Thursday, June 22, 2017

Robert Ellis: Gifts from the Sea, Revisited

My mother lost her third child a few days after she was born. Unfortunately, the sister I never had the chance to meet passed away due to a glitch at the hospital. There was no logical reason to explain her death other than the fact that every member of the medical staff dropped the ball. At the time I was old enough to know something horrible had happened, and that our family would never be the same. The reason I mention this most personal of all experiences is that a close family friend, someone who turned out to be one of my closest advisors through life, gave my mother a book in order to help her cope with the pain. That book was Anne Morrow Lindbergh's GIFT FROM THE SEA.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Years later I was going through the bookshelves in our den looking for something to read. A GIFT FROM THE SEA is extremely thought provoking, and with the modern world stuck in a digital abyss and beginning to leave its humanity behind, probably more relevant now than the year it was written. It's filled with Lindbergh's thoughts and feelings and search for inner peace. After I read the last page and thought it over, I realized that she had given me an extra special gift. She had introduced me to Rainer Maria Rilke's LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET. If reading or writing or any combination of the two makes your day, then LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET is a must read.

The book is comprised of ten letters Rilke wrote to a young man who wanted to make a life in the arts. I don't have to be a fortuneteller to say that this is one of the best books you will ever read in your life. And if you're a writer, your work is about to take a giant step forward.


Letters to a Young Poet
by Rainer Maria Rilke
Available in all formats
Amazon Link:

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Robert Ellis: Jimi Hendrix + Detective Matt Jones = Soul Play

I was reading something this week about Jimi Hendrix and his feeling that performing in concert was a spiritual awaking for him, and he hoped, his audience. Yes, yes, yes. The Electric Church.

I feel the same way about each one of my novels; that each one of my heroes, Frank Miles, Teddy Mack, Lena Gamble, and Matt Jones stand out because solving the crime is not their number one priority. Each one of these characters is vulnerable in some fundamental way. Each one of these characters is on a personal journey where self-discovery, their gut instincts and sharp minds, lead them to solving crimes that are bigger than themselves.

I'm working on Matt Jones's third murder case right now. I'm often asked how this wonderful character came to life. Matt came to me in a single moment, a single sentence written by Henry James that I loved so much I opened City of Echoes with it. Curiously, I revisited the quote this weekend when a reader posted it online and sent me a note. Many thanks for the fine memories it conjured up. This truly is the essence of Detective Matt Jones.

"The power to guess the unseen from the seen, to trace the implications of things, to judge the whole piece by the pattern, the condition of feeling life in general so completely that you are well on your way to knowing any particular corner of it—this cluster of gifts may almost be said to constitute experience." -- Henry James


Friday, June 9, 2017

Robert Ellis: Sleeping on it, Revisited

Have you ever noticed that when you read a book straight through, when you start and finish the novel in a single day, the story becomes vague after a week or two? And what happens a week or two after that? The novel all but disappears. Maybe it's just me, but I particularly notice if I move on and begin reading something new the next day. Everything gets lost in the haze.

I have friends who do this every day. They revel in their addiction! They start at 8:00 p.m. and read a book straight through, even though it often means staying up most of the night.

A few months ago I decided to change my habit. No matter how long or short a novel might be, I promised myself that I would do a page count and stop reading; that I would sleep with half the story for one night, and let it percolate in my head.

A lot of things happened when I made the change. First and foremost, novels no longer fade or get lost in my mind. And second, if it's a really good book, it makes my day because I have something to look forward to. I'm not discovering who these characters are anymore. Instead, I'm back for another visit. I can't wait to see them again. I've been thinking about the story all day and can't wait to see how things will turn out. Then again, if it's not such a good book, if it's a real dog, I don't have to waste my time or lose any sleep over it. I just toss it aside and pick another one up from the pile!


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