All posts by Rob

About Rob

Robert Bennett was born in Louisiana and spent his childhood there and in Texas.

His diverse work history has taken him across the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean as well as England, and his books are shaped by the people he has known and the places he has visited.

“If I write about a place, it’s because I’ve visited there and either the place or the people left an impression”, Bennett said when asked about the inspirations for his books.

He currently resides in Texas with his wife Karren and his Jack Russell Terrier “Sup” and occasionally his twin sons as they return from college on breaks and his daughter and her fiance when they visit.

Look for additional works coming soon in the “Junebug” and “Noah Chance” series.

Read more about Robert at his website, www.RobertDBennett.com or follow him on Twitter as RobertTheWriter.

World War 1, Flanders Fields, and Second Chance

While I’m working on the new books, I’m going to be discussing the ones that have already been released, since often the questions I get from the books clubs and fans are about what is already out there.

The Noah Chance series consists of two books at this point, with a third in the pre-planning stages now. These books are about a remarkable young man with Downs Syndrome who, in Second Chance, has just graduated High School.

As many of you know I actually started writing No’ Chance, the first book in the series, back in the mid to late 90s. I’d write a paragraph here and a paragraph there, mostly when I was on the road trying to establish myself as a trial lawyer. Then, on an absolutely beautiful late summer day, I was waiting on the members of a jury we’d picked to arrive at the courthouse so we could start a trial and the judge called the lawyers back into her office and waved at her television and we saw the world changing before our eyes and suddenly many things that had seemed scary were not quite so scary anymore as we watched the World Trade Center buildings fall to the ground over the next while.

Trial lawyers spent the next couple of years trying to figure out how the events of that day and what followed would affect the viewpoints of the jurors and I found my time for writing was even more limited.

By the time I was ready to release No’ Chance, I was already well into writing Second Chance, and it seemed we had been at war with someone, somewhere, forever. I had always been fascinated by the stories told to me by veterans of WW II but when I started reading about WW I I realized that war had probably been as horrible as any before or after and yet you didn’t hear much about it.

I said all that to say this, a part of that war made it into Second Chance, a book set in the beautiful locale of Galveston Island, Texas, a place I knew well since I had visited there every weekend for many of the summers of my early life and as far removed from the WW I torn landscape of Flanders as it was possible to be.

The Noah Chance series are each standalone novels, but I strongly suggest you read them in order. Just as I was growing as a writer, so the characters grew as people and sometimes a few lines of a letter home or, in this case, a poem from a young doctor who had been at Flanders after the battle, did a lot to depict the horror of war.

I’m closing out this post, as I periodically do, with a YouTube video. This one is The Bloody Fields of Flanders, played on bagpipes. While some say that bagpipes sounds to them like a bag of cats being strangled, many of us feel a stirring in our soul when the keening starts, showing that while out family may be generations from the green hills of Scotland, the blood still runs true.

Still Writing…Sometimes and Getting the Machinery Ready for Heavy Lifting

The shoulder is still recovering, I can get about two or three good hours of typing each day before it just hurts too badly to continue. I’m 1/3 to 1/2 the way through three books and just getting started on one of the most exciting writing projects I’ve ever done (more about that at another time).

I had to miss the Natchitoches – NSU Folklife Festival in July because it was still in pretty bad shape. I couldn’t autograph books at that point and, even more importantly, I couldn’t carry the boxes of them into the facility. 

In the meantime, Karren has dragged me all over the US in August to see the total eclipse. Apparently to a science geek it is worth the 14+ hours of driving and the heat so you could get an extra 30 seconds of a total eclipse.

Without question it was cool, and it was a “check off” of her bucket list, so it was worth it.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be posting about some trips we’ve taken, things I remember from the kids growing up, and anything else I can think of to help loosen the writing muscles up again. I was afraid the concussion might have been worse than I originally thought because I lost most of about two or three weeks there and have little gaps still, but I’m back into being able to recover minute trivia quickly and I’m sure I’ll be okay.

So, please bear with me as I get rolling again. I’ll try not to bore you and if you have anything you would like to har about, just let me know!

Working Atmosphere for Me

When I visit with people at the various book signings I attend, some new authors or people who want to try their hand at writing are always curious about the environment in which I write.

