Book Review: 20 Things To Love About The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me by Barbara Quinn

TheSummerSpringsteen'sSongsSavedMeAbout the Book

Coming home to catch her husband with his face between the long, silky legs of another woman is the last thing Sofia expects – and on today of all days. But, after scratching an expletive into his Porsche and setting the cheating bastard’s clothes on fire, she cranks up her beloved Bruce and flees, vowing to never look back. Finding solace in the peaceful beachside town of Bradley Beach, NJ, Sof is determined to start over. And, with the help of best friends, new acquaintances, a sexy neighbour, and the powerful songs of Springsteen, this may be the place where her wounds can heal. But, as if she hasn’t faced her share of life’s challenges, a final flurry of obstacles awaits. In order to head courageously toward the future, Sofia must first let go of her past, find freedom, and mend her broken soul.

Watch the book trailer:

Format: eBook (300 pp.), paperback (280 pp.) Publisher: Lakewater Press
Published: 24th October 2017                              Genre: Women’s Fiction

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20 Things To Love About The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me

  1. Phoebe – The smelliest, laziest but most lovable pooch in the world
  2. Jerome – Two words: poetic justice
  3. Coincidence or fate? A sexy, unattached man living right next door
  4. Living the fantasy of moving to the beach
  5. Dumping a jerk (see 2)
  6. Taking control of your life and moving on (see 2)
  7. Proof positive there’s a Springsteen for every occasion and every mood – he really can read your mind!
  8. Being rescued and being a rescuer
  9. The genius that is Yappy Hour
  10. Female friendships and solidarity
  11. Getting in shape
  12. Ditching the mismatched, slightly faded undies you should have replaced years ago
  13. Revenge is a dish…best painted somewhere
  14. Appreciating craft and artistic skills
  15. There are clambakes outside of the musical Carousel?
  16. Spirit of community
  17. Baking as therapy
  18. Having a great business partner who’ll do more than their fair share
  19. Summer by the sea
  20. An isolated sandbar….

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of publishers Lakewater Press in return for an honest review.

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In three words: Hopeful, funny, summer

Try something similar…Under A Tuscan Sky by Karen Aldous

BarbaraQuinnAbout the Author

Barbara Quinn is an award-winning short story writer and author of a variety of novels. Her travels have taken her to forty-seven states and five continents where she’s encountered fascinating settings and inspiring people that populate her work.

Her many past jobs include lawyer, record shop owner, process server, lingerie sales clerk, waitress and postal worker. She’s a native New Yorker with roots in the Bronx, Long Island, and Westchester. She currently resides with her husband in Bradley Beach, NJ and Holmes Beach, FL. She enjoys spending time with her son and his family and planning her next adventure. She wants to remind everyone that when you meet her, SHE’S NOT SHOUTING, SHE’S ITALIAN.

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My Week in Books – 22nd October ’17


New arrivals

DeathDescendsonSaturnVillaDeath Descends on Saturn Villa (The Gower Street Detective #3) by M R C Kasasian (ebook, Kindle deal)

Gower Street, London: 1883. March Middleton is the niece of London’s greatest (and most curmudgeonly) private detective, Sidney Grice. March has just discovered a wealthy long-lost relative she never knew she had. When this newest family member meets with a horrible death, March is in the frame for murder—and only Sidney Grice can prove her innocence. Grice agrees to investigate (for his usual fee) but warns that he is not entirely convinced of her innocence. If he were in her position, he might have been tempted. But the more he uncovers, the more all the clues point to Grice himself . . .

