cheers