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.

A Teen Memory and a Song

I was looking through old pictures online the other day and came across a set someone had posted from Astroworld in Houston.

While I’m from Louisiana, we lived back and forth between there and the Houston area all of my life. When I was in 8th grade and the first year of high school, I’d wash cars and mow lawns around my neighborhood to make enough money to hang out on the weekend. At that time I lived in Pasadena and there really wasn’t a great spot to hang out there so my Mom would drop a couple of us off at Astroworld on Saturday morning and come back and pick us up just as it was closing Saturday night.

Back in those times, 1976 or so, no one worried about their kids being at a place like that so it was one of the spots to mingle and meet new people, with a minimal chance of getting in trouble.

I graduated high school when I was 17, so that would have made me around 12-13 when I was a regular at the park. I would have been about 5’10, with another inch or two of hair, and weighed about 140# tops.

The best part was as some parents were dropping off carloads of boys, other cars were dropping off carloads of girls and, with any luck, by 1 or 2 in the afternoon, you’d found someone with whom you could share the rest of the day.

At some point, Astroworld picked up on the disco craze and added an open-air dance floor with the panels that change color, the disco ball hanging from the ceiling, and music of all kinds, not just disco, blasting away so when the sun dropped, everybody made their way there for at least a couple of hours.

I remember several of the songs they played since they are now considered classic rock but I’m putting the video below of a band that kind of bridged the gap between rock and disco and was really more of a “funk” sound so us non-disco long hairs could justify dancing to it (or, honestly, trying to dance).

Here it is, directly from the Midnight Special (who remembers watching that and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert waaaaay before MTV came along?)

The New Book Almost Finished!

2018 Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival
The 2018 Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival held in Natchitoches, La. July 20-21, 2018.

I was hoping to have it finished in February but due to a little medical issue that date was delayed, however, I’m now on the last stretch of a middle-grade book I am writing. I was shooting for 35k to 40k words, and I’m at 33,500 right now with the final scene still to come. With any luck I’ll finish it in the next few days and have it edited, the cover done, printed, and be completely ready for the Natchitoches/NSU Folk Festival on July 20-21, 2018. If you’ve never been, it is always great and it is indoors at the Prather Coliseum where it is air conditioned!

Great food, great music, and lots of craftspeople there. Many of the people who make these great crafts are in their twilight years so it’s a fantastic time to meet them, watch them work, and even support them by buying everything from Gumbo file (made by hand) to paintings. There are real bullwhips, jams, jellies, and jewelry!

The festival needs your support to keep this tradition alive!

Of course, I’ll be there signing my books, including the new one, and since my family has been in the Natchitoches area since before there was a Natchitoches, literally, you can drop by my booth and just visit with me and I can point out the best places to visit, to eat, or just to walk around.

A Life Experience – Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday and Leaving New Orleans

Some of my earlier posts have been lost over the years (thanks to crappy security at GoDaddy hosting) and this one came to mind because 1) the family is all working on their bucket lists and 2) today is Ash Wednesday.

New Orleans, La. Mardi Gras Parade

When I go to book signings and conferences, the most common question I’m asked,  like most writers, is “Where do you get New Orleans, La. Mardi Gras Paradeyour ideas?” I always tell people it’s because of something I’ve seen or done somewhere which triggered the initial idea. In No’ Chance, the first book in the Noah Chance series, you’ll notice the heroes of the book end up in New Orleans, one of my favorite cities in the world. The places I talk about in the book are real, and to make it as authentic as possible I even try to get the addresses, directions, number of blocks, etc. all correct.

I lived in New Orleans when I was a kid and so Mardi Gras isn’t a new thing for me. However, several years ago Karren and I were invited to go back with some friends of ours (Thanks Jack and Denise!) .

As long as you don’t get claustrophobic in crowds and understand NOLA culture and people then everybody should do Mardi Gras in New Orleans at least once in their life.  There are a lot of places that celebrate it, Galveston and Jefferson, Tx.,

New Orleans, LA, Mardi Gras Indians. Look for them on Mardi Gras day or Super Sunday.

Mobile, Al., and Mamou, La. are several cities which come to mind, each with their own twist.

However, the most famous Mardi Gras is in the Crescent City and nobody does it like them. There are several different parades on different days, there are the Mardi Gras Indians in the Zulu Parade, and so many other things it’s impossible to cover them all.

This last time we wrapped up our trip on Fat Tuesday and watched the New Orleans Police come through and “clear the streets” at midnight, a time honored tradition, and left the next day on Ash Wednesday.

While leaving we took a couple of turns to try and avoid some traffic and ended up in the Treme District, the front vehicle following a “street funeral”. While it added a while onto the trip, my wife and I couldn’t miss this and so we watched the procession make its way down the street, with the Treme Brass Band playing music as they marched.  This was truly one for the bucket list.