TheSecretsofGaslightLaneThe Secrets of Gaslight Lane (The Gower Street Detective #4) by M R C Kasasian (ebook, Kindle deal)

London, 1883: All is quiet at 125 Gower Street. Sidney Grice is swotting up on the anatomical structure of human hair whilst his ward, March Middleton, sneaks upstairs for her eighth secret cigarette of the day. The household is, perhaps, too quiet. So, when a beautiful young woman turns up at the door, imploring London’s foremost personal detective to solve the mystery of her father’s murder, Grice can barely disguise his glee. Mr Nathan Garstang was found slaughtered in his bed, but there is no trace of a weapon or intruder. A classic locked-room case. But what piques Grice’s interest is the crime’s link to one of London’s most notorious unsolved murders. Ten years ago, Nathan’s uncle aunt and servants were murdered in their sleep in the very same house. Now, it seems, the Garstang murderer is back…

True GrandeurTrue Grandeur by Cal R Barnes (ebook, review copy courtesy of the author)

True Grandeur is the tale of Conrad Arlington, a young man who moves to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of becoming a great artist. Within a few short years of his arrival, Conrad’s success as a writer brings him to the attention of Gracie Garrison, a beautiful and alluring socialite whose glamorous lifestyle is just as mysterious as the rumours that surround her. After spending a spirited and adventurous night on the town together – one fuelled by an excess of beautiful people, extravagant parties, gallery openings, and the madness of a fallen director – Conrad ultimately falls in love with her, believing them to be destined. However, when he awakes the next morning to find that Gracie is gone, he is distraught, and thus embarks on his relentless journey to find her, resulting in a tumultuous spiral of passion, art, and romance as he searches his soul to try and uncover the greatest mystery of all – true love.

TheFragileThreadofHopeThe Fragile Thread of Hope by Pankaj Giri (ebook, advance reader copy courtesy of the author)

In the autumn of 2012, destiny wreaks havoc on two unsuspecting people – Soham and Fiona. Although his devastating past involving his brother still haunted him, Soham had established a promising career for himself in Bangalore. After a difficult childhood, Fiona’s fortunes had finally taken a turn for the better. She had married her beloved, and her life was as perfect as she had ever imagined it to be. But when tragedy strikes them yet again, their fundamentally fragile lives threaten to fall apart. Can Fiona and Soham overcome their grief? Will the overwhelming pain destroy their lives? Seasoned with the flavours of exotic Nepalese traditions and set in the picturesque Indian hill station, Gangtok, The Fragile Thread of Hope explores the themes of spirituality, faith, alcoholism, love, and guilt while navigating the complex maze of familial relationships. Inspirational and heart-wrenchingly intimate, it urges you to wonder – does hope stand a chance in this travesty called life?

MysteryTour CWA AnthologyMystery Tour: CWA Anthology of Short Stories edited by Martin Edwards (eARC, courtesy of Orenda Books)

This exciting collection of short stories features crime writers working with a “mystery tour” or travel theme. Ann Cleeves on Tanzania, Vas Khan on Mumbai, and Marnie Riches on Holland. Other writers include Sarah Hilary, Alex Marwood, Cally Taylor, Elly Griffiths, Steph Broadribb, Johana Gustawsson, Liz Nugent, Steve Cavanagh, Cal Moriarty, Paul Hardisty, Mason Cross, Sharon Bolton, Vas Khan, Marnie Riches, Bill Ryan, Ian Rankin, Peter James, Kate Rhodes, Ragnar Jonasson, and Ann Cleeves.

On What Cathy Read Next last week

Blog posts

Monday – I shared my comparison of the book and film versions of A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman as part of my From Page to Screen reading challenge.

Tuesday – I welcomed Tom Ward, author of the soon to be published Fires, to talk about his book.

WednesdayWWW Wednesday is the opportunity to share what I’ve just finished reading, what I’m reading now and what I’ll be reading next. I had a really fun guest post by Alison Brodie about her forthcoming book, Zenka.

Thursday – I shared my review of thriller Monsoon Rising by David Lee Corley and my Throwback Thursday post was my review of historical romance, On the Edge of Sunrise by Cynthia Ripley Miller. (I reviewed book 2 of the series, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns last week.)

Friday – I featured a Q&A with actor, playwright and author, Gary Corbin, about his latest book, Lying in Vengeance.

Saturday – I published my review of New Boy by Tracy Chevalier. It’s a modern day retelling of Othello, part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project.

Sunday – I hosted a stop on the blog tour for Home Is Nearby by Magdalena McGuire and shared my thoughts on this fascinating novel set in 1980s Poland.