In his book, On Writing (which I highly recommend), Stephen King mentions that he normally and prefers to write in a room with the door closed but with some type of classic hard rock (AC/DC) blasting from speakers.

I'm a little different. I have a multiple monitor setup and often when I'm writing I will have some movie or television show playing on one monitor while writing on the other. Whatever I'm streaming is usually something I've seen before, often a series where I particularly like the writing or characters. An example of this would be Showtime's Shameless since I've seen all of the episodes repeatedly and I think 90% of the work on the show is genius level (by everyone involved from the writers to the actors).

Sometimes I feel like listening to music and so I will imagine that the novel I'm working on has been turned into a movie, and try to pick out some songs which would fit on the soundtrack. For instance, I'm working on a book about a supernatural or weird western twist on the Doc Holliday story. My playlist for that one includes the songs in the list below (in case you don't know them I'll also put the YouTube video for it and then the link to where the song can be bought on Amazon if you'd like) as well as some others. If you'll notice, the genres are mixed but each of them fit a scene I have in my mind. Often, if I know I'm going to work on a certain book on a day, I'll listen to the playlist songs to get me in the mood and to start the ideas flowing.

I’m Back Online!

We made some changes to the website and, due to some of the changes, lost some posts. If there is something you remember being on here but don't see it now (and would like to again) please let me know and we'll look for that specifically.

In the meantime, I'll be posting new things while my writing continues. As some of you know, I have been having shoulder issues for a couple of years due to the amount of time I was putting in at the computer. I finally got those issues resolved in April after a great deal of massage therapy (Thanks Joleen!) and a couple of months of physical therapy (Thanks Mary Margaret and Marquita!).

Unfortunately, I then went on one of our normal beach vacations and tripped over a step and fractured the same shoulder in two places. This means that my writing was again restricted to almost zero because the fractures caused intense pain when my hand was held in the typing position. I tried using voice recognition software and dictating what I would normally type but as many writers know, dictation can result in an awkward document which doesn't sound natural so I decided to wait until I could type again.

This will be a gradual process because I am having to gradually build up my typing time and retrain those muscles so I hope my readers will bear with me.

I'll post more on the projects over the next few weeks but, as usual, I have a number of them going. I have several fiction novels I am working on as well as another ghost writing gig on a non-fiction "how to" book.

More to come on the projects but if anyone has anything they'd like to send me or they've heard me mention a project in the past and they'd like to know what stage it is at, just drop me a line, I always love to hear from my readers!

New Books Coming Soon!

I’ve gotten a few communications on my annual appearance at the Natchitoches/NSU Folklife Festival and whether I will have any new books there and I thought I’d do a short post.

We have an anthology we have put together of some older (pre-1920s) pieces concerning Louisiana as well as the poems from the collection I’m still working on. Also included in the anthology will be the full version of The Bottle Tree, which will also be available as a standalone book. 

In addition, we are working to get a couple of other books together using pre-1920s works which we thought were interesting. Karren is coming across these while helping me do research for my novel, Louisiana, which is still a ways off.

Hopefully, I’ll also have the second book in the Junebug series completed. The title is Junebug and the Monkey. I’m about 25,000+ words into it (100 pages or so) but that’s only about a third finished. For some reason this books is fighting me as hard as I’m fighting it. As many of you know, I’ve always felt that the characters in my book come to visit and sit with me to tell their story but in this case they just won’t come to visit. Still, with any luck it’ll be ready for the festival which is July 15-16, 2016.

I hope to see all of you there!

History, Anne Frank, and The Syrian Refugees – America is Better Than This (or Should Be)

Sometimes, as a writer, I do feel obligated to speak up on certain points. I generally keep politics out of my writing discussions because my readers (and friends) vary across the political spectrum, and I have other places I can voice my views. However, the Syrian refugee issue is different since it involves so many aspects I write about, including the failure to understand other cultures which was the basis of my book, The Bottle Tree, and, of course, the protagonist of the Noah Chance series is a young man with Down’s Syndrome. 

When I first heard all of the right wing Governors stating they would refuse to allow refugees in their state, my first thought was “More grandstanding because that’s unconstitutional”.

However, that happens so much I didn’t dwell on it long.