If you don’t understand most of what I’ve talked about in this post, it’s because you’re not familiar with New Orleans and I’d suggest you read up a little and even watch the Treme series from HBO. Of course, I’d also suggest you give No’ Chance a read since there’s a lot of history and culture in there as well.

In the meantime, here’s a video showing them playing in the HBO series. The same song, the same band, in the same neighborhood. When I find the video I shot with my phone I’ll post it as well:

 

Masterful Marketing By Netflix – The Cloverfield Paradox

I was very excited to see a brand new trailer during the Super Bowl last night (and an exciting game at that).

Toward the end of the game, a movie trailer for a horror/Sci-Fi movie was shown and I mentioned to my better half that I wanted to see it only to find out it was going to be on Netflix. It’s not unusual for Netflix to advertise movies on regular television if they feel the movie or series has a lot of promise. I immediately switched over to Netflix during a break, expecting to find a trailer and a release date in a few months, only to  instead find they dropped the movie the very same night with no warning, no ads on Netflix weeks ahead of time telling us it was coming, and basically nothing except a bad-ass trailer show during the Super Bowl and a premiere date that evening.

You can be sure that as soon as I could after the game, I was back to Netflix to watch The Cloverfield Paradox and…well…I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. The only thing I will say is it is a prequel to the other two movies, Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane, making a nice little trilogy but hopefully not wrapping it up.

I found some parts that were “lifted” from other movies, at least in concept, and a number of things will sound familiar but it really is an original show and well worth a watch. I’m a horror/Sci-fi nut and recognized the tropes which must be present for a movie like this to work, and they were done well.

It’s important for artists to recognize another artist’s work when done well and I may do a more thorough review of the movie on another site (if so I will come back and put a link to it here). However, this round of applause goes out to the marketers who bought some of the most expensive television time spots available for a movie that no one knew was coming. I hope the numbers will support that master stroke. I know it’s why I watched it today as opposed to some other day.

Finishing Up New Book

The new book should be with the editor by the end of February at the latest!

The first bunch of books I worked on seemed to fly by, the writing was generally easy and things went pretty smooth even though the publishing on Amazon Kindle and Createspace was still a little glitchy.

However, on the ones I’m working on now, it has been one problem after another.

I decided, after doing a story reading to some kids at the school in Coushatta, La. (with Dr. Shane Rasmussen of the Folklife Center at Northwestern State University ) to do a Middle School – Young Adult book. The fact that at every appearance and festival I’ve attended I’d always been asked if I had any children’s books played a part as well.

As with many of my works, I had the title for a while. The outline of the book popped into my head not long after the visit to the school and, like I usually do, I made some notes and saved them then started writing. In the meantime I would jump from one project to another but always meant to go ahead and wrap up the kids book.

Unfortunately, I had a bit of a health issue which slowed me down for a little while and after that broke my shoulder in two places and banged my head a good one while on vacation. It took a while, a lot longer than when I was young, to heal up and get to the point I could use the keyboard again.

When I finally recovered enough to sit down and get back to work on the book…my notes had disappeared! I still had the first pages I’d written but not my notes. And, apparently the bang to the head had whacked my memory just a little since, for the first time ever, I couldn’t remember how a story I was working on was supposed to progress!

So I’ve spent months now looking for the notes and trying to recreate the ending in my head. Finally, I just decided that it must not have been that good if I’d forgotten and decided to figure out a new storyline using the characters I already had in the book. Once I did that…BANG!!!…a new story appeared and I could use what I’d already written, work in a little mythology,  a little history, and I’m right back on track. Note: this time I made a file with the notes and saved it in several places, plus I wrote it down on a piece of paper.

So by the end of the month I will have (hopefully) finished the first in a new series of books for kids. I won’t tell you the name yet, but I can tell you it has dragons, knights, twin boys named Robert and Anthony (which just happens to be the names of my twin sons) toilets, poo, wizards, and all kinds of other good things!

I’ll announce when it’s ready but it will definitely be completed in paperback for he appearance this summer at the Natchitoches – Northwestern State University Folklife Festival held at the NSU campus on Saturday, July 21, 2018.

If you’ve never been to Natchitoches, Louisiana you should put it on your calendar for this year. It is a beautiful city, the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase, and where numerous movies have been filmed including Steel Magnolias, The Horse Soldiers, and many others. There are gorgeous plantations outside of town, history everywhere, Kisatchie National Forest (the site of the turpentine camp in my first book, The Bottle Tree), and so much more. Plus, it’s a reasonably priced place to visit and the Folklife Festival tickets are a great value! It’s my favorite venue to meet people and sell books.

I should have this book and one other new one ready for this year’s festival, maybe more!

 

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  the realization hit that what was called The War to End Wars had probably been as horrible as any before or after and yet you didn’t hear much about it. That’s particularly interesting when you consider we’re not in the 10 year anniversary of it happening. 

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.