Challenge updates

  • Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge – 125 out of 156 books read, 2 more than last week
  • Classics Club Challenge – 5 out of 50 books reviewed, same as last week
  • NetGalley/Edelweiss Reading Challenge 2017 (Gold) – 51 ARCs reviewed out of 50, 1 more than last week
  • From Page to Screen 2016/7– 7 book/film comparisons out of 12 completed, same as last week
  • From Page to Screen 2017/18 – 1 out of 2 completed, 1 more than last week

On What Cathy Read Next this week

Currently reading

Planned posts

  • Review: The Last Hours by Minette Walters
  • Review: The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me by Barbara Quinn
  • Review: Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore
  • Blog Tour/Review: A Sea of Sorrow by David Blixt et al
  • Blog Tour/Review: The Murderer’s Maid by Erika Mailman
  • Review: Mr Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

Blog Tour: 13 Reasons Why I Loved Home Is Nearby by Magdalena McGuire

Home Is Nearby blog tour banner

I’m thrilled to host today’s stop on the blog tour for Home Is Nearby, the debut novel by Magdalena McGuire, which is published on 1st November 2017.   Rather than write a standard review, I thought I’d channel just a little bit of the creativity at the heart of Home Is Nearby and give you thirteen reasons to read this thought-provoking and fascinating book.

My thanks to Natalie at Impress Books for the advance proof copy and the invitation to join the blog tour.

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HomeisNearby1About the Book

1980: The beginning of the polish crisis. Brought up in a small village, country-girl Ania arrives in the university city of Wroclaw to pursue her career as a sculptor. Here she falls in love with Dominik, an enigmatic write at the centre of a group of bohemians and avant-garde artists who throw wild parties. When martial law is declared, their lives change overnight: military tanks appear on the street, curfews are introduced and the artists are driven underground. Together, Ania and Dominik fight back, pushing against the boundaries imposed by the authoritarian communist government. But at what cost?

Format: Paperback , eBook (320 pp.)    Publisher: Impress Books
Published: 1st November 2017                Genre: Literary Fiction

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13 Reasons Why I Loved Home is Nearby

1) Our narrator, Ania: her relationship with her father, her courage, her determination to be true to herself, her commitment to her art and the gradual awakening of her creativity as she is exposed to the contemporary art scene

‘The tin can sculpture, the cubes, Malgorzata’s photos – these were far from traditional. And yet here they were displayed in a gallery. I was beginning to see that being an artist didn’t mean I had to copy the masters. What I did have to do was create something that belonged to me – something that no one else could make.’

2) Ania’s father: his tender, unselfish support of Ania’s desire to be an artist, his sacrifices and his unconditional love

3) Learning about the economic situation in Poland in the 1980s – food shortages (using teabags multiple times, drinking water before eating to feel fuller), waiting lists for a telephone line or an apartment (unless you could afford a bribe or to call in a favour)

4) Learning about the political background and the Polish state’s attempts to stifle the rise of the Solidarity movement: censorship, internment, surveillance, informers and control of the press. Was this really happening as recently as the 1980s?

5) The defiance of the Polish people both explicit (student protests, graffiti) and implicit (carrying on with traditional Christmas preparations)

Every time the militiamen painted over the graffiti, it appeared again the next day. With new slogans, bigger writing. It was an ongoing battle between us and them: slogan, silence, slogan.’

6) The way the author brings to life the process of creating art from initial inspiration, through manufacture to completion.

‘The professor was right. Metal was a masculine material, the stuff of guns and tanks. If I was going to work with it I had to find a way to use it slyly, with a wink in the other direction. Take the notion of hardness and turn it on its head.’

7) Examining the question that Ania wrestles with – is art enough? ‘What good was a picture when people were suffering?’ ‘What good was sculpture at a time like this? Unlike Dominik’s writing, it couldn’t change the world.’ Ania’s gradual realisation that art can be an act of defiance as well.

8) The evocative picture of rural Poland and the constrast between life there and in the city. As Dominik says: ‘I’d forgotten what the rural parts of Poland were like.’