My next thought was “Has everyone forgotten their history?”

Although I don’t usually reference Wikipedia for my writing, I have done so in this piece since the information is verified based on other sources and Wikipedia is a quick, see of yourself, location to see the information on this topic.

In 1939, the MS St. Louis, a German ocean liner (made famous by the book and movie Voyage of the Damned), left Germany with a cargo of 937 refugees seeking asylum from the Nazis. When they arrived in Cuba, their destination, they were refused entry.

The Captain then took his ship to Florida, where the U.S. Government denied entry and the U.S. Coast Guard (although they deny it) allegedly fired shots to turn the vessel away from where the Captain had considered running it aground and gaining access for the passengers that way. If you look through the newspapers, editorial, and Letters to the Editor pages of the newspapers it is easy to determine the refugees were refused for two reasons which were behind the laws at that time. First, the U.S. was still trying to appease Hitler to an extent and wanted to avoid being drawn into the war. Second, many people expressed hysterical fear that some of the refugees may have been spies sent here to commit espionage (essentially, the 1939 equivalent to the 2015 fear of Muslim Terrorists).

The ship then headed back to Europe. 

The United Kingdom agreed to take 288 of the passengers (31.76 percent), who disembarked and traveled to the UK via other steamers. After much negotiation by Schröder, the remaining 619 passengers were allowed to disembark at Antwerp; 224 were accepted by France (24.70 percent), 214 by Belgium (23.59 percent), and 181 by the Netherlands (19.96 percent). Without any passengers, the ship returned to Hamburg. The following year, after the Nazi German invasions of Belgium and France in May 1940, all the Jews in those countries were at renewed risk, including the recent refugees.

While the eventual fate of all of the passengers is not known, and the numbers have changed over the years, researchers from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have now stated:

“Of the 620 St. Louis passengers who returned to continental Europe, we determined that eighty-seven were able to emigrate before Germany invaded western Europe on May 10, 1940. Two hundred fifty-four passengers in Belgium, France, and the Netherlands after that date died during the Holocaust. Most of these people were murdered in the killing centers of Auschwitz and Sobibór; the rest died in internment camps, in hiding or attempting to evade the Nazis. Three hundred sixty-five of the 620 passengers who returned to continental Europe survived the war.”

The Captain of the St. Louis, Captain Gustav Schröder, was an extremely honorable man and was awarded the Order of Merit by the Federal Republic of Germany after the war and in 1993, Schröder was posthumously named as one of the Righteous among the Nations at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel. His actions in trying to find places to accept those he felt a responsibility for should be looked at as an example by the “leaders”, both real and wanna be, in our country who never learned or want to ignore the history lesson.

In addition to the above situation, I also thought I remembered a tragic, yet interesting fact, I was able to verify through a number of sources but I’ll use a link to Snopes.com . Even those people who were unfamiliar with the St. Louis story would likely know the story of the young Jewish Girl, Anne Frank, since many of us had The Diary of Anne Frank as required reading in school.

What most don’t know is that in 2007, researchers discovered old files in a New Jersey warehouse which revealed Otto Frank, Anne’s father, had tried for many months to obtain visas for he and his family to come to the United States as refugees from the Nazis. 

An April 2015 article titled “Op-Ed: Getting Anne Frank All Wrong” published in Arutz Sheva addressed the plight of Anne Frank and other Jewish refugee children who perished:

Otto Frank, Anne’s father, dutifully filled out the small mountain of required application forms and obtained supporting affidavits from the family’s relatives in Massachusetts.

But that was not enough for those who zealously guarded America’s gates against refugees. In fact, in 1941, the Roosevelt administration even added a new restriction: no refugee with close relatives in Europe could come to the U.S., on the grounds that the Nazis might hold their relatives hostage in order to force the refugee to undertake espionage for Hitler.

Once again, fear of a remote possibility cost people their lives. 

Those who oppose allowing the refugees in without solid reasons to back up the stance should join with others who feel the same way (Democrats or Republicans), invest in a cutting torch and visit Liberty Island, taking the time to remove the words from the plaque at the Statue of Liberty, since apparently it no longer applies:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

There’s already precedent in American history for denying entrance, but it was wrong then just as it is wrong now and the result will be the same.