9) The moral dilemmas facing Ania and others protesting against the system and the anguish and consequences that follow from their decisions

10) The insight into Polish customs, culture, food and drink (carp, cabbage parcels, cherry compote)

11) How contemporary events and culture in the rest of the world are woven in – the rise of punk rock, Ronald Reagan, Hollywood films.

12) That Ania’s final piece neatly alludes to the author’s own act of creativity.

13) The gorgeous cover

MagdalenaMcGuireAbout the Author

Magdalena is an award-winning writer who was born in Poland, grew up in Darwin and now lives in Melbourne with her husband and son. Her short stories have been published by The Big Issue, Mslexia, Margaret River Press and The Bristol Prize. She won the 2017Mslexia Women’s Short Story Competition with ‘Salt Madonna’. She has published widely on human rights topics, including women’s rights and the rights of people with disabilities. She is an avid reader and particularly enjoys reading books about girls who like reading books. Home is Nearby is her debut novel.

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Book Review: New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

NewBoyAbout the Book

‘O felt her presence behind him like a fire at his back.’

Arriving at his fourth school in six years, diplomat’s son Osei Kokote knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day – so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again. The tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970s’ suburban Washington schoolyard, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practise a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. Watching over the shoulders of four 11-year-olds – Osei, Dee, Ian and his reluctant girlfriend Mimi – Tracy Chevalier’s powerful drama of friends torn apart by jealousy, bullying and betrayal will leave you reeling.

Format: eBook, paperback (183 pp.) Publisher: Random House UK/Vintage
Published: 11th May 2017                    Genre: Literary Fiction

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My Review

New Boy: Othello Retold is the fifth in a series of retellings of Shakespeare plays by bestselling novelists as part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project. Other writers who have contributed so far are Jeanette Winterson, Howard Jacobson, Anne Tyler and Margaret Atwood. You can find out more about the project here.

I always approach a retelling of a classic in something of a quandary.   To be successful, I feel a reinterpretation needs to shed new light on the original work.   A good example that always comes to mind is Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea which presented a very different picture of the character of Bertha Mason from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.  On the other hand, a retelling needs to be recognisably linked to its source material. But if you’re not familiar with the source material, do you get the same value from the retelling? Conversely, if you are familiar with the source material, do you lose focus on the new interpretation because you’re constantly looking for the connections with the original? Although well-written, in the end I was left ambivalent about New Boy.

The action takes place over a single school day giving a sense of a timescale similar to watching the play. The book is divided into five parts – Before School, Morning Recess, Lunch, Afternoon Recess and After School – mirroring the five act structure of Shakespeare’s play. There are also references to acting and performance scattered throughout the book.

Then Dee gave the boy the precious class jump ropes, and they began to laugh, throwing their heads back as if there were no audience but the two of them, performing for each other.’

‘And himself, the new boy, standing still in the midst of these well-worn grooves, playing his part too.’

‘They were like characters in a play who needed an extra scene, a thread to pull them tight.’

In spite of the variation in names, it’s a simple matter to match the children and staff in the book with their equivalent characters in the play. I did find the ‘casting’ of Brabantio (Desdemona’s father in the play) as Mr Brabant, the teacher, slightly puzzling. But perhaps the author had in mind the role of teacher as ‘in loco parentis’.

The setting of the school playground with its petty rivalries and short-lived alliances was interesting. In the main, the characters were believable as eleven year-old children. The exception to this was Ian (who doubles for Iago). He seemed unrealistically wise beyond his years and his ability to manipulate, read others’ intentions and strategize just didn’t ring true for someone of his age.

What the book does very well is convey Osei’s feelings of being an outsider, of being different, of being regarded as something of a novelty and the casual, ‘everyday’ racism he experiences.

‘The kids who were friendly at school but didn’t ask him to their birthday parties even when they had invited the rest of the class….The assumption that he was better at sports because black people just – you know – are, or at dancing, or at committing crimes. The way people talked about Africa as if it were just one country.’

Unfortunately, I feel the children’s – and to some extent, the staff’s – sketchy knowledge of Osei’s cultural background and the fact he’s forced to simplify his name would be recognisable today. I’ve experienced situations in the workplace where people from India or Nigeria have found it easier to ‘anglicise’ their name or adopt a nickname rather than try to get colleagues to pronounce their given name correctly.

Although the book held my interest, in a way I felt it would have worked equally well as a story about difference and racial prejudice without the constraints of following the story of Othello.

I received a review copy courtesy of NetGalley and publishers, Random House UK, in return for an honest review.

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In three words: Thought-provoking, imaginative, intertextual

Try something similar…Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

TracyChevalierAbout the Author

TRACY CHEVALIER is the New York Times bestselling author of eight previous novels, including Girl with a Pearl Earring, which has been translated into 39 languages and made into an Oscar-nominated film. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., she lives in London with her husband and son.

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Interview: Gary Corbin, author of Lying in Vengeance

Today’s guest on what Cathy Read Next is Gary Corbin, author of Lying in Vengeance, the follow-up to the award-winning courtroom thriller, Lying in Judgment.   I’m delighted that Gary has agreed to talk about Lying in Vengeance, how the idea for a sequel to Lying in Judgment came about and his approach to writing in general.

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LyinginVengeanceAbout the Book

Peter Robertson, 33, once fought a man on a remote forested road and left him to die. Six months later, he served on the jury that freed a wrongfully accused man – and let his own secret slip to a beautiful but manipulative fellow juror, Christine Nielsen. Two months later, Christine wakes him in the middle of the night with a threat: kill Kyle, the man who stalks and abuses her, or have his own murderous past exposed. Peter pretends to go along as he seeks another, less violent solution, and his best friend Frankie threatens to expose the conspiracy to the police. But Kyle makes his move, breaking into her house in the middle of the night and then later kidnapping her at gunpoint. Peter’s daring rescue gives him the opportunity to fulfil her request—and he walks away, consequences be damned. The next morning, Kyle turns up dead, and the police arrest Frankie, of all people. Peter knows he’s innocent, but can he prove it without directing the finger of blame at himself—for both murders?

Format: eBook (281 pp.), paperback (306 pp.) Publisher: Double Diamond Publishing Published: 13th September 2017                         Genre: Thriller

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Interview: Gary Corbin, author of Lying in Vengeance

Gary, without giving too much away, can you tell us a bit about Lying in Vengeance?

It tells the story of Peter Robertson, a good man with a dark secret: he once killed a man in a fight on a remote forested road. The beautiful and charming Christine Nielsen discovers his secret and wakes him in the middle of the night with a threat: kill Kyle, the man who stalks and abuses her, or have his own murderous past exposed. Peter must choose between two horrible options. Both involve death and revenge.

Lying in Vengeance picks up the story from Lying in Judgment. Was it always your intention to write a series and, if so, what considerations did you have to bear in mind?

I did not have a sequel in mind when I published Lying in Judgment. The sequel came about in response to my readers’ requests and in response to their questions about “What happens NOW?” At first I didn’t even see how a sequel could happen, but as I thought about the questions readers asked me, it became clear that the characters’ next adventures would be sequel-worthy.

Both Lying in Judgment and Lying in Vengeance explore the notion that a single action can have long-term consequences. What is it about that idea that interests you?

Everything! We all live so close to the edge of catastrophe, really. When I see random tragic occurrences – say, a crashed car on the side of a highway – I often think about how life-changing, yet unexpected, such events can be. How would it change my life, and the lives of random strangers who just happened to be there at the time? Life seldom goes as planned, and the different ways that people respond to the unexpected is what makes for great storytelling.

How did you go about making Peter Robertson a sympathetic character despite his obvious flaws?

Everyone has flaws — and even the villain in a story has virtues. Peter, like everyone else, has both. He loves his wife and is very faithful to her, even as he knows she is cheating on him. He is devoted to his sick mother and sacrifices quite a bit for her. He’s honest, thus torn about his situation, and works toward the goal of a not guilty verdict for the innocent man accused of the crime. Other people like him because of his loyalty to his friends and family, his steadfastness, and his responsible character, and readers tend to like characters that other sympathetic characters like. He’s also the point of view character, which naturally tends to lead the reader to root for him.

You’re an actor as well as a writer so to what extent are you writing yourself a great part when working on your books?

Ha! If only I were a good enough actor (or screenwriter). Maybe if I had a little more hair and a body 25 years younger…Levity aside, being an actor helps when creating characters, because I can put myself in their skin in a scene and take action from their perspective. It also helps with creating sharp, concise dialog – long soliloquies are tough on actors.

You’re a man of many talents because you’re also a published playwright. How do you think the demands of the stage have influenced the writing in your novels?

There’s quite a bit of overlap between the two forms, but also some key differences. Story structure is essentially the same, although the length and the level of detail are much different. Stage plays focus on dialog and action, and those are important to novels as well, but mystery/thriller novels also tend to emphasize the psychological side quite a bit – a character’s “inner thoughts” — which doesn’t work as well in plays. Playwriting also helps keep me focused on the “stage picture” – what the reader “sees” in a scene — and with keeping scenes short and focused. But novels give me a lot more freedom to play with location and motivation, and I try to take advantage of that in my mystery writing.

Is there a scene in the book you found particularly challenging or rewarding to write? If so, why?

The opening scene probably took me the most rewrites, so I’d probably say that one. While the imagery and the basic events were clear in my head before writing it, I found it challenging to balance the need to set up the story and get right into the action against the need to hold back and not reveal too much too soon. I wanted the reader hooked, but didn’t want to spill too much of the story too fast.

You’ve also worked as an editor – see, I said you were a man of many talents! What’s your top piece of advice to budding authors?

Don’t edit your own work! While I do editing for others, I can’t do my own, and I don’t think anyone can. There’s nothing quite as valuable an objective second or third opinion on your work before it gets published. A good editor will help spot the weaknesses not only in your prose but also in your story – things we’re blind to in our own work.

Which other writers do you admire?

I love the work of Phillip Margolin, John Irving, Scott Turow, Barbara Kingsolver, Toni Morrison, Bob Dugoni, Elmore Leonard, and Stephen King (though I’m not much of a horror fan). Poe was an early inspiration, along with Chandler and Doyle. Among playwrights I’m most influenced by Neil Simon and Sam Shepard. I also love the early 19th century romantic writers – Coleridge, Blake, Wordsworth, and Byron.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently working on the third book in The Mountain Man Mysteries, entitled The Mountain Man’s Badge, which I expect to publish in 2018. I’m also working feverishly on finishing a full-length stage play called “Voodoo Snowball,” a full-length comedy about cancer, family, and healing through (or in spite of) voodoo.

Thank you, Gary, for those fascinating answers.  I’m really looking forward to reading Lying in Vengeance just as soon as it reaches the top of my review pile.

GaryCorbinAbout the Author

Gary Corbin is a writer, actor, and playwright in Camas, WA, a suburb of Portland, OR.

His debut novel, Lying in Judgment, released in March 2016,  is a courtroom thriller about a man who serves on the jury of a murder trial for the crime he committed. It was selected as “Book of the Week” for July 11-18, 2016, and was the feature novel on Literary Lightbox’s “Indie Spotlight” in February 2017.  Gary’s second novel, The Mountain Man’s Dog, came out in June 2016. The sequel, The Mountain Man’s Bride, was released in February 2017.

An award-winning playwright, several of his plays have been produced in the Portland, OR area, some of them multiple times. In addition to his own scripts, Gary writes, ghost-writes, and edits scripts. He specializes in tight, realistic dialogue involving sharply drawn, interesting characters in complex relationships. As well as writing and editing for private sector, government, individuals, and not-for-profit clients, his creative and journalistic work has been published in BrainstormNW, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, and Global Envision, among others.

A home brewer as well as a maker of wine, mead, cider, and soft drinks, Gary is a member of the Oregon Brew Crew and a BJCP National Beer Judge. He loves to ski, cook, and garden, and hopes someday to train his dogs to obey.

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